Mobilize Missouri Local Candidate Endorsements

Mobilize Missouri has selected candidates for endorsement in advance of the August 2018 primary election.

Endorsements are as follows:
St. Louis City License Collector – Dana Kelly-Franks
St. Louis County Council, District 5 – Lisa Clancy
St. Louis County Prosecutor – Wesley Bell
St. Charles County Executive – Lorna Frahm
St. Charles County Council, District 1 – Cheryl Hibbeler
St. Charles County Council, District 3 – Christine Hedges

Read all local survey responses.
Includes responses from Mavis Thompson for St. Louis License Collector and Mark Mantovani for St. Louis County Executive.

Mobilize Missouri Announces Endorsements for State and Federal Candidates

Mobilize Missouri has selected candidates for endorsement in advance of the August 2018 primary election.

Endorsements are as follows:
MO House District 50 – Michela Skelton
MO House District 63 – Janet Kester
MO House District 65 – Bill Otto
MO House District 71 – LaDonna Appelbaum
MO House District 72 – Doug Clemens
MO House District 73 – Raychel Proudie
MO House District 77 – Kimberly-Ann Collins
MO House District 81 – Travis Estes
MO House District 84 – Brad Bakker
MO House District 86 – Farrakhan Shegog
MO House District 87 – Ian Mackey
MO House District 89 – Kevin Fitzgerald
MO House District 96 – Erica Hoffman
MO House District 99 – Mike LaBozzetta
MO House District 105 – Scott Cernicek
MO House District 107 – Curtis Wylde
MO House District 108 – Betty Vining
MO Senate District 2 – Patrice Billings
US Congressional District 2 – Mark Osmack
US Congressional District 1 – Cori Bush (previously announced)

Additional endorsements at this level may be announced following the primary election, including currently serving representatives who may not have been able to complete our questionnaire due to the extended legislative session.

In races for which we did not issue an endorsement, membership may have either felt none of the candidates were appropriate to endorse or that the race included more than one excellent candidate and we did not wish to vote in favor of one over the other.

Voting on races at the local level, including St. Louis County prosecutor and executive, will be held in the coming weeks, with those additional endorsement announcements soon to follow.

Links to completed surveys!

MO House District 42 – Joseph Widner
MO House District 50 – Michela Skelton
MO House District 63 – Janet Kester
MO House District 65 – Bill Otto
MO House District 70 – Paula Brown
MO House District 70 – Donald Klein
MO House District 70 – Greg Upchurch
MO House District 71 – LaDonna Appelbaum
MO House District 72 – Dan Wibracht
MO House District 72 – Doug Clemens
MO House District 73 – Raychel Proudie
MO House District 76 – Marissa Brown
MO House District 76 – Damon Haymer
MO House District 76 – Cydney Johnson
MO House District 77 – Kimberly-Ann Collins
MO House District 79 – Reign Harris
MO House District 79 – J.P. Johnson
MO House District 81 – Steve Butz
MO House District 81 – Travis Estes
MO House District 84 – Brad Bakker
MO House District 84 – Wiley Price IV
MO House District 86 – Farrakhan Shegog
MO House District 86 – Maria Chappelle-Nadal
MO House District 87 – Ian Mackey
MO House District 87 – Sam Gladney
MO House District 89 – Kevin Fitzgerald
MO House District 95 – Mike Walter
MO House District 99 – Mike LaBozzetta
MO House District 101 – Genevieve Steidtmann
MO House District 102 – Gary Wester
MO House District 103 – Jim Klenc
MO House District 104 – Peggy Sherwin
MO House District 105 – Scott Cernicek
MO House District 106 – Jackie Sclair
MO House District 107 – Curtis Wylde
MO House District 108 – Betty Vining
MO Senate District 2 – Patrice Billings
MO Senate District 14 – Joe Adams
MO Senate District 14 – Sharon Pace
MO Senate District 14 – Brian Williams
US Congressional District 3 – Katy Geppert
US Congressional District 2 – Mark Osmack
US Congressional District 2 – Bill Haas
US Congressional District 2 – John Messmer
US Congressional District 2 – Cort VanOstran
US Congressional District 1 – Cori Bush (previously announced)

/ In Elections / By Jen / Comments Off on Mobilize Missouri Announces Endorsements for State and Federal Candidates

Fridays with An Activist: Damen Alexander, March for Our Lives STL Organizer

Photo courtesy of Niles Zee Photography
An interview series with local activists about their work in Missouri.

