Voters in central Springfield will determine whether a Missouri House seat stays Democratic or changes hands in the largely GOP-represented region.
Crystal Quade is attempting to keep Democratic the post currently held by term-limited Charlie Norr in Missouri’s 132nd district. It is the only seat within the seventh congressional district not presently held by a Republican.
“I think across the board it’s more important to have a more balanced legislature,” said Quade. “Even if it was predominantly Democrats, I would say that we need more Republicans in office. I think to make serious change we need to have everyone seated at the table. And that comes from economic backgrounds, professions, but also political ideals as well.”
Quade’s Republican challenger, Thomas Quinn, feels his party can better serve the citizens of the 132nd District.
“As the situation lays, no matter what we do there’s going to be a supermajority of Republicans in the House. And if you want a seat at the table you pretty much need to be a Republican. So I think for our district to get representation to get things done that will help our district would be to have someone like myself be the voice for the people,” said Quinn.
The race also includes Libertarian candidate Chris Burros, who is one of six Libertarians appearing on local election ballots this November. Burros feels his job has helped position him to connect with those in the district.
“A state representative needs to be someone that actually represents people in their district and holds a similar job and makes a similar wage and can actually connect with people and understand the issues going on; and having dealt with customer service I feel I can make a real connecting with people in my area,” said Burros.
Burros is currently employed at FedEx Trade Networks. He is the treasurer for the Libertarian Party of Greene County, and has also volunteered with Victory Trade School and AmeriCorps. He is married.
None of the candidates has held an elected position, although Quade did work as a legislative intern for Rep. Norr in 2008. After graduating from Missouri State University with a degree in social work, she served in Sen. Claire McCaskill’s Springfield office. Quade is currently the director of chapter services for the local nonprofit Care to Learn. She is married with three children.
Quinn is a customer liaison with the document destruction company Shred-it. He’s formerly a general manager of a Papa John’s franchise, and spent four years teaching English in the Philippines. Upon returning to Springfield Quinn worked in the uniform sales business before taking his current position. He is married with five children.
All three candidates hold unique views on how to improve the educational landscape for Missouri’s children.
Quinn’s wife, who is an education major, is homeschooling their children. He says it’s not a money issue, but an “inclusive issue.”
“So I just think we need to fight for better local representative on education,” says Quinn. “I realize that we don’t have a school board member in the north side. So I think that’s something we can shoot for is, there’s a zone for state rep, there’s a zone for city council, why not have a zone for school board members?”
Burros is also advocating for more local control. Specifically, he thinks parents need more control over their child’s education that enables them to hold teachers accountable.
“Part of that I think comes with eliminating the teacher tenure laws. Because teacher tenure keeps problem teachers in position, and the parents can’t hold them accountable, the faculty can’t hold them accountable. We kind of need to move to a where we’re allowing more competition between the free market and public education,” said Burros.
Crystal Quade feels an education funding bill passed last year is actually hurting school districts. She’s referring to SB 586, which after Gov. Nixon vetoed in May was overridden by the legislature. The bill reinstates a cap on the money spent on students under the school’s funding formula. Funding had fallen short of the target for years.
Quade says the legislation changed the formula “so we can now say it’s fully funded,” but is actually “shortchanging our schools even more than before.” Having seen first-hand the economic differences in the state’s schools through her job, Quade wants to educate others on the importance of equally funding the state’s schools.
All three candidates expressed concern for the well-being of citizens in District 132. Its borders run along Commercial Street to the north and Grand Street to the south. Within its boundaries are downtown Springfield and schools like Missouri State and Drury University.
As he goes door-to-door, Quinn says he’s hearing many concerns related to social services and people that “need a help up, not a hand out.”
“Greater than all these grandiose notions of getting this big legislation passed, I think we just need someone who’s willing to listen to the people, see the issue and fight for more case workers – as a specific example.”
Quinn says he can relate to some of those struggling in the district, but can also bring hope for those citizens.
“I grew up poor,” he said. “I was on every social welfare program available growing up. We were homeless at 16. I know what it’s like to be in hard times and I know what it’s like to be in good times. I’ve had a life history of progressive performance.”
Chris Burros says the poverty issue in the 132nd District can be addressed through changes in tax law, such as eliminating the state sales tax on household necessities like over-the-counter medication, as well as reducing property tax and possibly eliminating it in the future.
“I perceive that as kind of a violation of property rights. People having to pay every year to the government for property they’ve already purchased kind of keeps them dependent on the government and that’s an issue that really bothers me,” Burros said.
Quade says the district is home to a unique demographic of voters, including lower income citizens, and feels it needs a representative that understands their issues.
“As a first generation high school graduate I understand what it’s like to sell your furniture to pay your bills… I think that we need somebody in Jefferson City that understands that and has lived through that process, but as I said can also work to get things done. I have some experience in government and have spent some time in Jefferson City.”
Quade says she’s “been a part of the dialog” by participating in some of the city’s Zone Blitz efforts, and is a member of her neighborhood association board, and a past member of the League of Women Voters.
Recognizing Democrats will be the minority party, Quade feels she can help facilitate bi-partisan dialog.
“In my personal opinion a state representative should be able to take their personal biases and leave it at the door when they’re doing their job,” Quade said. “And that’s something that through my social work training I definitely have that ability to do and have done that over time.”
