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From the editor: Politics coverage a priority

A familiar bromide holds that “All politics is local.” That phrase coined by former U.S. House Speaker Tip O’Neill is emblematic of the Post-Dispatch’s approach to covering politics.

A plethora of local elections will be held Tuesday in Missouri, from school boards and fire districts to city councils and taxing propositions. These are Main Street elections that dwell on potholes and curbs to school science labs to small-town political rivalries.

Most fly under much of the wider public radar. But no other news outlet in town devotes so many resources to informing the public about voting and issues close to home.

On March 28, the Post-Dispatch published a 26-page Voters Guide covering six Missouri counties in collaboration with the League of Women Voters of St. Louis Information Service. The online guide is available at STLtoday.com/votersguide and enables readers to preview what their ballots will look like Tuesday based on the reader’s address.

All politics is local also guides the philosophy of our new Washington, D.C., reporter. Chuck Raasch was a national correspondent, columnist and political editor for USA Today and the Gannett News Service for 33 years before he joined the Post-Dispatch recently.

He has introduced himself to Post-Dispatch readers with a column, blog posts on Political Fix under the Gateway to D.C. title and stories about the General Motors recall investigation and the potential impact of the broader U.S. Senate elections on Missouri politics.

“All news is local no matter where you are,” said Raasch, who has traveled the world and negotiated within the Beltway pursuing stories that resonate with readers.

Raasch, a South Dakota native who attended South Dakota State University, holds a Midwestern sensibility about how politics and decision-making in the nation’s capital can affect the daily lives of people in the bistate area.

Many news outlets cover the daily developments in D.C. But Raasch’s mission is to focus on stories that are relevant here.

Political and national editor Christopher Ave, who oversees political coverage from St. Louis city hall to Jefferson City to D.C, said, “I want Chuck to develop stories that you cannot get anywhere else.”

Raasch has moved our bureau into the National Press Building and spent the first weeks interviewing and getting acquainted with the congressional representatives and their staffs from our region. Aside from the legislative matters reported with local angles, Raasch will follow subjects key to our region such as the defense industry, agriculture, biotech, river management and how federal regulations/funding influence life here.

Given his deep experience, we plan to use his knowledge to provide context and to shape stories with meaning to readers here.

“He has that ability to look at something with fresh eyes,” Ave said.

Raasch says Missouri has an interesting political personality nationally as it has shifted to Republican in recent presidential elections, yet it has mostly Democratic elected statewide officials.

Once a bellwether state on the national scene, Missouri’s political tendencies statewide with a Republican-dominated state Legislature make for interesting politics on the national stage. The state defies a simple political personality.

Together with political reporter Kevin McDermott, Raasch also will keep readers informed about Illinois issues and politics, which include interesting statewide elections this fall.

Across the region, health care reform, jobs and the overall economy will continue to be fundamentals. Raasch’s job is to bring those home with local angles and relevance.

His work can be followed on Twitter at @craasch. He will write a column periodically and can be reached at craasch@post-dispatch.com.

In 1990, Raasch participated in the prestigious Knight Fellowship at Stanford University, which involves journalists throughout the world.

Off duty, Raasch is a gardener and a Civil War aficionado who studies and hikes Civil War battlefields with an informal group of history buffs. He has written a book about a Civil War-era newspaper correspondent that will be published in coming months.

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