Tell me about the goals for March for Our Lives STL.

The goal of the March was to get politicians to listen to us. Politicians have been non-starters on gun legislation for too long. Not just Republicans, but Democrats too. The March put a referendum on complacency. We are here, we’re listening, and we’re taking notes. If you don’t enact the change we want to see, we will use our voting power to vote you out. After the March, we want politicians to treat us like voters, and not kids. Our message has the force of the vote behind it.

How did you spread the word and get people involved?

Facebook was the most effective option. We had 3K people RSVP on Facebook. 15K showed up. That shows you the energy, commitment, and dedication of our generation. 15K people showed up in the cold and rain to march.

Is gun violence the main issue you’re passionate about? What other political or social problems concern you?  

An issue I care about that doesn’t get a lot of attention is voting rights. People talk all day about voter ID,  registering voters, and all that jazz, but for me, voter rights are much more than that. We need to make sure the voting electorate is more engaged, inclusive, and responsive. There was a study done that said people who come of voting age in mid-term years are less likely to vote over the entire course of their life, then someone who came of voting age in a presidential election year. That’s absurd.

We need automatic voter registration. We need to reflect and ask ourselves, “Is a random Tuesday in March, April, August, or November, the best voting day?” For me, personally, I don’t like the idea of partisan election officials at the county and state level. No way should our Secretary of State be partisan. They protect all of our voting rights, not just their party. There are little steps we can take to make the electorate more inclusive. The right to vote is the most important, most precious, and most sacred right. It should be protected with the eye of a hawk.

Do you plan to keep doing this type of work? If so, in what ways?

Here in Saint Louis, this is not only a March. Other marches have been critiqued for only talking about white lives. Historically, when a social issue leaches onto the white community there is IMMEDIATELY a call to action. We have town halls, reports, hearings, all the works. Meanwhile, the black community has been faced with the said issue for years and decades. You can see that without the drug epidemic, the AIDS epidemic, and now with gun violence. Here in Saint Louis, the black community has been plagued by gun violence for years. Mike Brown and Anthony Lamar Smith are victims of gun violence. They are victims of state-sponsored gun violence. Why are we just now mobilizing?

205. That’s how many people died in our own streets last year from gun violence.  It’s time we showed up in the streets not just for students or mainstream issues, but for our neighbors, our brothers, and our sisters too. I don’t think the work of the March is done until all of Saint Louis can stand together and realize Black Lives Matter.

As for specifics, there are town halls, lobby days, and an art show planned. A lot of the time our government is seen as elitist. We feel it’s run by the privileged, we feel only work for the privileged, only the privileged participate, and only the privileged can make the change. Well, we’re knocking down that notion. We are targeting inner-city youth who have never been involved in any type of government. We are providing them an outlet to hold their elected officials accountable. And with the art show, we’re also proving students a chance to express themselves, and make money.

So we’re more than a march. We want to be in the community. We are the community activist.  All details on the art show, lobby day, and town hall, TBA. (edit: Town Hall has since been scheduled: https://www.facebook.com/events/239592749944949/)

What do you think veteran activists can do to invite and welcome younger people into the fold?

I believe veteran activists have been very inviting already. Real activists show up for every single thing, every single day. Many of them were at the March, and we even invited them to our VIP area. Cori Bush, an activist and Congressional candidate helped us lead the March. State Rep. Bruce Franks Jr. and the Rev. Daryl Gray both spoke at our March. This has been a two-way street. There were no hard feelings.

What message do you hope high school and college students receive from the work you’ve done?

The only message I have is the vote. If you are 17.5 in Missouri, you need to register. Today. This is all hypothetical until we go register, mobilize, and vote. This change only happens with all of us united.

