Democrat and first-time candidate Kyle Garner, of Sedalia, has challenged Republican incumbent Nathan Beard for District 52 state representative.
Garner has a bachelor’s degree in history and is in law school at the University of Missouri. He said he thinks the “legislature has gotten away from governing and has gotten more to worrying about elections, … divisive wedge issues” and he wants to run for office to hopefully “do some good for some people.”
His background ranges from minimum wage jobs to management positions, which he said gives him a working class perspective.
“I bring that experience into the office, whereas a lot of people we elect in Jeff City they’re practicing lawyers, business professionals, which is fine, you need that also, but I think working class Missourians need a voice that understands what the working class is going through,” he said. “That’s something we’ve lacked for the last few years. If you look at my resume, it looks like a millennial of the recession.”
Garner said there are two top issues facing Missouri, one being a “crumbling” infrastructure.
“If you can’t go from point A to point B, it doesn’t matter what you’re producing as a business, people can’t get your product, and that’s been something that’s been ignored for decades now,” he said. “… That’s a basic function of government that has been pushed to the side over these divisive issues they’ve been focusing on instead.”
He said the second big issue is expanding Medicaid in Missouri, which he said will help the economy and communities with that extra revenue and extra medical coverage, noting “there’s not a downside except for politics.”
When it comes to the state budget, Garner said the two priorities should be roads and education, two things he said benefit everyone.
He also offered his stance on a few issues that were discussed over the past year and could be brought up again in future legislative sessions:
• Right to Work: “It doesn’t benefit a single person other than the very top. … If you look at every state that’s gone Right to Work, has had wages across the board, not just union jobs, had wages decrease. … (Missouri’s) unemployment is down just under 4 percent. It’s not a matter of not having the jobs, businesses being scared off. The issue Missouri faces is the wages are already low. Our median household income is below the national average and our household income in Sedalia is well below even the state median.
“… They also this year tried to push a change to the prevailing wage law and what that would do is bring cheap labor from out of state into the state, take Missouri dollars out of state and put Missouri workers out of a job. That’s not good for Missouri workers, it’s not good for Missouri.”
• Voter ID: “It’s a terrible law that doesn’t benefit a single person in the state. … You’re looking at losing $16 to $18 million for a problem that does not exist. … It’s 100 percent a Republican issue around the nation, it’s because it has a higher impact on traditional Democratic voters.”
• Religious freedom bill: “We’ve seen the other states, it’s cost them the economy, the Missouri Chamber came out strongly against that. Just about every business in Missouri saying this is going to hurt our state, but it’s a wedge issue. It gets people out and angry and emotional.
“… It would’ve been catastrophic for the state, but then you look at what kind of state we want to be. I’ve been in Missouri my whole life, my family has been in Missouri for generations. It’s a welcoming, kind, Midwestern state in my mind and to enshrine in the Constitution that you grew up over there, we’re going to treat you differently, you don’t get the same rights as everyone else, people can discriminate against you, that’s not the type of state we want to be.”
Garner said he sees the biggest challenge in fulfilling the position as overcoming the public’s distrust of government and getting past strict party lines that he says has “led to really bad government.” Along those same lines, he said something that sets him apart from other politicians is this is his first run at public office, and no one in his family has held public office.
“My focus is what’s best for Sedalia and for Missouri,” he said of why citizens should vote for him. “I’m running as a Democrat but my allegiance is not to the Democratic Party, it’s to the people of Sedalia and the district. I think we haven’t had that. … I’m very willing to work across the aisle as long as I can find a willing partner there. … I bring a fresh perspective to it, as well as understanding the job is ‘representative,’ you’re a public servant. I’m not there to push my own career, the party’s agenda — I’m there to serve the people and I’m a public servant to the people.”
Nicole Cooke can be reached at 660-530-0138 or @NicoleRCooke.