The Race to Jeff City: Missouri Senate District 30

Oct 15, 2018

Credit KSMU Archives

All this week, at 7:45 AM and 4:44 PM, we’ll talk to candidates in 10 local races for state House and Senate seats.  We asked them all the same questions.

We kick off the series with the race for Missouri’s 30th Senate district; the geographical boundaries basically mirror the city limits of Springfield.  

For the past eight years, this seat has been held by Senator Bob Dixon, who is not running this year due to term limits.

Hoping to take his place are two candidates:  Republican Lincoln Hough and Democrat Charlie Norr. 

Let’s start with what they have in common:   they’ve both served in the state House of Representatives. Both have a solid track record of community service in the Ozarks.  But their backgrounds, and their priorities for office, are quite different.

Charlie Norr, Democratic candidate

“Minimum wage increases. Health care for everyone. These are things that we absolutely, positively need,” Norr said from his home in north Springfield.

Those would be two of his top priorities as a state Senator, he says.  According to the Missouri Census Data Center, 16.9 percent of Greene County residents live at or below the federal poverty level—that’s higher than the state average of 14 percent.

“Poverty is just sad. It affects everything:  your children, your grocery shopping, your ability to own a vehicle. It affects everything,” Norr said.

He’d like to see changes on the state level, too—starting with reigning in large, unidentified campaign donations.

“And particularly if it’s a PAC, a political action committee, then they can accept all this money, they can redistribute it and not have any knowledge of where it came from. There’s no transparency in this dark money,” Norr said.

Norr spent six years in the Navy, training in carpentry and plumbing.

"There’s nothing worse than being a plumber on a ship," he said.

After his time in the service, he became a paramedic with the fire department of Baltimore County, Maryland, where he says he "delivered a lot of babies" to people who waited too long to get to a hospital.

Norr eventually returned to fighting fires and rose to the rank of Captain.  As a state representative in Jefferson City, Norr served on public safety, tourism, commerce, and appropriations committees, among others. A neighborhood in north Springfield named its community center after Norr.

Lincoln Hough, Republican candidate

Norr’s opponent,  Republican Lincoln Hough, serves as a Greene County Commissioner.

Hough says a top priority for him if elected to the Missouri Senate would be economic development—including beefing up the local workforce.

Right now, Springfield has a very low unemployment rate—hovering right around 3%. And while that sounds good, it creates a challenge when trying to attract new businesses to the area.

“And someone wants to come in, let’s say it’s a manufacturing [company] and they want to come in and hire 50, 70 or 90 people,  they look at us and they say, ‘Where will we  find these people? You’re essentially fully employed,’” Hough said.

Hough feels that hurdle can be overcome by working to attract talent.   Springfield has a lot to hang its hat on, he says:  a growing downtown. A vibrant arts scene. Its Greenways Trails.

“And I think that all ties into what our sense of community is here, which I believe is one of our economic drivers," Hough said.

And what does he feel is most needed in state government?

“The biggest thing I think that we need to do, and this is not just locally, or state level, or nationally—I mean, it’s all political spectrums and quite frankly, it’s all over the world right now.  We need to come back together.  We need to come back together as a community, as a governing body, if you want to talk about the state of Missour, essentially.  Come back as a governing body that really just cares about the people that we’re serving,” Hough said.

Hough says he’s prepared to stand up to his party—which is a supermajority in the Missouri statehouse right now.  He says an example of that is that he went against other Republicans on the county level when he supported the idea of Democratic state auditor Nicole Galloway to audit the county.

Hough served six years in the statehouse, including on appropriations and budget committees.

He was raised in Greene County.  One thing that shaped him, he says, is when his parents loaned him $450 as a 7th grader to buy three calves. When he sold them and paid his parents back, he learned a lot about responsibility, hard work, and finances. He still owns cattle in Greene County.

Campaign contributions

According to the National Institute on Money in Politics, which compiles public campaign finance documents, Hough has raised about seven times what his Democratic opponent, Charlie Norr, has raised this year. 

Those records show about half of Democrat Charlie Norr’s money for this year have come from individuals, and the other half from groups.  The top groups to contribute to Norr’s campaign this year are primarily labor unions and the Senate Majority Fund of Missouri, a group that almost always donates to Republican candidates.

Also according to the National Institute on Money in Politics, slightly more than half of Republican Lincoln Hough’s money raised in 2018 came from individuals.  Hough’s largest campaign donation this year came from Mednax, a group associated with health care professionals. And other top donors this year are from the manufacturing and retail industries