/ In Interviews / By Jen / Comments Off on Fridays with An Activist: Damen Alexander, March for Our Lives STL Organizer

Fridays with An Activist: Christine Hedges, St. Charles Resistance Organizer

An interview series with local activists about their work in Missouri.

Tell me about the organizations you work with and how you think you’ve been most effective.

I was one of the founding members of Take Action St. Charles, one of many ‘huddle’ groups formed after last year’s Woman’s March. I’ve worked with the national #Resist movement supported by Meetup.com. I’ve been hooked into Moveon.org’s field network for about a year now. I was part of the initial Gateway Advocacy Network (GAN) group working to coordinate the efforts of progressive groups across the bi-county area. And I was an intern with Moveon.org’s Resistance Summer in 2017. And there is a brand-new St. Charles County Progressive Dems group, which I have joined.

One of the things I do all the time at work is plan & facilitate meetings, so stepping in to fill that role when it was needed helped those groups to be more cohesive. As time passed, all the different groups ended up moving in this or that direction, depending on how ‘active’ the group wanted to be, their particular interests, and a variety of other factors. But one of the other things I do at work is team-building and I believe that through planning events and maintaining communication channels (Facebook, email, Slack), I’ve managed to help keep the people who want to be engaged in contact and informed.

How did you get started?

I had always been politically well-informed, but mostly inactive aside from voting every 2 years. After the election in 2016, I disengaged completely for a couple of months, even closing my Facebook and stopping reading the news. After the 1st Muslim ban, I realized that I couldn’t stay on the sidelines anymore.

I started with Google and I found the Indivisible Guide, which led me to Liberal Women Unite (just a Facebook presence at the time). I found the Women’s March website, which led me to the huddle that became TASC. In the past I never talked politics with anyone. Finding people who felt as strongly as I did about the same issues was life-changing. I wanted to keep showing up and taking action, working for change.

How do you mobilize people?

This was actually one of the lessons covered during our MoveOn Resistance Summer program- and it’s not easy. One thing you need to do once you know someone is interested in getting involved is to try to build a relationship with them. Engage and ask them questions about themselves and what they’re interested in. Then you need to find a way to tie those interests into some action that they can take to help your mutual interests. Bottom line though, it’s about relationship-building, if you want to keep people showing up in person.

What’s the main issue that you feel passionately about?  

There are so many issues that I’m passionate about! My campaign is focused on responsible use of our taxes. I am truly angry at the ways the County is spending our money- I can give examples if you like, but the bottom line is that the County police all got shiny new cars last year and many friends and family of our County Executive seem to have cushy jobs with the government. And at the same time, there are low-level jobs going unfilled because there is no public transportation and a lack of affordable housing in the County.

Once I am in office, I will work to address those things, but I’m also passionate about addressing structural racism, strengthening the social safety net, and providing a full range of health care (reproductive included) to every citizen.

How do you stay inspired and engaged with the work?

The people! I have made so many friends and met so many amazing people! Also, there is so much to be done to get this county, this state, and this country moving in a better direction, that I feel obligated to keep pushing. And it’s not always work, there is enough of a social aspect to this activism that I’ve found myself in that it hasn’t gotten old yet.

Advice to other activists? 

No one is going to give you a list of directions, there’s no guide for this. Find a group through Google or Facebook or maybe by reading news websites or blogs. Get in touch, find out what you can do to join, volunteer to help them somehow. Follow your passions and know that even the smallest efforts move us the tiniest bit in the right direction. We’ve got a lot of work to do but don’t get discouraged. As MLK paraphrased from a quote by Theodore Parker, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

How do you see St. Charles County evolving, in the business, political, and community culture?

The County has grown tremendously over the last 1/2 century and that growth continues. It was once a Democratic and union-strong place but over the last 20 years has gone strongly Republican, for a number of reasons. In the last year, though, I’ve seen more people of color, more LGBTQ people, more progressives, more women willing to stand up and make their voices heard. I want to continue to amplify those voices- I think that diversity of viewpoints across the County’s business, political, and cultural lives can only make us stronger.

If you could change or improve something about St. Charles County, what would it be?

