COLUMBIA — Two first-time candidates, Elizabeth "Betsy" Phillips and Chuck Basye, are on the campaign trail, competing for the Republican nomination for Missouri's 47th House District.
The winner of the Aug. 5 primary will challenge the incumbent, Rep. John Wright.
Wright, who lives in Rocheport, is running unopposed for the Democratic nomination. He's a graduate of Hickman High School and was valedictorian at Yale University, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts in economics in 1998 and a law degree in 2005.
Elected in 2012, Wright recently sponsored House Bill 1689, which would expand early childhood education in Missouri.
He has also been an outspoken critic of the influence lobbyists have in the legislature. In an essay published in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in March, Wright voiced his frustration with his colleagues accepting steak dinners and other gifts in exchange for supporting lobby-written bills. Wright was the first Missouri House member to sign a gift-ban pledge, vowing not to accept any gifts from special interest groups.
Basye said he never saw himself as a politician. At a meeting of the Columbia Pachyderm Club in December, a representative of the Missouri Republican Party suggested he run in the 47th District.
Basye took about a month to consider running and discussed the decision with his family. In early January, he decided to go for it.
"It's easy for people to sit on the sidelines and complain about what's happening," he said. "I want to be the person who can actually try to solve things. … I want to be part of the solution."
Since entering the Republican primary race, the former Marine and retired air traffic controller said he has discovered that he likes campaigning.
"The one thing I really thought I wouldn't care for was going door to door," said Basye, 56. "But I really am enjoying it, because it's really interesting to see what people, even people who don't agree with me, have concerns about."
Basye said he is fascinated by the voters who care only about one particular issue and choose their candidates based on it. He said he has disagreed with people he talked to over topics ranging from Medicaid expansion to global warming.
Basye is particularly interested in three issues: education, agriculture and the economy.
Since 1993, Basye, a sixth-generation Missouri farmer, has owned a small farm near Rocheport where and his wife sell their tomatoes, squash and peppers on the side of the road. Basye wants to boost the agriculture industry and is an adamant supporter of the "Right to Farm" bill.
Basye is passionate about cutting taxes and reining in government spending. During his time working for the Federal Aviation Administration in Kansas City, he said he witnessed wasteful spending firsthand.
"At the end of the fiscal year, they'd feel they had to spend all the money allocated to them or else they wouldn't get it next year," he said. "There's so much waste and buying stuff they don't need, it's terrible."
Basye said he thinks that some government regulations are necessary but that many are outdated and need to be removed. He did not comment on any specific regulations.
Having grandchildren in Columbia Public Schools, he also said he wants to do everything possible to fund public education.
Basye considers himself a regular person and said he wants to help other people like him.
"I know what regular people in Missouri are facing," he said. He said he intends to listen to the people of Missouri, even those who disagree with him.
"I think we should all do more listening, to see what we can do to work together."
Elizabeth "Betsy" Phillips
Phillips' main reason for running for her first elected office goes back to the founding of our country: "The inalienable rights granted by the Creator to Americans in the Declaration of Independence."
"We are losing a lot of our freedoms," said Phillips, 76. "We need people who will stand up our rights from the declaration."
Phillips, an Ohio native, has lived outside of Columbia for 14 years. And as president of the Boone County Pachyderm Club, she has been a figure in local political organizing for about six years.
In addition to the declaration, Phillips cites Dinesh D’Souza's conservative documentary "America: Imagine the World Without Her" and John Taylor Gatto's 2003 indictment of American public schools, "The Underground History of American Education," as influential to her political ideals.
But to paint Phillips as an average conservative is misleading.
Phillips has been active in several environmental causes. When she and her husband lived in southwestern Pennsylvania, she was president of the Group Against Smog Pollution, an organization campaigning and lobbying for clean air and a sustainable environment, for about five years.
While living in Nevada, Phillips said, she testified at a state Senate hearing, speaking out against the use of public funds to assist a private company in filtering wastewater to sell to California.
Phillips said she also supports fair treatment of immigrants. When living in Buffalo, N.Y., years ago, she became aware that a case for deportation had begun against an acquaintance of hers who was living in the country illegally. The woman had served two years in prison but had five children and had just earned her GED, Phillips said.
Philips attended the deportation hearing, where she discovered the judge was weighing the case from New York City via telephone.
"It was unconstitutional and illegal," Phillips said. She said a lawyer from a Catholic charity was at the trial but was afraid to complain about the conditions for fear of being excluded from future hearings. So Phillips took it upon herself to point out that the woman deserved the right to due process.
Phillips said she thinks serving the 47th District is her calling.
"The government worked really well for a long time, and then it didn't," she said. "It's not a matter of politics; everyone is going to be affected. I'm standing up and trying to do what is right."
Supervising editor is Jeanne Abbott.