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Missouri House District 140: Republican Danny Garrison

Republican primary candidate Danny Garrison is running for Missouri House in District 140, covering Ozark and northern Christian County. He joined Sense of Community at KSMU Studios on June 7, 2024.
Gregory Holman/KSMU
Republican primary candidate Danny Garrison is running for Missouri House in District 140, covering Ozark and northern Christian County. He joined Sense of Community at KSMU Studios on June 7, 2024.

Garrison is running against incumbent Jamie Gragg, for the District 140 House seat in the Missouri primary election on August 6. The only Democrat running for the position is Julia Curran. KSMU reached out to Gragg multiple times, but was not successful in scheduling an interview.

Missouri House District 140 covers Ozark and portions of northern Christian County, Missouri. The following is a transcript from Ozark Public Radio's interview with Garrison recorded on June 7. You can find our interview with Democratic candidate Julia Curran here.

KSMU: Welcome, Mr. Garrison.

GARRISON: Thank you. And I really appreciate the opportunity.

KSMU: Let's get right to our questions. And just as a reminder, for each answer, we have 1 minute and 45 seconds for all of the candidates. First question: Tell us about yourself and why you feel you're a good candidate for the Missouri House of Representatives.

GARRISON: I'm, I'm a seventh-generation resident of Ozark, Missouri; I've lived there all my life. I've, I'm I, you know, attended college here. Went to Ozark High School and attended college here at Missouri State. I got an undergraduate degree. It's a comprehensive social studies program that allows you to teach social studies at the high school level. I was originally a chemistry major, and I kind of wish I'd stayed in the STEM field, but I didn't.

After that, I went back and I got here at Missouri State, I got to, I worked on my master's degree for a long, long time actually wrote and came back and did it again. While I was doing that, I'd actually didn't finish that. But I, actually during that time period, I wound up getting a master's from William Woods University in educational administration, then a specialist in educational administration. So I've been in college, basically, since 1982.

And so, but I, and I taught in the public schools from roughly '88 to '98. And then I came back and 2019 and 2020. I left the profession again at that time, because my mother had a stroke and I was her primary caretaker, and I'm glad I stayed home with her when I did. I would, you know, love southwest Missouri, love living in Ozark. I have, you know, like I said, I'm, I'm a, I'm a, I'm a, actually a cousin of the Impressionist artist Howard Garrison that started Riverside Inn, and, and was a, you know, kind of a rogue, raconteur and rapscallion. And, and, but —

KSMU: And we are out of time on that question. For our next question: Which issues are most important to you — and why?

GARRISON: As a former teacher, or a retired teacher, that, you know, obviously education is paramount in my mind. I, you know, have been trained as administrator even though I and did some administrative field experience and things like, and things that, you know, people who are students do that are not, they don't have, haven't worked as administrators.

And so I know some of the things that school districts do to, to fund themselves, to make themselves look like they have less money than they do. And so I know where, to a certain extent, the bodies are buried. So I know how to fund education. And I'd like to see that appropriately funded; I'd like to see higher education appropriately funded. And I think that would be my focus.

I'm also a little concerned about, you know, a special issue. And in the U.S. Supreme Court in in 2007, there was a Diems case, which allowed, it allowed eminent domain to be used for private development by cities. [Editor's note: It appears the case Garrison references is Kelo v. City of New London (2005)].

And 28 states have, have done something, but the Supreme Court decision allowed the states to do something about that, you know, just individually, I'd like to see the state of — 28 states have done that; Missouri has not done anything. A couple other states have done a little bit, but Missouri, I'd like to see us, you know, actually put an end to code enforcement, but or at least put some restrictions on at the end. So those are two, two pet projects. I'd also like to just say some stuff of this course in, in, in politics, I think sadly, I think there's none —

KSMU: And we are out of time on that question. For our next question: Why did you decide to run for office?

GARRISON: I, when I was young, my mother always kind of held it up as a is, you know, political offices were, were, you know, great things. And I always, I guess, to a certain extent, wanted this position. I wanted to be the representative. Don Gann had been the one in and that had been when I was a young, young man. I was, I was actually I'm actually somewhat related to Lloyd Estep that held the position before that. I knew, I knew, Noel Cox had held the position a long time. I know, you know, I know, I was actually supported by Lynn Morris, who had had the position, and Ray Weter, who I ran against in 2004. So I've kind of always wanted this, and I always thought I could do something. To change this. I think one of the things is good about it is there's, is, are term limits. And so we can get a lot of different people in here and try different things. So that, but I always, and I really think I could make a difference, based on my background as a teacher, a business owner — now a farmer. I didn't tell you about that. So but, but yeah, that's kind of my thoughts.

