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New face heats up 25th District race

Friday, October 15, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 11:04 a.m. CDT, Sunday, July 20, 2008

Judy Baker, the Democratic candidate in the 25th District state representative race, is a political newcomer, while Bob Northup, her Republican opponent, has been involved in Columbia’s political scene for decades.

JUDY BAKER ON THE ISSUES:

  • Health care and tort reform: Wants to reform the health-care system to increase access. She supports malpractice reform, including reasonable caps on non-economic damages in lawsuits and overall insurance reform, which would make sure the Missouri Department of Insurance has review oversight when malpractice insurance companies ask to increase premiums. She also wants to increase health-care literacy.
  • Education: Wants to increase the number and quality of teachers in Missouri by working on recruitment and retention initiatives.
  • Economy: Supports legislation that recognizes the importance of working families and promotes workforce development. Also would push for an act to protect people who are fired from jobs from losing wages they’ve already earned. She also wants to see equitable pay for women.
  • Women’s rights: Wants more laws to protect women from violence, including a mandate for the use of rape kits in emergency rooms.
  • Interstate 70: Wants to wait to hear from constituents to see what they want after the Missouri Highways and Transportation Department proposes its plans.
  • However, the first time the two went head-to-head in the race marked the 200th day in Baker’s campaign and only the fourth in Northup's. A twist in the race came when Republican candidate Joel Jeffries dropped out just two months before the Nov. 2 election to accept a job with the state Board of Probation and Parole. Northup volunteered to take his place, diving into the contest with only a few weeks to spread his name and his message.

    Baker, 44, walks into the Cherry Street Artisan on a Friday morning wearing jeans, a T-shirt and a smile. She orders a raspberry Italian soda and greets a friend before she sits down to talk politics. She has difficulty hiding her enthusiasm.

    “It has been a nice ride so far,” she said. “The primary was hectic and full because there were four other opponents. They really kept me running and on my toes. I came out of that race strong, so I feel that I have very good momentum for this next race.”

    It’s been such a nice ride that Baker cites no big difficulties in the campaign other than the amount of time it takes.

    “The difficulty is not having enough time in the day. I get my six hours of sleep, though,” she said. She tells people the campaign is like the longest possible job interview.

    It’s an interview for which she’s been preparing a long time.

    “To be honest, I knew I would go into public service since I was in the fourth grade,” Baker said. That year, she participated in a mock government. “I thought it was so neat.” Baker’s opportunity to run began when term limits prevented Democratic incumbent Vicky Riback Wilson from running again in the 25th District.

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    Baker said the campaign wouldn’t be possible without the support of her husband, her two daughters and her son. They support her so she can better balance the demands of being a wife, a mother, an economics professor at Columbia College, the owner of Cura Healthsystems Solutions and a candidate for the Missouri House of Representatives.

    “I don’t worry about the balancing,” Baker said. “My children are all pretty self-sufficient. They’re supportive and excited. It’s a great learning experience for them to see how Mom handles conflict or disappointment or an obstacle.”

    Her husband, John, is also supportive.

    “He’s the best man anyone could have ever married,” Baker said.

    Baker said one reason she’s running for public office is to set an example for her daughters.

    “It’s important for me to be able to say to them that it is possible to balance it all,” Baker said. “It’s all been worth it to model for them what a woman can become and how to chase your dreams.”

    Baker’s strategy includes showing up at every event she’s invited to attend, campaigning door to door every night and communicating with voters. She thinks she has a lot to offer the people of the 25th District.

    “Missourians pretty much say they want us to work on health care, education and jobs,” she said. “I have a degree in health care and education, so I am well schooled in both, and I teach economics. My best contribution will be the broadness of my experience. …I’ll be able to ask the right questions.”

    BOB NORTHUP ON THE ISSUES:

  • Health care and tort reform: Wants an end to frivolous lawsuits that are running doctors out of Missouri.
  • Education: Wants to re-evaluate programs to cut excessive spending in state government to ensure programs such as public education get the funding they need. He also wants to see the MU Health Sciences Center funded. He would work to ensure no one is appointed to the UM Board of Curators who favors moving the MU School of Medicine to the University of Missouri-Kansas City and would filibuster any attempt to do so.
  • Economy: Believes in “able-ocracy” to ensure equal economic and social opportunities for all residents of the 25th District. He wants to ensure the job-placement process is free from discrimination in all instances, except sexual orientation.
  • Women’s rights: Wants laws to ensure women get equal opportunities in the job market but worries that some women with children focus too much on jobs at the expense of providing proper care.
  • Interstate 70: Would rather see the state build an Interstate 70 northern bypass around Columbia than widen it through town because he doesn’t want businesses torn down.
  • Northup, 62, arrives at his Boone Hearing Center office early on a Tuesday morning in navy-blue slacks and a blazer. He is a busy man. So busy managing a growing company with offices in Columbia and Moberly and joining a state representative race with little more than a month remaining before the election that he nearly forgets the meeting. He has to brush his teeth at the office.

