In the midst of a historic inauguration week, the Boone County Democratic Party’s nomination for the next representative for Missouri’s 45th House District came with its own bit of historical significance.
David Tyson Smith — an attorney, Columbia native and MU alumnus — would be the district’s first Black representative if elected in the April 6 special election.
“Assuming things continue to go well, I’m looking forward to representing the people of the 45th,” Smith said. “It was a historic day with the inauguration of Joe Biden and Vice President Harris. … To also be nominated the same day has been exciting.”
Smith’s nomination, announced Wednesday night, comes as a result of the vacancy left by former Democratic Rep. Kip Kendrick’s resignation from the House to serve as chief of staff for Sen. Greg Razer, D-Kansas City.
Smith beat out two other potential nominees, Scott Cristal and Caleb Hall, in a selection process conducted by the Boone County Legislative District Committee.
In accordance with state statute, the 11-person committee selected Smith via majority vote after each candidate went through an interview process with the committee and spoke before the full Boone County Democratic Central Committee and constituents in a virtual town hall last week.
“David Tyson Smith is an excellent candidate,” said Lyra Noce, Boone County Democrats chair. “We are excited to help him in his candidacy for this seat.”
District 45, which encompasses much of Columbia, is considered safely Democratic. Kendrick won reelection in November unopposed before announcing his resignation, and while the Boone County Republicans have issued a call on their website for applications to run for the seat, no announcement of a Republican nominee has been made ahead of the Jan. 27 filing deadline.
In an interview, Smith said he is excited to serve his hometown as a public servant.
After receiving a bachelor’s degree from MU and a law degree from Tulane University, Smith returned to Columbia, where he co-founded Smith and Parnell LLC. In his capacity as an attorney, he has focused on criminal defense and personal injury law.
Smith has also been active in the Columbia community. In response to complaints of excessive use of force by local law enforcement, he helped establish the city’s Citizens Police Review Board in 2009. In 2017, he was appointed to the Missouri Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.
Smith believes his past community involvement will serve him well as a representative.
“I know the community, I’ve worked in the community, I’ve worked with other leaders in the community,” he said. “I’m going to continue to stay in touch with as many people as I can ... to make sure that voices are heard from the 45th District.”
While his nomination marks his first foray into elected office, Smith said politics has always been on his radar.
“The key is serving,” he said. “I was able to do it as an attorney, and now I can do it hopefully, if elected, as a public servant.”
Regarding his distinction as Columbia’s first Black representative in Jefferson City should he be elected, Smith said he was unaware of that fact until he entered the nomination process, but acknowledged its significance.
“It’s important for people of color to see other people of color succeeding in somewhat higher levels of government,” he said. “Even if you’re just showing up at an elementary school, I think it means a lot for kids to see that, to know that they can achieve their dreams.”
In addition to getting the lay of the land in the capitol, Smith said his focus would be on working with local health departments to coordinate the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, protecting funding for public education and fighting for funding for Medicaid expansion.
“I want to champion issues that promote justice and equality for everyone,” he said. “And I want to push back against harmful legislation that’s going to hurt people.”
The April 6 special election will coincide with municipal elections set for the same date after Gov. Mike Parson called Jan. 6 for an election to fill the vacant seat.