KSMU: What do you think makes your district unique? And how will you represent that in Jefferson City?

You know, the district is changing a lot. So it's, it has a conglomeration of a lot of, I guess, an eclectic combination of people now, and I think that's really good. It has a lot of old cultural natives like mea, what we would refer to ourselves as "old hillbillies." And then, and then, it also there are a lot of people within the district that are that are educated, and seeking to, and, but, they have a lot of respect for the local kind of old hillbillies. And they embrace that culture. And that's rare: to have people that move into an area that respect the kind of local people. So I have a foot in both camps there. We also have a lot of people, a lot of working-class people, a lot of people that still you farm, which I do, and so it's, you know, we get we're unique, we're just unique, it's, I guess we're sui generis, to use a term that's probably a little verbose and everything, and so.

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

GARRISON: I do. I, you know, when you when you can actually create change that is positive — you know, I think every, everybody, you know, I've coached and I was a basketball coach, and well, basketball, football, and you as a coach, are always criticized, because you don't win enough and everything.

So I'm used to the criticism, I've also, you know, had a residential rental house business, and you're always criticized as a landlord. And so, and I actually, you know, had good, had good, you know, relationships with all of my, you know, players and community when I coached in different places. And so, I'm used to criticism, I guess, and I'm used to, you know, used to being in circumstances where I'm, you know, hyper-, maybe hyper-criticized. And so I'm, and I actually have found ways to, to make that constructive criticism, because I need to improve.

I, you know, I'm not, even at my age, I'm 60, I'm not a finished product, I'd like to improve upon how good I could be both as a legis — if I have the opportunity from the district gives me the opportunity to be elected, I want to improve as a legislator, you know, I want to, if there's things I'm doing wrong, I'd like to learn how to do them better. And that, in fact, that's what I've told people when they've asked me about that, but so, but, but, but I'm, I'm, I don't. I'm happy to take the challenge, I guess.

KSMU: How productive do you think Missouri legislative sessions have been in recent years? And what would improve the legislature's productivity and effectiveness?

You know, having not been there, I don't know exactly. But I do know that there's, you know, the, there's a the Republicans have a supermajority in both houses. And I think that's in, but then they've broken into, like, I guess, different groups. You know, they're in, within the, I think there's about three groups in the House and three groups in the Senate in — three Republican groups in the Senate — and they seem to all fight. And they can't get any legislation passed.

And I think that's a horrible shame because I think and, and because it's, it's this great opportunity to pass the programs that they would like, you're not occurring. I think everybody has a voice. I think all ideas from both left and right. What, you know, it doesn't matter where they come from, and if you can get 70% of what you want, right? At that point rather than trying to be an obstructionist, I think that would be wonderful.

I, I understand that the legislatiure could be more productive. And I maybe I could work as a liaison between the infighting groups, I don't know. And maybe, maybe — I'd like to see everybody included, you know, you know, Democrats, Republicans, left and right. And, and I want everybody to have a voice because everybody has a different — we're going to do things that are not national issues. We're going to fund schools, we're going to, we're gonna take care of Missouri citizens individually, we've got a lot of things to do. And I'd like to try to do that with everybody's help.

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

GARRISON: Wow. Kind of an open book. I don't know. I, you know, I'm kind of an educational geek. I, you know, been in college for a long, long time. And I enjoyed all that. And so, I guess in one, one term, since I always wanted this job, I was using this tight kind of preparation to do that. I don't know one of the things is I'm, I'm a bachelor, I'm a lifelong bachelor. Most people probably don't know that. I'm a, let's see, I'm trying to think, I was a basketball coach. I was you know, coached everything from junior high girls, and well junior high boys and girls to college men. So I did. I'm a, you know, kind of a geek that coached basketball. So that's kind of a strange combination of things. I really love sports when I was in school. I and so I, I'm a, you know, a unique, unique. I'm trying to think of something that is different. That is but I don't know, I don't know. Well, I'll have that without that question did stump me [Garrison laughs].

Gregory Holman is a KSMU reporter and editor focusing on public affairs.