I’d love for it to be more diverse culturally, I’d love to see the Metrolink extended to the County, and I’d love to see a newspaper (or news website?) cover news and events here more thoroughly. The only way you can know what happens at council meetings (city or county) is to actually attend them. And there’s so much more going on that people should know about.

What do you think is the most pressing need for the people in your area?

Public transportation and affordable housing. Also, the people of the County should have more opportunities to engage with and learn from black and brown people. And that’s on white people to make this a comfortable place for black and brown people to be, not on them by any means.

What are your thoughts on some of the legislation being enacted in our state?

I’m horrified by what I’ve seen. Republicans want to take away women’s reproductive rights, they want to put LGBTQ youth at risk, to make trans people’s lives harder, to slash taxes for corporations and then cut services to Missouri’s elderly and to public education. In addition, they have no respect for people of color or for women. I can’t wait to see my friends like Gary Wester, Jim Klenc, Curtis Wylde, Peggy Sherwin, Scott Cernicek, and Helena Webb take their places in the MO House and for Patrice Billings to sit in the MO senate.

Add any additional thoughts you’d like to share.

Running for office, at any level, is a lot of work. I’d encourage anyone reading this who is also interested in being the change they want is to find a campaign and volunteer for it. They can find mine online but there are plenty of others and we all meed folks’ time and money if we’re going to win.

/ In Interviews / By Jen / Comments Off on Fridays with An Activist: Christine Hedges, St. Charles Resistance Organizer

Mobilize Missouri Endorses Annie Rice for St. Louis City 8th Ward Alderwoman

Mobilize Missouri announces our endorsement of Annie Rice for the Democratic candidate for 8th Ward Alderwoman in the City of St. Louis. With Mayor Lyda Krewson’s recent appointment of 8th Ward Alderman Steve Conway to the Assessor’s Office, the vacant aldermanic position has the opportunity to be filled with a progressive voice for one of St. Louis’ most economically and racially diverse wards.

Annie works as an immigration and civil rights attorney, uniquely positioning her for understanding and overcoming the challenges that the City of St. Louis has faced for decades. Annie has marched with other local leaders to call for fair and equitable policing, and continues to support efforts to engage and register voters and support candidates at the state and local levels who wish to see St. Louis put its residents first.

Mobilize Missouri is proud to stand with Annie as she seeks the nomination from the Democratic Central Committee, who will be voting on their appointment on Tuesday, December 19.

Mobilize Missouri Endorses Cori Bush for MO-Congressional District 1

Mobilize Missouri proudly announces our endorsement of Cori Bush for Congress (MO-01). Our organization firmly believes the combination of Cori’s progressive platform and her grassroots activism and leadership ensures St. Louis area residents will have an outspoken advocate in the House of Representatives.

Mobilize Missouri commends Cori on her efforts as a leader in the movement for black lives. After both the 2014 killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson and the 2017 acquittal of police officer Jason Stockley in the killing of Anthony Lamar Smith, Cori has taken her activism to the front lines. In tandem with other city leaders and clergy, Cori has drawn together a coalition of activists across racial lines to take control of the narrative surrounding the unjust treatment of people of color by the police departments in St. Louis City and County. She will continue this fight as a Congresswoman, pushing for an equitable justice system and ending the school-to-prison pipeline.

Further, our organization recognizes Cori’s advocacy for the most vulnerable residents of the St. Louis area. As a single mother who has experienced homelessness and poverty herself, Cori understands the burdens many St. Louisans face of living paycheck to paycheck, being uninsured, and lacking the resources to live a prosperous life. Cori has vowed to fight for Medicare for All, an increased the minimum wage, and free and accessible higher education so that everyone has a chance to grow and succeed.

Mobilize Missouri is proud to stand with Cori as she seeks the Democratic nomination for Missouri’s 1st Congressional District.

For more information about Cori’s platform and to support her campaign, visit https://www.votecoribush.com/.

The Surveys

Mobilize Missouri sent surveys to candidates for Congressional District 1, which covers St Louis City and extends into significant portions of the county. Messages with the survey attached were sent to candidates Cori Bush, DeMarco Davidson, and Congressman William Lacy Clay. Of the surveys we sent, Cori Bush and DeMarco Davidson responded and were submitted as early endorsement candidates on which Mobilize Missouri members voted.

