The Race to Jeff City: Missouri House District 137
In this installment of “Sense of Community” you’ll meet the two candidates vying for the Missouri State House 137th district: Republican John Black, and Democrat Raymond Lampert.
The 137th district encompasses the western half of Webster County including the city of Marshfield, and a part of eastern Springfield and Greene County, including the cities of Strafford, Rogersville and Fair Grove. It’s made up of over 14,000 households with a population of over 36,000, according to the U.S. Census. Black and Lampert are campaigning for the State House seat currently held by Republican Lyndall Fraker, who is term-limited.
John Black lives in Marshfield. He has been an attorney for most of his professional career. He grew up in Strafford and attended engineering school at what was then University of Missouri-Rolla (now Missouri S & T—Missouri University of Science and Technology). Black “got a degree in chemical engineering. Worked in the mining industry in Missouri for about four years. Then I went back to law school. And then for 35 or so years I practiced law. And I’ve retired earlier this year, in fact, to run for this House seat.”
He retired from the position of General Counsel for City Utilities of Springfield. Before that John Black had spent about a dozen years in the same job, General Counsel, here at Missouri State University. Black notes that public service is a major function of both MSU and City Utilities. “And I believe serving as the representative of the 37 thousand or so people in District 137 would allow me to continue that service.” Current 137th district Representative Lyndall Fraker has endorsed John Black for his vacated seat.
Black says he has “not infrequently” been asked what qualifications he feels he brings to the State House, and his answers are: “My family’s been here for six generations; I think I understand the people; I’m a Republican; and I’m old!” (By which he means, he has plenty of life experience to call upon.)
What, as Black sees them, are the biggest problems facing his district? For him it’s “Education and training; workforce development. Another issue that we all face is our drug problem—our terrible opioid crisis particularly. We need to do more to address that.”
Black again invokes his age and experience in discussing what he feels separates him from Democratic challenger Raymond Lampert. Black believes his “valuable experiences both in business in the public sector, and with the (state) Legislature (with whom he frequently dealt as both MSU and City Utilities General Counsel) would, I believe, be very valuable and formative in trying to represent the people of the 137th.”
Raymond Lampert is also an attorney. He’s operated his own solo law practice in Springfield for the past ten years. He’s a Glendale High School and Drury University alum, who went on to University Of Missouri Law School, graduating from there in 2005. Of his law practice he says, “I represent mainly individuals who’ve been the target of unlawful workplace practices. So, individuals who’ve been the target of harassment, discrimination, wrongful termination, and under-payment of wages.”
Lampert feels the experiences and people he has encountered in his law practice give him an insight as to what is needed in Jefferson City, “because I deal every day with struggles of working people who’ve oftentimes been left behind. So in my day-to-day life I see and I learn from everyday folks who I think need assistance at the state level.”
Lampert says the most commonly expressed concerns of citizens of the 137th district that he talks to are economic insecurity; job security; and the quality of public education. So what would he like to do about these problems if elected? “Overall, my main concerns are going to be improving wages and protections for workers; improving our public education system; making sure that our public funds are properly invested in things that benefit the people as a whole, rather than the very wealthy few. And as well, I think we also need representatives who are honest and forthright with the people.”
Lampert sees special interests and big money contributors as a major problem with state government in general. “My entire campaign is funded almost entirely by small individual donations, or from groups that I already agree with. So I don’t answer to people write enormous checks. One of the problems with the way our system is right now is that it does cost money to run for office. But a lot of small donations can go a long way, just as far as a few large donations.”
Ask Ray Lampert what differentiates him from his Republican opponent John Black, and he’ll tell you it’s basically the difference in philosophies between the Democratic and Republican platforms. “The Democratic Party represents the values that are important to me. The party has, for decades, stood on the side of the poor working people, minorities. It’s the party that’s responsible for the Civil Rights Act, for the Voting Rights Act, Clean Air Act, Clean Water. The idea that the people stand most to benefit when the government invests in programs that benefit everyone.”