Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Summer has arrived and election season is heating up. Politicians can be seen walking parade routes and greeting voters at local gatherings. Our mailboxes fill with pamphlets and campaign signs appear on the side of the road. Before you know it, we’ll be lining up to cast our ballots – following appropriate social distancing guidelines, of course.

On Aug. 4, we’ll go to the polls for a primary election and chose candidates to appear on the November general election ballot. The Missouri Senate seat I hold is up for grabs, as term limits prevent me from seeking office again. Three residents of the 33rd Senatorial District are vying to represent one of the political parties in the fall match-up. Another party has only one candidate registered, so her place on the November ballot is assured.

My Senate district overlaps seven districts of the Missouri House of Representatives. I wish I could say voters have a full slate of candidates from all political parties to choose from in the August primaries, but that’s not the case. This year, the outcomes of five of these seven House races will be determined on the day of the primary. Three House seats in our area attracted candidates of only one party. In those elections, whoever wins the August primary will skate to victory unopposed on Nov. 3. Two other House districts have only the current office holders seeking reelection. That may speak volumes about how well those representatives serve their constituents, but the lack of participation doesn’t bode well for the democratic process. Our system of government requires citizen involvement, and I worry we’re not seeing enough people stepping forward.

I wish more people would run for office. There are opportunities for involvement at every level. Regardless of whether you serve on a city council, hold an office in county government or represent a House or Senate district in Missouri’s General Assembly, you will be giving something back to your community and very likely enjoying one the most challenging and gratifying experiences of your life. It has been an honor and privilege to serve in the Legislature for the past 16 years, and I hope others have the same opportunity. That said, I look forward to someone taking my place. New ideas and fresh perspectives are welcome in public service.

Perhaps more people don’t put their hat in the ring because they think they’re not qualified. Nothing could be further from the truth. I believe government works best when people from all walks of life participate. During my time in the Legislature I have served alongside farmers, lawyers, teachers, entrepreneurs, veterans, social workers, physicians, laborers, homemakers and so many other Missourians with varied experiences. All brought something unique and valuable to the legislative process.

No college degree or any specific work experience is required to serve in the Legislature. Any U.S. citizen and Missouri resident who pays their taxes and is not a felon is qualified to hold office in our state. To serve in the Legislature, you must have lived in your district for a year prior to the election. House candidates need to be at least 24 years old and a qualified Missouri voter for two years prior to the election. Candidates for Senate must be age 30 or older, and a voter for at least three years. Otherwise, that’s it.

You don’t need to have held any other office, or served any particular length of time to be qualified to run for a higher office. Our current lieutenant governor, who presides over the Senate, did not serve a single day in the House of Representatives. Of the 31 current members of the Missouri Senate, eight have no prior experience in the House.

It’s too late in the election cycle to compete in this year’s races, but it’s not too early to begin thinking about future opportunities. I encourage all Missourians with a heart for service to consider seeking elective office. From the days of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, citizen lawmakers have sacrificed time away from their daily lives to lend their knowledge, experience and wisdom to public office. It’s a high calling, and I hope everyone would give some thought to doing their part.

Even if you decide public office is not for you, remember you still have a duty to participate in the elective process. You have until Oct. 7 to register to vote in the November general election. You can register at your county courthouse or online at www.sos.mo.gov.  I hope everyone takes time to learn about the candidates and issues before voting in August and November. Also, if you’re concerned about going to the polls during a pandemic, you can request an absentee or mail-in ballot for this year’s elections through your county clerk’s office or the secretary of state’s website. We are blessed to live in a country where every citizen has a right to vote and anyone can seek public office. Let’s not take these precious liberties for granted. Good government depends on all of us.

It is my great honor to represent the citizens of the 33rd Senatorial District. Although the Legislature has adjourned for 2020, I remain your senator throughout the year. If there’s anything that I can do to assist you, please feel free to contact my Capitol office at 573-751-1882.