Quade is also an advocate for ethics reform, saying that while passage of some bills last year was a good first step, there’s still a long ways to go.
“I think that it is not okay that somebody can donate $50,000 who doesn’t even live in the city of someone who’s running for office. We’ve seen money come from different states before.”
She also wants to see a cap on contributions, noting that races costing upwards of $100,000 for a House seat for two years is “just sad.”
Thomas Quinn would like to see reform with regards to the state’s civil asset forfeiture laws, the practice by which law enforcement can seize assets on suspicion of wrongdoing.
While it is one of his core issues, Quinn has found in visiting with citizens in the district that it’s not as big of an issue of theirs. But he’s concerned many lower income citizens, if faced with the issue, may not have the means to “fight for it back when you’re innocent.”
“One way of [reforming] that would be to de-incentivize police from seizing assets for their personal gain. So if the police find someone with marijuana in their car and they seize the car, the funds from the seizure wouldn’t necessary go to the police department with legislation it would go toward education. That’d be a go around that I think would help the system,” said Quinn.
Burros acknowledges that Libertarians don’t often get much attention in elections, and in turn aren’t voted into public office. He says one way to address that is through proportional representation.
He offers this example: If 50 percent vote Republican, 40 percent vote Democrat, and 10 percent vote Libertarian…
“Then each party would have candidates that they would split up proportionately in the state and have 10 percent Libertarian, 40 percent Democratic and 50 percent Republican to reflect how the state actually voted for those candidates.”
According to Burros, the process “makes every vote count.” He says that in today’s election landscape if you vote for the losing candidate “then your voice doesn’t really count.”
Party Successes and Challenges
For Quinn, he’s pleased the Republican-controlled legislature has fought for voter ID. Missourians will decide Amendment 6 in November. If passed, it would require verification of one’s identity, citizenship, and residence by presenting identification that may include valid government-issued photo identification.
“To get an ID is very helpful in society at large because you need an ID to rent a house, you need an ID to drive a car, you need an ID to get a utility line set up. You need so many forms of ID for so many functions of society; it just helps people,” said Quinn.
Many proponents of such legislation have said this will prevent voter fraud, while opponents say there’s little evidence of this.
“The voter ID cards are more or less cardboard paper – you could easily print a picture on that,” Quinn added. “It’s a safe measure. We have pictures on licenses because it’s an easy form of identification and we need to ensure that the system is honoring every vote and not skewing the results. And so I think its fair legislation to make every vote valid.”
Quade says the biggest challenge for Democrats is its super minority status. But according to Quade, in some instances Democratic lawmakers will give an idea to the opposing party “instead of having their name attached to it.” It’s something Quade would be open to in order to pass meaningful legislation, she says.
In terms of Democratic successes, Quade says some of that has been in the form of stopping certain bills from becoming law.
“Last year the SJR 49, the gay rights bill or the opposite of that that went through the Senate that was super contested – the fact that that didn’t go through I think was a huge success. That was a bi-partisan success, but definitely the Democrats were leading the way on that.”
Burros says a Libertarian in office would help bring officials from the two major parties together on various policy issues. He believes the Democrats in some instances have been relegated to dealing with constituent services, given their super minority in the state legislature.
“That’s one of the things I think that Libertarians would be able to work with is dealing with both sides and getting issues passed through because we kind of pull from both parties perspectives in what we think is best from the left and the right.”
Burros does share his support for the constitutional carry bill passed this session allowing more people to carry concealed weapons without a permit. Lawmakers overrode the governor’s veto of the bill in September. He also opposes a push to enact a prescription drug database in the state.
Eric Greitens, the Republican nominee for Missouri Governor, has framed his campaign largely from an “outsider” standpoint. Thomas Quinn considers himself an outsider, too. While he admits being consumed with his own district to pay as much attention to the other local and statewide races, Quinn believes Greitens’ credentials speak for themselves.
“I think his slogan of ‘Earn It!’ and I think his history of being a Rhodes Scholar and a Navy Seal and all these other enumerated points really show that he’s a good candidate.”
Missouri Attorney General and Democratic nominee for governor, Chris Koster, meanwhile has earned the backing of groups that have traditionally endorsed Republicans. That, says Crystal Quade, speaks to his ability to bring both sides to the table to pass bi-partisan legislation.
“He’s finding that middle ground. You can see that with the Cattlemen’s Association backing him, the NRA, the Police Officers Association… I think that’s where we need to be in Missouri is finding that compromise.”
Burros is supporting the Libertarian gubernatorial nominee, Cisse Spragins because she “supports people’s right to live their lives the way they choose.”
Funding (As of Sept 30):
Burros is not actively fundraising for his campaign. He notes that he hasn’t sought out “special interest money because I don’t want to be beholden to special interests.” He's raised just under $700 for both the primary and general election race, and has $16.41 on hand.
Quinn says he was outspent 6-to-1 in the primary. He won by 15 votes over Tyler Hobbs. As of Sept. 30, Quinn has raised just under $21,000.
Quade's latest financial report, combined with her primary election receipts, shows she's raised nearly $78,000.
Chris Burros: www.electchrisburros.com
Crystal Quade: www.crystalquade.com
Thomas Quinn: thomasquinn.org