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Missouri House District 132: Democrat Jeremy Dean

Democrat candidate for the 132nd District, Jeremy Dean
Photo courtesy of Jeremy Dean
Democrat candidate for the 132nd District, Jeremy Dean

Democrat Jeremy Dean is running unopposed in the August 6 Primary Election. Republicans Stephanos Freeman and Bernadean McAfee are competing for the chance to represent their party in November's election. There is no incumbent in this district. Current representative for the 132nd, Democrat Crystal Quade, has reached her term limit. KSMU reached out to McAfee who declined to be interviewed.

Can you tell us about yourself and why you feel you're a good candidate for the Missouri House of Representatives?

"Yeah, so my name's Jeremy Dean. I was born and raised here in the Springfield area, grew up on the northwest side here in Springfield, have basically lived here my entire life. I graduated from Willard Public Schools back in 2015, and since then, I've kind of been on a track of public service and just trying to figure out where I can be the most beneficial to those around me. I originally went to school at the University of Central Missouri where I went to school to be a teacher, jumped out of that after I got into my observation hours and did not have what it takes to be a teacher in today's world just due to all of the challenges, the pay, different things like that, that can be fixed but, unfortunately, have not been a priority; as well as like the housing and different things like that, so. I currently work at a nonprofit here in Springfield where we work to help the underserved communities get the things that they need in order to be resilient and self-sustainable. So, different experiences throughout my life, as well as working in health care, an OBGYN clinic during Roe versus Wade, worked in health care during the COVID-19 pandemic. And so, being through those tough things, even though I'm young, has definitely set me up and given me a trajectory of being able to advocate for those around me, knowing what they need and being able to kind of help find the solutions there, so.”

Which issues are most important to you and why?

“Yeah. So, kind of on that same track, the number one priority that I'm focusing on right now is going to be the housing issue that we have here in Springfield. The City of Springfield's doing a lot of work. We've got a lot of nonprofits, for profit investors as well as other entities coming in to really help us with our housing, but they need the back end support of where they need it. The city can come up with all the ideas that they need every single day, but if they don't have the support from the state government or the funds that they need, nothing's really going to happen. So, we really need to get some funding, some things down here for no barrier housing, increase our housing stock. On top of the housing issue, I'm really focusing on reproductive health care. Working in an OBGYN clinic gave me a huge insight of what it's like, what all the different issues can be, different complications, different options that you have, and having just this blanket law or lawmakers up in Jeff City making decisions for people just doesn't work in the real world. So, focusing on making sure that we allow doctors and women or anybody, whether that's a male, make the decisions that they need to in the health care industry and making sure that that access is accessible and affordable is also important, so.”

Why did you decide to run for office?

“Yeah. So, the reason I'm running right now is just because I think that we're in a pivotal point here in Springfield, specifically in the housing sector. So, the reason I decided to jump in is because I feel like I have the knowledge and the understanding to be able to actually be beneficial and advocate for that. On top of just other issues that I've seen with the LGBTQ community, as a gay male, I want to be up there so that we can actually have a voice up in the Jeff City area. We've seen attacks the last couple of years. Luckily, we've had some great advocacy this last year to kind of block those things, but we have to continue fighting, and whenever we're fighting for LGBTQ rights, we're fighting for everyone's rights. I want that to be like an intersectional approach, so, one attack on one community is definitely an attack on another marginalized community. So, standing up for all of those people and making sure that we have a voice up there is extremely important.”

What do you think makes your district unique and how will you represent that in Jeff City?

“Yeah. So, the 132nd, north central Springfield, is an extremely unique place. We have, like I've been talking about this whole time, housing issues here in Springfield, but that's extremely predominant in the 132nd. We've got a lot of dilapidated housing, housing that's not within reasonable limits for somebody to be living in it, just a lot of issues there. On top of that, large renter population, so it's extremely transient. We've got people moving all over the place all the time. Not the best walkability, not the best biking going on there, as well as just a poorer part of town. The job opportunities really haven't been invested into that part of town and different things like that. So, it's really an underserved area, which makes it extremely unique because there's a lot of opportunity for growth, expansion and uplifting in that area. We just have to be willing to focus on that. So, the thing that makes it different than the rest of Springfield is the culture that it has within it, the individuality and the identity. It's the oldest part of Springfield. It contains C-Street, downtown, the Doling neighborhood, as well as Woodland Heights, Grant Beach. There's a lot of history there. So, making sure that we expound on those traditions that we have there, progressive traditions and uplifting those individual communities is what makes it unique. And I think that we can do that while also uplifting our community at the same time.”

Running for office as a state lawmaker opens you up to a lot of scrutiny and potential criticism. Do you feel like the personal costs are worth it for you and your family and why?

“Yeah. I mean, I tend to just kind of put that stuff in the background. My main interest is trying to make this community better for the people in it and around it. People can come for me. I'm willing to put my name and my life on — or not really my life, but my name and my personal identity of life on the line, maybe that scrutiny, in order to try and advocate for the things that are important to the people here in Springfield no matter what those outside forces are going to do. We've seen the attacks here in Springfield. We've seen them all across our state. The money is there for them to attack people. But I think when people in Springfield see the attacks on other individuals, they really stand up to say that that's not what we like. We can see that in previous elections, whenever there were hate groups involved Springfieldians came together to say, 'that's not who we are, that's not what we like.' So, I mean, sometimes it's more beneficial when people attack you in that type of way politically. But, I mean, it can hurt, but I'm willing to go through that and take what I need to in order to try and make this community a better place.”

How productive do you think the Missouri legislative sessions have been in the last few years? And what, if anything, would improve the legislature's productivity and effectiveness?

“So, we know that it has not been productive in the last few years. This last session was actually the least productive session that we have ever seen in the Missouri General Assembly history, and I think the direct cause for that is extremism. We have a one party rule up in Jefferson City. The Republicans have held a supermajority for about 20 years here in the state of Missouri. And they've gotten more extreme and more extreme every session. And with that has become political infighting within their own party to where they can't even work together to get things done, whether that be extreme legislation or things that actually do help people, we're just not getting it done. So, the thing that can fix that is bringing back balance to our state legislature. And the only way to do that is to make sure that we get different voices and people into those seats. So, bringing back that balance, making it truly a purple state like Missouri truly is. We've seen in the past that Missouri is purple. We're just under extremists rule right now. We're an uncontested state in a lot of areas. Luckily, we're changing that a lot. But, bringing that balance back to Jefferson City and allowing those different voices, forcing people to come to the table rather than only talking to their side so that way we can come to common sense solutions, is what's really going to fix that.”

What's something you'd like to share with voters that most people don't know about you?

“Yeah. So, something about me. Oh, that's a good one. I live in the Grant beach neighborhood. I think that something that's kind of, maybe unique to me or fun about me is I have a love for old things. So, I live in a 127-year-old home. I have this huge interest in trying to save the history, restoring the history and keeping Springfield's culture and identity alive from what it's always been. Even though we had some dark times in Springfield's history, I'm really interested in making people aware of what that was and how much we've grown here in Springfield and how much growing we have left to do. So, I'm kind of a history buff. I enjoy looking at the old things, seeing the old things, touching them, restoring them, whatever it may be, but just making sure that we have a grasp on where we came from and where we're going is something that I find particularly interesting and fun."

Thanks again for talking with me today, Jeremy.

“Absolutely. Thanks for having me.”