Unions 101

by Celina della Croce

Unions have been in steady decline over the last few decades, from 20.1 percent of workers in 1983 to just 11.1 percent in 2015, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. So what are unions, anyway? Where have they gotten us so far and why do they even matter at all?

Simply put, a union is a group of workers coming together to have a voice on the job and to fight for fair wages, treatment and conditions in their workplace. While the structure of individual unions varies, all unions are accountable to their membership. Members pay dues, which fund the union, and they have the right to vote on elected offices in their union’s leadership, to pass or modify bylaws, and to ratify or vote down contracts. Unlike nonprofits, which often receive grant funding, unions’ funding comes directly from the workers that they represent. That means whether you’re a teacher or a janitor or a nurse, if you’re in a union, your union works for you. They negotiate legally binding contracts with employers based on the issues that matter to members, such as wages and working conditions, and hold the employers accountable to that agreement.

Unions are the reason that we have the standard 40-hour workweek. They are the reason we have child labor laws, safety regulations, a minimum wage, and laws that protect working people. Even if you’ve never heard of a union, or if you’ve never been in one, union members are fighting for your rights, too.

Centuries ago, it was perfectly legal for companies to employ both adults and children in unsafe working conditions and, when someone was injured on the job, to get rid of them and simply replace them with someone else. Thanks to unions, we have laws that protect working people, like the Occupational Safety and Hazard Act, which forces your employer to abide by certain safety regulations, and an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that makes it illegal for your employer to discriminate against or fire you because of your race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, or age.

How did working people with no money and no power win basic protections and fair wages? One worker alone has very little power in the scheme of things. Before unions fought for and won safety regulations, if your arm was cut off on the factory floor, your boss could simply toss you aside and find someone to replace you. But if all of the workers come together and say, “We’re not willing to do this any more. We will not work in unsafe conditions. We will not continue to live in poverty. We will not allow you to profit off of us until you meet our conditions,” the power dynamic starts to shift. Even without every worker participating, if a sizeable amount of your workforce has chained themselves to the front entrance, or is dominating the news cycle and bringing negative publicity to your company, it becomes more profitable to negotiate with your workers and figure out how to get them to stop. And that is the power of unions.

Unions have the right to negotiate contracts that set working conditions and wages. Thinking about that raise you’ve been asking for but keep getting denied? Or more support for a project you’re working on? Stuck with a bad boss and worried if he or she is out to get you? Just buy a new car and you’re worried about rumors of a lay-off? Feel like your boss never listens to you? If you’re in a union, you can negotiate over wages, training, job security, and layoff procedures, among other things. If you and your coworkers come together, you’re a lot more likely to get a strong contract. And if your employer violates that contract, you and your union have the power and the legal right to enforce it.

Without a union, you can be fired for any time, with or without cause. You may think your boss likes you, and maybe they do, but if they retire or move on, you are relying on good luck and the good will of your next boss to keep your job, or for your next raise. They may give you a raise, they may not. They may follow the company handbook, they may not. Without a union, you’re relying on luck and a favorable job market, and you have no mechanism to enforce fair treatment unless it’s a violation of the law. Remember who fought for those laws that are protecting you, too?  Oh yea. Unions.

In addition to negotiating contracts, many unions also advocate for laws and policies that will benefit working people and are supported by their membership. If you are a millennial with a tech job reading this thinking, “Why do I need a union? I make a living wage, and I can always find another job,” just remember that you have unions to thank for the basic protections that you have. If you fall and break your knee on your way to work, your employer is required to grant you a medical leave of absence through the Family Medical Leave of Absence. Unlike your company handbook, FMLA is legally enforceable. Unions fought for that, too.

Unions are formed when workers come together and vote for them. Without getting into the technicalities, if you’re interested in forming a union at your job, contact a union and ask for their support. If you already have one, start showing up at meetings. And even if you don’t work, or if you aren’t able to join a union for some reason, figure out how you can show up and support the folks who are out fighting for your rights.