    He fumbles around his office trying to find time to get things done, including a pamphlet to give to voters, so he can catch up in the race.

    Northup got involved in local politics in 1978 when he fought to stop an ice rink with a bar from being built in Columbia because he thought it would be bad for teenagers.

    “I was a new pastor in Columbia at the time and felt I had a responsibility to speak on behalf of the people,” he said.

    Northup has been vocal ever since. He ran for 19th District state Senate seat in 1984 and 1992 and for Southern District Boone County commissioner in 1986. He lost all three races.

    But Northup feels this campaign is different.

    “I think I’m gonna win,” Northup said with confidence. “I have the issues.”

    After some hesitation, Northup decided he needed to step up to the challenge after Jeffries dropped out of the race.

    “Joel was a very dear candidate to me, and he was speaking things I wanted represented,” Northup said. “I struggled for two days with ‘Who am I here in this new political environment?’ This is who I believe I should be and what I should do.”

    He doesn’t think his late entry into the race will hurt him.

    “I’m late, but I think it’s all up to the Creator. … He’s the guy in charge. I’ll have a lot of fun on the issues in the mean time,” he said. “I’ve always entered these things because I have things I want to talk about.”

    Northup’s campaign is trying to catch up with Baker by putting up yard signs and going to area groups to recruit workers. He’s also doing his homework on the issues.

    “I haven’t been up to speed on the issues for nearly 12 years,” he said.

    One issue important to Northup is tort reform and getting rid of the “junk lawsuits that are driving our doctors out of Columbia.”

    Northup becomes emotional when he talks about how an obstetrician-gynecologist saved the life of his wife, Beverly, three years ago by diagnosing a potentially fatal colon problem. The doctor has since been forced to retire, Northup said.

    Northup looks forward to the opportunity to represent the people of the 25th District.

    “I’m going to listen to these people,”he said. “I’m all ears to anyone who doesn’t have their self-interests at heart. I want to know what they think to make the district a better district, Columbia a better Columbia and Missouri a better Missouri.”

    Judy Baker: Democrat

    • PERSONAL: 44. Married to John Baker, a pastor at First Baptist Church. They have three children: Sarah, 17, Lauren, 15, and David, 11.
    • EDUCATION: Graduated from MU in 1981 with a bachelor’s degree in educational studies. She earned master’s degrees in divinity from Southern Theological Seminary and in health-care administration from MU.

    • OCCUPATION: More than 20 years of work in health-care administration, including stints from 1998 to 2002 as director of operations for MU’s University Physicians practice plan at the Capital Regional Medical Group in Jefferson City and interim executive director for the whole system. She owns Cura Healthsystems Solutions and serves as a health-care consultant. Baker is also an adjunct professor of economics at Columbia College.

    • CIVIC ACTIVITIES: Involved in the PTA and the humanitarian group A Call to Serve, Baker is also vice chair of the Missouri Petroleum Storage Tank Insurance Fund and a member of First Baptist Church, where she is involved in a number of activities, including Sunday school and youth missions. She has never held a political office.

    Bob Northup: Republican

    • PERSONAL: 62. Married to Beverly Northup, an American Indian historian and published author. Together, the couple has nine children: Northup has four from a previous marriage, and his wife has five.

    • EDUCATION: He studied biology at MU and Central Methodist College in Fayette.

    • OCCUPATION: Northup is trained as a managing optician and a hearing-instrument specialist. He manages his wife’s hearing-aid dispensary, Boone Hearing, in Columbia. He has been a small-business man in Columbia since 1967.

    • CIVIC ACTIVITIES: An active clergyman until 2003, he is a member of Columbia Baptist Church. He is also affiliated with the National Federation of Independent Businessmen and the Travelers’ Protective Association. Northup has volunteered for 25 years at the Senior Center, where he plays piano and gives free hearing screenings and eyeglass adjustments.


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