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Running to RepresentThere are 27 individuals who have established committees to run for the state House of Representatives in the 17 districts that are part of the Springfield metropolitan statistical area. The official filing period to run in the Aug. 7 primary election is Feb. 28–March 27. The following people have committees on file with the Missouri Ethics Commission as of Jan. 26:

128: Sue Entlicher
129: Randy Angst, Sandy Crawford
130: Thomas Long, Jeff Messenger, Dennis Stehlik
131: Tom Martz, Sonya Murray, Larry Roark
132: Charlie Norr
133: Eric Burlison
134: Elijah Haahr, John Sellars
135: Lincoln Hough, David Velasco
136: Kevin Austin
137: Melissa Leach
138: Don Phillips, Jason Ray
139: Kevin Elmer, Bob Rubino
140: Matthew Block
141: Tony Dugger
155: Lyle Rowland
156: none
158: Michael Bennett, Frank Mashburn, Wayne Wallingford

Source: Missouri Ethics Commission
Running to Represent
There are 27 individuals who have established committees to run for the state House of Representatives in the 17 districts that are part of the Springfield metropolitan statistical area. The official filing period to run in the Aug. 7 primary election is Feb. 28–March 27. The following people have committees on file with the Missouri Ethics Commission as of Jan. 26:
  • 128: Sue Entlicher
  • 129: Randy Angst, Sandy Crawford
  • 130: Thomas Long, Jeff Messenger, Dennis Stehlik
  • 131: Tom Martz, Sonya Murray, Larry Roark
  • 132: Charlie Norr
  • 133: Eric Burlison
  • 134: Elijah Haahr, John Sellars
  • 135: Lincoln Hough, David Velasco
  • 136: Kevin Austin
  • 137: Melissa Leach
  • 138: Don Phillips, Jason Ray
  • 139: Kevin Elmer, Bob Rubino
  • 140: Matthew Block
  • 141: Tony Dugger
  • 155: Lyle Rowland
  • 156: none
  • 158: Michael Bennett, Frank Mashburn, Wayne Wallingford
Source: Missouri Ethics Commission

Local business owners plan political runs

Posted online
Last edited 10:19 a.m., Feb. 6, 2012:
John Sellars is running for state representative in the 134th District. It originally was stated that Sellars is running for the 138th District, which is currently held by Rep. Sara Lampe. Though Sellars ran against Lampe in 2010, the central Springfield district changed through the redistricting process.
In an election year, it’s not uncommon to see a variety of political newcomers running for office. One trend that seems to be in full effect locally is business owners throwing their figurative hats into the political arena.

The official filing period for Missouri’s Aug. 7 primary election is Feb. 28–March 27, but several businesspeople already have announced their intent to run for office.

Among them is Lynn Morris, founder and president of Ozark-based Family Pharmacy Inc. A Republican, Morris seeks to represent a portion of Christian County east of U.S. Highway 65 in the newly redrawn 140th District.

“I really believe that people want representatives who are not career politicians. I’m not going to be a good politician. I don’t even want to be a politician. What I want is to be a representative to the people of Christian County and southwest Missouri,” Morris said, acknowledging that he ran unsuccessfully for state representative in 1998.

Business issues
Morris, who founded his company in 1977 with one employee, now has more than 300 employees working at roughly 30 locations across southwest Missouri. He said last year Family Pharmacy hired 40 employees, and in 2012, it already has hired nine new staff members.

And right now, Morris sees jobs as a top priority for the people of his district.

“We need to make sure that when students get out of high school and college that they can go to work in our area.”

He called small-business owners the backbone of the economy, and if elected, he wants to be a facilitator of good ideas drawn from the business community.

“Small-business owners, they understand balancing a budget, paying bills and knowing how to grow,” Morris said. “Unfortunately, some of the people who get into politics don’t understand that.”

So far, Republican Matthew Block is Morris’ primary opponent for a seat in the 140th District. Block, 26, owns public relations and marketing firm Matthew P. Block Enterprises LLC and co-owns Pure Captures Photography with his wife.

In 2011, he served as a legislative assistant for Rep. Eric Burlison, R-Springfield.

