The fight for Missouri’s Fourth Congressional District has swept through Pettis County.
Both Republican incumbent Rep. Vicky Hartzler and Democratic candidate Renee Hoagenson have visited Sedalia to make their bid for the U.S. House of Representatives, leaving a bundle of campaign signs in their wake. The winner will represent District 4 in Washington, D.C., for two years.
U.S. Rep. Vicky Hartzler
Rep. Vicky Hartzler, of Harrisonville, intends to continue her decadeslong representation of West-Central Missouri.
Elected to the Missouri House of Representatives in 1994 and the U.S. Congress in 2010, Hartzler has campaigned as a beacon of the region’s values in the nation’s capital.
The former public school teacher has been involved in farming throughout her life and co-owns Hartzler Farms Inc. with her husband.
“I think I have many of the shared life experiences of the people of this district and have successfully fought for their ideas in Washington,” Hartzler said. “We have made a lot of positive strides the last few years, but we have more to do.”
Agriculture is a staple of Hartzler’s work in Washington as she serves on the House Agriculture Committee. She has been deeply involved in the 2018 Farm Bill, a major piece of agriculture, conservation and nutrition policy still pending on Capitol Hill.
Hartzler is serving on the bill’s conference committee, a group of senators and representatives who reconcile differences between the version passed in the U.S. House and the amended legislation from the Senate.
She has taken a supportive stance on work requirements for food assistance, one of the most contentious points of the Farm Bill. This policy would require recipients of federal food stamps to work 20 hours a week or take part in a government-operated training program.
These work requirements, which the House passed but the Senate eliminated, would only apply to able-bodied food stamp recipients between 18 and 59.
The massive bill also includes sections on crop insurance and risk management for farmers, who have experienced a tenuous year amid international trade tensions. Despite these market uncertainties, Hartzler expressed support for President Donald Trump’s tariffs and trade renegotiations with Canada, Mexico and the European Union.
“Our farmers can compete with anyone in the world if we have the opportunity to have fair and reciprocal trade,” Hartzler said. “I’m hopeful that China will be willing to come to the table soon and that we can we can work out our differences with them and that they, too, will stop their unfair practices and open up more markets for our farmers.”
Hartzler said her first legislative priority if re-elected would be to finish the Farm Bill and see it passed through the House and Senate. If the bill lands on Trump’s desk to sign into law, Hartzler said she would move on to address other issues through legislation.
Expanding rural broadband, another Farm Bill component, is among Hartzler’s highest priorities as is fighting sex trafficking, she said.
Hartzler passed a bill through the House to provide more grant funds for police in fighting sex trafficking demand. The aptly-named Empowering Law Enforcement to Fight Sex Trafficking Demand Act passed through the House in 2017 but is still pending in the Senate.
“If that doesn’t pass, I will continue to reintroduce that and fight to see that that actually gets passed,” she said.
As a member of the House Armed Forces Committee, military and veterans issues make up a major focus area for the congresswoman, whose district contains Whiteman Air Force Base and Fort Leonard Wood.
Hartzler has been involved in discussions and legislation concerning the Veterans Administration and veteran hospitals. She partnered with U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, D-Missouri, and Rep. Kevin Yoder, R-Kansas, to address veterans’ concerns over a Kansas City VA hospital, including worries over the prescription of opioid medications.
Meetings with the hospital resulted in its doctors reducing opioid prescriptions and exploring alternative pain treatments, Hartzler said.
“That is just a tangible example of how I’ve took the concerns of the veterans in my district and worked with them in the Veterans Administration locally to ensure that those concerns were being addressed,” she said. “I have a proven track record of, first of all, caring for the people of this district. I have a real heart for them, and that propels me to action.”
Democratic candidate Renee Hoagenson, of Columbia, is ready to challenge the Washington establishment with a platform of reforms.
Hoagenson is running on “housecleaning reforms” for campaign finance, lobbying and redistricting. She has operated a campaign based almost entirely on individual contributions, both large and small.
What limited money she has received from political action committees came from labor unions, she said. PAC contributions made up only 3.12 percent of her overall fundraising, donating $12,867. Hartzler has received $458,085 from PACs that represent business, labor and ideological interests, good for 40 percent of her campaign’s contributions.
Although there are a number of avenues for campaign finance reform, Hoagenson said Congress should increase transparency in election funding and reduce contributions from politically active nonprofits, who don’t have to disclose the sources of their funds.
Similarly, lobbyists’ donations to Congress should be prohibited, she said. Lobbying firms have gathered too much influence over elected officials by contributing money to their campaigns – or threatening to support their primary opponents.
In Hoagenson’s eyes, politics have tainted the very districts hosting elections. State lawmakers determine the lines of their own districts and draw the most beneficial boundaries for maintaining their party’s majority, she said. Redistricting efforts, such as Clean Missouri, should remove the influence of political parties on district lines.
“We need to make sure that the people are voting in the Congress and not Congress choosing its voters,” she said. “Those reforms to me would recreate a government that actually serves us again.”
The second half of Hoagenson’s platform concerns a more people-oriented government focused on “fixing the foundation for families.”
This involves policies for working Missourians, including Medicare for all, higher living wages and support for small businesses.
Hoagenson, a small-business owner herself, suggested a plan for a higher minimum wage that is staggered between urban and rural areas. A $15 minimum wage would likely bankrupt most businesses in rural America, she said. However, $15 per hour in Kansas City or St. Louis would make for a more reasonable living wage.
Rural economies are typically depressed by about 25 percent compared to their urban counterparts, she said. This would make a minimum wage of $11.40 or $12 rounded up.
This would correlate to a quarterly tax credit for businesses to help ease the burden of higher payroll costs.
“We want to make sure our businesses can deal with that, so we would take that increased cost in wage and we would create a quarterly tax credit,” she said. “They’re infusing that money in their employees’ pocketbooks incrementally over time, thus stimulating the economy because you’re circulating more money.”
Hoagenson has also developed ideas on higher education, military and veterans policy.
She said she would support a zero-percent interest rate on student loans and the option to refinance college debt.
“The federal government shouldn’t be making money on students,” she said. “We need to make sure that our youth have what they need to get a start in life and realize the American dream for themselves.”
Hoagenson is in the process of creating a program that would help establish contracts that would set the U.S. government or military as a customer for Missouri manufacturers. She said she also hopes to support Fort Leonard Wood by bringing more missions to the Army installation.
“We need to be focused on people as a government,” she said. “I plan on jumping in and getting some legislation on the floor that’s good for Missourians.”