Mobilize Missouri Endorses Jenny Schmidt for Maplewood City Councilor

Mobilize Missouri is pleased to announce our endorsement of Jenny Schmidt for Maplewood’s Ward 3 City Councilor. With the help of the local action team — Mobilize MO: Maplewood/Richmond Heights — in making this determination, we are proud to support a strong, progressive mother and lawyer who we believe will help steer Maplewood in a forward-thinking direction

Mobilize Missouri believes Jenny’s longstanding ties to her community and the school district position her well to foster community engagement in the area. Her commitment to participatory budgeting, town halls, public forums, and working closely to maintain diversity and inclusivity with the school board signify an important step forward for Maplewood and the surrounding municipalities.

Additionally, Jenny is committed to the continued development of safe, livable, green infrastructure in Maplewood. From making the city more walkable and bikeable, to developing affordable housing solutions for all sectors of the community, we are impressed by her wide-ranging vision for development in the region. At a critical time in Maplewood’s history, Jenny’s community knowledge, expertise and vision are vital for the city.

While many issues make this race critical for Maplewood, few are as poignant as the nuisance ordinance and its alleged discriminatory enforcement against people of color, domestic violence victims, and people with disabilities. The ACLU and Equal Housing and Opportunity Commission (EHOC) have both filed suit against the city, and the legal battle is expected to persist for some time. Further, ArchCity Defenders, Inc. are suing the city for a pay-to-play municipal court fee system, adding to the concerns about discrimination in the area.

As a lawyer who also has experience in social work, Jenny is perfectly positioned to assess the legality of Maplewood’s ordinances, and ensure that enforcement, if necessary, is not discriminatory. Her commitment to holding everyone in government, law enforcement and the court system accountable to the highest standards of ethics in our legal systems cannot be overemphasized. At a time where Maplewood is expected to receive over $400,000 in Prop P funds, it needs a city councilor who will ensure public participation in deciding where those funds go and help direct them towards benefiting all residents regardless of race, gender, income, or housing status.

We firmly believe Jenny is the person to help lead Maplewood into a progressive future and are proud to endorse her.

/ In Elections / By Jen / Comments Off on Mobilize Missouri Endorses Jenny Schmidt for Maplewood City Councilor

Mobilize Missouri Endorses Tishaura Jones for St. Louis Mayor

St. Louis is a city poised to evolve into a 21st century metropolis. Cranes dot the city’s skyline with new projects being announced daily. Just last month, our schools regained accreditation for the first time since 2007. A batch of startups have sprung up all over the city creating new jobs and attracting some of the best and brightest from around the country.

Despite all of the positive news, our city still has real problems when it comes to crime, poverty and our crumbling infrastructure. Business as usual has not been working for many of the most vulnerable and disenfranchised populations and the people of this city are more engaged than ever to help see that change. Thanks to the work of groups like Team TIF and St. Louis Should Vote, tax abatements and how we spend our tax revenues are part of daily discourse. From issues regarding public use of funds for stadiums, police accountability and homelessness, the citizens of St. Louis are ready to see some real progressive change and want to make sure the benefits of a booming economy in the central corridor are shared by all of its residents, not just a connected few.

In our opinion, the person best suited to lead in the years to come is Treasurer Tishaura Jones. She has the vision, passion and understanding of the issues that will help move our city forward.

After four years in the Treasurer’s office, she has brought fresh ideas and programs to the city, modernized our parking systems, and created a nationally recognized program helping our children save for college. She speaks about being smart on crime, not just tough on crime, and wants to bring social workers on to assist the police department and close down the workhouse; a symbol of what’s wrong with our justice system today.

She knows development cannot just focus on the wealthiest neighborhoods if we want to improve the lives of all of our citizens and she has bright ideas about how to address those inequities. Her campaign’s tagline — “One St. Louis” — isn’t just a catch phrase, it’s an ideology driving her vision for our city; one that works for all of us.

We aren’t the only ones who think so.

Tishaura has earned the endorsement of a number of local groups, including The Young Democrats of St. Louis. Sergio Haro, St. Louis Young Dems Director of Local Politics & Grassroots Organizing and member of Mobilize Missouri says, “Tishaura is the candidate working hard to bring all sections of St. Louis together. As a Latino in this city, it is exciting to have a candidate that will look at policy decisions through a racial equity lens.”