Block said he feels his experience as a business owner and in government give him a broad understanding of the challenges businesses face.

“Our area needs to be well-represented by someone who believes that government needs to get out of the way and let people make decisions,” Block said. “There are too many licensing requirements and professional registration requirements that are unnecessary.”

Though he’d like to take his entrepreneurial knowledge to Jefferson City, he said being a business owner isn’t an instant qualification for being a lawmaker.

“The most important skill for a legislator is knowing how to ask the right questions, and knowing how to tap into the experience of your constituents, because there is no way that anyone’s experience on their own can bring enough insight to properly deal with all the issues,” Block said. “You’ve got to be able to reach out to your constituent base and find out what they know that you don’t.”

For Block, reforming the tax credit system is a key issue right now. “What we call tax credits at the state level are really more like subsidies,” Block said. “The way the system is set up now, it is like playing slot machines. You get just enough success to keep going, but in the end, it is a net loss.”

Neither Morris nor Block had formed their campaign committees by press time, but Springfield attorney Kevin Austin, a partner in Keck & Austin LLC, already has raised more than $30,000 toward his campaign to run for the newly redrawn 136th District, according to information filed with the Missouri Ethics Commission.

Austin, who also is a Republican, said his legal experience, including insurance defense, and representing small businesses and local government entities in litigation, has led him to believe that more business owners in general should be involved with the political process.

“We’re closer to the ground, we see what is happening and we have a lot more real world experience,” Austin said. “I think that’s something we can offer to the citizens and the legislature.”

He said he supports the priorities of the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry for the current legislative session – employment law reform, workers’ compensation reform and tort reform – but a key priority for Missouri business, according to Austin, is to pass right-to-work legislation, allowing employees to not participate in labor unions if they so choose.

“I think Missouri has both problems and opportunities in relation to its competition with other states. All around us, we are in competition when it comes to attracting companies moving from California, or Illinois or out east,” Austin said. “I’ll guarantee you that Boeing did not give us a second look when it decided to move to South Carolina, and that’s because we didn’t have right-to-work. It’s not an end-all, but it’s a killer if we don’t have it.”

Others from the Springfield area seeking to gain seats in the state legislature include Republican John Sellars and Democrat Charlie Norr.

Sellars is director of The Fremont retirement community and former executive director of The History Museum for Springfield-Greene County. He is running in the 134th District. Norr, a retired firefighter and former state legislator, is running for a seat in the 132nd District. Norr previously was a representative for the 137th District but lost his seat in 2010 to Rep. Melissa Leach, a Republican.

Kellie Freeman Rohrbaugh, director of the Greene County Democratic Central Committee, said as of Jan. 24, Norr is the only Greene County Democrat who has announced plans to run for the legislature.

Norr, who previously owned an auto body shop and a direct sales company in Baltimore, said he thinks there is a place for tax credits that create jobs.

“I think it’s pretty simple: Provide the product that you promise before you get the tax credit,” Norr said, adding that the tax credits available through the Missouri Department of Economic Development simply need to be monitored to ensure that companies receiving credits are delivering on their promises to invest capital or create jobs.  

Norr also agreed with Block that regulations need to be reduced for many business owners. “We need to use a little bit more common sense,” he said. “You can’t require a man who owns a small antique shop to put in a handicap accessible bathroom that costs $8,000 to $10,000. How about a $2 sign in the window that says, ‘We do not have a handicap-accessible bathroom?’”

Election challenges
A lawsuit was filed Jan. 26 – roughly four weeks before the filing period begins for Missouri’s Aug. 7 primary election – seeking to block the usage of the recently redrawn House of Representatives districts in this year’s elections.

The districts were redrawn by a six-member panel of appeals court judges. The panel was established after a bipartisan commission deadlocked this summer.

The lawsuit was filed by more than a dozen individuals, including former Republican and Democratic lawmakers, who maintain that the 163 House districts need to more closely hit the targeted ideal population of 36,742 and be contiguous.

The Missouri Supreme Court already has ordered the redistricting process for the Senate begin anew. A trial court is expected to complete a legal review of the House district maps by Feb. 3, according to the Associated Press.[[In-content Ad]]

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