Lara Underwood, an MU law student from Columbia, has thrown her hat into the ring to become the fourth Democratic candidate for the 25th District seat in the Missouri House of Representatives.
“I’ve always had an interest in politics,” Underwood said Wednesday. “I knew I wanted to enter public service.”
Underwood said the position interests her because it would allow her to shape the law rather than simply enforcing it as an attorney.
Underwood earned her bachelor’s degree in political science from Columbia College in 2001. Now she is working toward her juris doctorate at the MU School of Law. She plans to leave her job at the Rainbow House, a shelter for abused and neglected children, to focus on her campaign.
“This was the best time to run politically and personally,” Underwood said, explaining that being young and fresh out of law school will make it easier for her to dedicate energy to the position.
Underwood plans to focus on public policy that would benefit community organizations that serve victims and educate people about domestic violence and child abuse. She also plans to address issues involving education, health care for children and lower-income families and MU’s role in the state economy.
Underwood worked during the 2000 election season as deputy campaign manager for incumbent 25th District Rep. Vicky Riback Wilson, who will be forced out of the seat by term limits.
Underwood said the Wilson campaign gave her the experience she needs for her own bid. She also said Wilson has offered advice to all the candidates running for the seat.
As one of two women aiming to replace a female representative, Underwood noted Boone County’s progressive nature in electing women and minorities. “Boone County knows it’s important to keep women in this seat,” she said.
Underwood will compete with Democrats Judy Baker, D. Duane Dimmitt and Rick Raven for the party nomination. Republican Joel Jeffries is also running for the seat.
Fellow candidates had mixed reactions to Underwood’s announcement.
Baker said it would not affect her campaign strategy, although she said that it’s now a crowded race. She said she will continue to get her own message out and hopes voters will see her as a viable candidate.
Jeffries was not overly concerned about another Democrat entering the race.
“I’m running for everyone in the 25th District ... at this point, I need to focus on the issues that affect the residents in my district.” He said that while he expects to run uncontested in the Republican primary, it is important for him to watch the Democrats closely.
Neither Dimmitt nor Raven could be reached for comment.