This edition of the KSMU Sense of Community Series highlights the race for Missouri House District 134, with Democrat challenger Derrick Nowlin facing incumbent Republican, Elijah Haahr, who was first elected in 2012. District 134 includes areas of west-central Springfield extending to the Christian County line, bordered on the east by National and Campbell avenues.
Q: Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Elijah Haahr: "My name is Elijah Haahr. I’m an attorney in Springfield. I work for a firm called Kutak
Rock, and we practice primarily public finance and some litigation.
“I live here in Springfield--grew up I this area, first in Republic, then over by Marshfield and now my parents live a little bit north of town. I went to Ozarks Technical Community College and graduated there with my Associate’s Degree. I transferred to Missouri Western; my brother was going to go up there as a freshman, and we roomed together. After that I went to Mizzou for Law School, and then returned to Springfield.
"I’ve got a 7-year-old, a 5-year-old, and twins that are three,” Haahr said.
Derrick Nowlin: “My Name is Derrick Nowlin, and I grew up here. I went to Glendale, and graduated there. I became married. We were both going to school here at MSU. I was in what was called the Pre-Engineering Program. About two years into us being married, she started having back problems, and within a couple of years of that she was completely disabled. I had to quit school and go back to work full-time," Nowlin said.
"I’m in my early to mid-twenties. I’m married with children, and unfortunately, she ended up passing away from the opioids they had her on," Nowlin said.
Derrick Nowlin has since re-married, and is putting his skills as a certified surveyor to use, working on site layout and zoning issues for a local sign company.
Q: Why are you running for this House seat?
Derrick Nowlin: “My campaign slogan is 'Enough Is Enough,' and I really had kind of passed that point a long time ago. Really I felt, like a lot of people, just more and more hopeless. You know, the people that we had to vote for, they couldn’t relate to people that work and do their best to try and raise their families.”
“The issue that drives all that, and the main issue in my campaign, is getting money out of politics. You know, when you have people that go to office, they've gotten there through large donations, frankly there’s a lot of dark money out there in these Super-Pacs right now. Those people obviously are going to be more concerned about doing what makes their donors happy, and not so much concerned about what’s good for the people in their district. And, you know, that is really what is driving my desire to campaign and win this race and go to Jefferson City.
“The people are not represented right now, and have not been represented for a long time. Large corporations, large money; their voices are well heard. And they should have a voice, that’s government, that’s fair. Everyone should have a voice, but I feel that’s gone way out of whack, and the people have been left behind and their voice is not being heard. I want to go to Jefferson City and be their voice.”
Elijah Haahr: “Being home-schooled growing up, my parents took me to the (Mo.) Capitol a lot, because they wanted to impress the legislators how important it was for them to continue to have the freedom to educate their kids at home. And so I grew up, at least twice a year, we’d go up to the legislative session. We'd meet with our State Representatives. I still remember going up every year to the Capitol, watching them debate issues on the floor.
“The other part of it is, my dad is a small business owner. He’s owned his own construction company ever since I can remember. And so, growing up, my siblings and I worked for him, and we got to see all the things that a small business owner deals with: whether it's paying your taxes ,dealing with workers' compensation issues; things like that that I feel I got a unique experience, and one that impressed upon me for the government operate in such a way that they didn’t put restrictions or barriers in the way of business owners trying to earn a living, raise a family, that sort of thing.
“Those issues kind of combine to create in me a drive to want run for office, and have the opportunity to effectuate public policy," Haahr said.
Q: What level of experience or experiences do you bring to the office?
Elijah Haahr: “I’ve chaired a committee in the Missouri House, and then I currently serve as Speaker Pro Tem in the Missouri House, and I’m the incoming Speaker of the House, which means in January of next year, I’ll get the opportunity to lead the House. Springfield has never had the Speaker of the House, and so we have the opportunity over the next two years, particularly with the governor being from Southwest Missouri, to advance an agenda that benefits Southwest [Missouri] in a way we’ve never been able to do before,” Haahr said.
Derrick Nowlin: “Do I have experience as a legislator? No, I do not. Most importantly, like a lot of people in my district, I work and try to do the best for my family. A lot of the issues that people are talking about in general and also going into the election, are issues we’ve just discussed and I’ve actually lived through first hand. But the experience I do have is just my life experience, and a lifelong concern for the people around me," Nowlin said.
Q: What is needed most urgently in Mo. House District 134?
Derrick Nowlin: “We could start talking about things like living wage. A lot of studies show that productivity is up, profits are up, people are working harder and better than they ever have, but all the gains are going to the top, and not going back to the people who are working and earning that money.
“Another huge problem that’s really tied in to low wages is access to healthcare. Frankly, I’m a Medicare for all guy, and it seems to me that we could do a lot better than we’re doing,” Nowlin said.
Elijah Haahr: “The biggest thing we need right now, I think, is higher paying jobs. You look around the 134th, Springfield, Missouri, we have very low unemployment right now, but we also have a very high poverty rate. And what that means is that you’ve got a lot of people who are working jobs but those jobs aren’t enough to support their families on. And so I think what we need to do is come back with a macro-level plan that creates higher paying jobs for the citizens of Missouri,” Haahr said.
The general election is Tuesday, November 6.