The praise from colleagues and friends continues:

Marty Murray Jr., Chairman of the 78th Legislative District Committee, says, “I whole heartedly endorse Tishaura for Mayor. She is the only candidate that has exhibited the ability to bring fresh and innovative programs to the City. I look forward to seeing her build upon the progress made thus far.”

Ken Haller, former Board President of PROMO, says, “She has been a voice for the powerless and marginalized for years, and she has not just talked the talk, she has walked the walk. And as City Treasurer, she knows this is not just a nice, squishy, politically-progressive thing to do. It is based in science, and it has real dollars and cents implications for the financial health of this City and this region.”

We agree. Tishaura is just what this city needs as we face exciting but challenging times. Last November, St. Louis elected a new Circuit Attorney for the first time in 16 years, and a new Sheriff for the first time since 1989. By April 4th, after 16 years with Francis Slay at the helm, our city will also elect a new mayor. Mobilize Missouri is proud to support Tishaura O. Jones for that position. We have an opportunity to move St. Louis forward and having Tishaura in Room 200 is a step in the right direction. We are all One St. Louis.

Mobilize Missouri Endorses Michela Skelton

“The hard-working people of Mid-Missouri are tired of government that works only for the few, for the wealthy and for the well-connected. I’m running for state representative to stand up for working men and women, for seniors, for people with disabilities, for students, for teachers and for everyone in the 50th District who isn’t being heard in Jefferson City.”  

This statement on Michela Skelton’s website echoes the core values that Mobilize Missouri embodies. It also serves as an appropriate introduction to our first endorsement of 2017: Michela Skelton for MO House District 50.

Skelton is the sole Democratic candidate running in the Aug. 8 special election for Missouri’s 50th House District. The district includes portions of Boone, Cole, Cooper and Moniteau counties. The election was set by former Gov. Jay Nixon after former Rep. Caleb Jones, R-Columbia, resigned to become deputy chief of staff to Gov. Eric Greitens.

Michela Skelton and family

 

We sat down with Michela to learn more about her and the upcoming election.

Q: If I had an opportunity to ask you to describe yourself before you decided to file, how would you have answered back then?

A: This is a really hard question, but I think the honest answer would be lost. When I was working for the Senate, I was prevented from participating in discussion of anything that could be perceived to be political and I’ve always been a very passionate and opinionated person. So while I loved being a wife and mother and an employee, my job had limited me so that I could not be a whole person with thoughts and ideas about how to make our world a better place. Leaving that job to work on the Bernie Sanders presidential primary campaign helped me to find myself and my voice again.

Q: You’ve been quoted saying, “I plan on winning this race by talking to everybody I absolutely can.” How does the special election change the way you approach that? What are you losing or gaining from having more than a year of campaign time cut out of your strategy?

A: I will definitely be short on time to talk to every potential voter, but I still intend on trying to knock on every door where I think someone is open to hearing from me. I also think it will inhibit my ability to reach out to non-voters to get them engaged for this election. But after the election is over in August, I’ll be right back out there again trying to reach anyone I missed between now and August.  I’ll be getting new people registered to vote and engaged in the political process. Because after the August election is over, November of 2018 will be coming quicker than we’d like to think.

Q: You are running as Democrat. Are you able to identify a few key ways in which you deviate from the current national Democratic Party? From the current Missouri Democratic Party?

A: I think one of the few key ways I would deviate from the current national Democratic Party is that I do not believe focusing almost to the exclusion of all else on the advancement of the knowledge economy is going to be able to lift up all of those suffering in my district. I also think we need to be focusing on our moral values of compassion, equality, opportunity and justice for all and bring every policy prescription back to those basic ideals. One of the key ways I differ from the current, though evolving, Missouri Democratic Party is that rural areas and rural constituents are important for the future of our party and our state. We need to do better to hear and recognize the concerns of those people and spend more time and resources on engaging with those communities.

