The race to fill the remaining term of a southwest Missouri senate seat features a longtime state representative against a political newcomer.
Republican State Rep. Sandy Crawford is vying to become senator for District 28, which covers all or parts of eight counties. Crawford is opposed by Democratic Al Skalicky. The special election on Tuesday was called to fill the vacancy left by former GOP Sen. Mike Parson, who was elected lieutenant governor last fall.
Rep. Crawford has served in the Missouri House since 2010. She previously worked for 30 years as a banker. Crawford is a member of numerous local and statewide organizations, including the Missouri Farm Bureau, Missouri Cattlemen’s Association, Dallas County Cattlemen’s Association, and NRA. She also teaches Sunday school at her church. She lives in Buffalo with her husband.
Skalicky is a retired agriculture teacher from Bolivar, having taught in the subject at Bolivar High School for 31 years and a teacher for 32 years overall. While teaching, he was an FFA Advisor. Skalickly holds a bachelor’s, masters and education specialist degrees from the University of Missouri. Skalicky and his wife have two sons.
Skalicky says the status of education in Missouri was his biggest motivation to run for Senate. He calls a lot of recently proposed bills “unfriendly toward public education,” noting expansion of charter schools as one example. A plan that narrowly passed the Missouri House this year would allow charter schools beyond just St. Louis and Kansas City in places such as Columbia and Springfield.
“There is not a single student in [my] district who would benefit from that. In fact, there’s not a single student in rural Missouri who would benefit from the expansion of charter schools,” says Skalicky.
It would eventually lead to less money for public education, he says. Skalicky notes the Senate discussed a tax credit scholarship program that would allow students in unaccredited schools to transfer to better-performing school districts.
“Tax credit takes away from the general revenue,” he says. “So ultimately if there’s less money in the general revenue, and we’re already in the budget shortfall, that’s going to lead to cuts somewhere.”
He was also concerned over cuts to school transportation, noting the difficulty some rural schools have given the distance its buses must travel to pick up and drop off students in the district.
KSMU made multiple attempts to reach Rep. Crawford to arrange an interview for this story. In an email response Wednesday, Crawford said she did not have a time slot available to speak with us.
In an interview last month with the Sedalia Democrat, Crawford applauded the education funding allocated this year by the legislature.
“We did pass a budget with the foundation formula fully funded for the first time in many years and I think that’s a step in the right direction for education,” she said.
Gov. Eric Greitens, who signed the budget bills in June, said it marked the first time in a decade that the foundation formula for public K-12 schools was fully funded.
Crawford and Skalicky both list four main priorities in their candidacy. The one overlap is agriculture.
Crawford told the Sedailia Democrat “I worked a lot on Right to Farm, I promoted it when it was on the ballot. Agriculture is our No. 1 industry so I always work to promote agriculture.”
She has endorsements from the Missouri Farm Bureau, Missouri Cattleman’s Association and the Missouri Dairy Association.
“I am absolutely dedicated to Missouri's family farmers and ranchers, and I am proud to have the support of so many of our state's agriculture groups,” Crawford said in a post on Facebook.
Skalicky, who taught the subject for over 30 years, calls himself a husband first and a farmer second.
His campaign website says he’ll be “one of the truest friends farmers could have in the state legislature.” Skalicky says he aims to make agriculture easier, safer and more lucrative to farm in the state.
“Farmers need to farm. It’s as simple as that.”
Southern Missouri has not been friendly to Democratic candidates in years past. Just one Democrat within Missouri’s 7th congressional district holds office in the statehouse.
Skalicky says the discussion topics in Jefferson City need to change.
“As long as we continue to send the same people up there we’re gonna have the same decisions being made.”
Crawford cites experience in the House that will enable her to effectively assume the Senate role. She also notes a working relationship with many current lawmakers.
“I have served in the House with over one-third of the current senators and many others I’ve handled legislation with,” she told the Sedalia Democrat.
Crawford was a supporter of Right-to-Work legislation that passed the legislature this year. She points to it in reference to her pro-business stance, one of her four platform issues.
“Not that the government creates jobs, but we need to have an environment that draws businesses into Missouri. We’ve done some legislation this last year I believe will help that — Right to Work and we’ve done some tort reform bills. … We’re centrally located in the United States … we have a lot going for us and I think just making Missouri as attractive as we can, that’s a big deal for me.”
Skalicky cities studies on Right-to-Work laws that don’t paint a clear picture of their ability to create jobs.
“[And] no place does it say that it leads to higher wages and better benefits.”
Skalicky has been largely outfunded in the District 28 race, generating just under $30,000 in contributions to Crawford’s $144,000. The figures are as of July 31, the latest available campaign finance data.
Sandy Crawford: www.facebook.com/SandyCrawfordforSenate/
Al Skalicky: www.facebook.com/FriendsforAl/