The Missourian asked candidates for state representatives in our region to answer a series of questions, and we're presenting their answers, as they wrote them, in a series of articles.

Today's question: Today's question was submitted by a Missourian reader and selected in an online poll — "What specifically will you do to work for racial equity?"

Cheri Toalson Reisch, Republican, District 44

I believe that all people are created equal and as Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “people should be judged by the content of their character and not the color of their skin” (paraphrased).

Maren Bell Jones, Democrat, District 44

The data regarding traffic stops disproportionally affecting people of color is concerning and community policing is an important step so our neighborhoods see the police as allies in safety and police see those people as citizens and not constant threats to their own safety. I also support decriminalization of marijuana, which has landed hundreds of thousands of young men of color into our prison systems long term for nonviolent crimes. It also makes it very difficult for them to get jobs once they are out with felonies on their records, so it should be decriminalized.

Cathy Richards, Republican, District 46

I’ll work with the minority leaders to institute new programs that benefit minority businesses and better educational opportunities. I would also encourage local minorities to become more politically involved so voices will be heard collectively. As you know, the best way to initiate change is to vote. I would also encourage people to revisit the Mayor’s Task Force on Community Violence. It has excellent solutions on how to pull a community together.

Martha Stevens, Democrat, District 46

One of my main motivations to run for office was to address issues of disparity through public policy. We need to look into a number of different policies that exist, from the criminal justice and health care systems, to education — beginning with early childhood education — to our juvenile justice system and more. We also need to see how policies and practices within these systems intersect and impact individuals and communities. I sponsored legislation targeting predatory payday lenders and expanding access to healthcare, and I voted against the repeal of minimum wage increases for local municipalities — all of which address different angles of racial equity. As a lawmaker, it is vital to me that we have a diverse body of stakeholders, including those who have experienced inequality in our systems, be part of the policy making process when we are crafting legislation like this to address racial equity.

William Hastings, Green, District 46

Although the headlines might not suggest it, we are making progress in racial relations. In most areas, equality is the law, but the law is easier to change than attitudes, and so there is still work to be done. Rather than set out to help African-Americans, specifically, most of the thrust should be aimed at helping all Americans in need who will disproportionately be African-Americans. Blacks and Whites should be encouraged to realize they have more in common, and their real common enemy is the elite who play them against each other. Working together to protect their common interests will help unite them. Symbolic gestures, like taking the knee during patriotic displays, are mostly distractions that do not substitute for actually helping those in need. If everyone takes a knee, it will not feed the hungry nor provide decent health care for either Blacks or Whites.

Adrian Plank, Democrat, District 47

We need to focus on jobs and support in low-income areas so that those folks can pull themselves out of the position they are in with jobs and training.

Chuck Basye, Republican, District 47

Basye did not submit a response.

Sara Walsh, Republican, District 50

We have anti-discrimination laws in place and discrimination is wrong. We have a diverse legislature and I represent and serve a diverse district. We all must work together to solve problems.

Michela Skelton, Democrat, District 50

Increased K-12 education spending at the state level to reduce current inequities caused by a reliance on local property tax revenues for a large portion of local school budgets. Additionally, pursue community policing options that require police departments to partner with the communities being policed and empowering local communities to change leadership in police departments in order to maintain trust and responsiveness between police departments and local communities.

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