Q: From your website, “I will fight for the rights of workers to unionize and bargain for higher wages and better working conditions.” In the event that House Bill 91 (“Right to Work”) becomes law, what does your vision for “fighting for workers’ rights” look like?

A: My vision of fighting for workers’ rights would be about changing the narrative about the purpose and function of unions as the protectors of worker freedom and strength against corporate tyranny. Until the greater public recognizes what an important function unions and the workers that participate in them serve, it will be hard to turn back legislation like HB 91. I will also support efforts through ballot initiatives to restore the rights of workers through amendments to the Missouri Constitution.

Q: If you are elected, how do you plan to balance your personal beliefs with the needs and desires of your constituents? Do you feel capable of voting against your personal beliefs in a situation where the voters make their opposing opinion very clear?

A: As a representative, I will be elected to serve the varying needs and desires of my constituents. So long as the desires of my constituents do not conflict with the core principles of compassion, equality, and justice upon which I am basing my campaign I can and will set aside my personal beliefs and preferences to meet the needs and desires of my constituents.

Q: What is your biggest takeaway from your time working as Staff Attorney for the Missouri Senate?

A: Term limits have had the unfortunate side effect of taking the power of expertise out of the hands of long serving legislators and placing it with lobbyists. More often than not, when I was writing legislation as a nonpartisan staff person, I was working with the lobbyists because the Senators did not have the knowledge or expertise to grapple with complex issues especially in their first several terms.

Q: Why are you running for office?

A: I am running for office because I believe the voters of the 50th House District deserve are representative who is willing to return their phone calls and emails, be present in their communities, and actually serve their needs and interests rather than those of big-dollar donors and industry lobbyists. I think I have the knowledge and training to be an effective representative from the day I am elected.

Q: Why now?

A: When I was interviewed for the position at Senate Research, I was asked if I had ever thought about running for office. I said that I had when I was younger, but the currently hostile partisan environment convinced me that I didn’t want to. After working there for several years I realized that the reason the system was broken is because too many good people with the knowledge and skill to do a good job were afraid to put themselves out there and do the messy work of leading. I have seen up close and personal how the system is failing us and I want to be part of the change to make it better. If not me, who? If not now, when?

Q: The percentage of active and resident lawyers in Missouri compared to employment is less than 1%. Lawyers represent nearly 13% of all seats in the Missouri House. As a lawyer, how important do you think it is for the makeup of our policy makers to mimic that of the represented population?

A: I think it is very important for the makeup of our policy makers to mimic that of the represented population. However, because of term limits there is a need for more specialized knowledge about how the law works that I think is an important consideration in terms of the over representation by lawyers. I think considering the background and life experience and not just current occupation is also an important consideration in determining appropriate representation. There are huge barriers to a truly representative citizen legislature and many voices and life experiences get left out. We don’t currently have the support mechanisms in place to allow minimum wage workers, single parents, and those living in poverty to serve in the state legislature. The least we can do is elect people who are willing to listen to their stories and represent their needs just as they would for everyone else.

Q: What is something you’d like the people in St. Louis and Kansas cities to know about the people of Boone, Cole, Moniteau and Cooper counties?

A: There are so many more things that we all have in common than the things that make us different. We all want our children to succeed, to have a job that allows us to pay the rent or mortgage and put dinner on the table, and have a purpose in our lives that brings us joy and fulfillment. The more we can talk about those commonalities the easier it will be to stand together to make life better for everyone.

Q: If you could speak to Governor Greitens today as an elected official, what would you say to or ask of him?

A: When you do things that improve the lives of average Missourians, like opposing corporate welfare in the form of tax incentives for a sports arena, I will stand with you. But, when you do things that hurt average Missourians to benefit big corporate interests, like stripping the rights of workers to freely contract with their employers through a union or cutting funding for our community schools to pay for big corporate tax cuts, I will be loud in my opposition and be sure that every voter in my district knows how these policies will hurt us all.

Q: What’s one thing you wish every voter already knew about you by the time you arrive at their door?

A: I care about each and every person in this district and I want us all to succeed. The most important thing I can do as a representative is listen, and that is what my visit is all about.

Find out more about Michela and her run here.

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