CLAYTON, Mo. — When your father is a political icon in your home state and, eventually, a national player drawing both lavish praise and concentrated ire, you might not grow up with a healthy distaste for politics.
Jay Ashcroft had his reservations, sure, but it’s hard not to notice the light in his eyes when he speaks about government and the power of the individual. Ashcroft dove headfirst into the Republican primary race for the 24th senatorial district by filing on the last possible day against the party leadership’s declared choice of the seat.
And sure, the move may have caused a few ripples among donors and party faithful, but Ashcroft insists his race and his message are about simplicity, no matter how complex the outside minutia gets.
“Too many people go down to Jefferson City because they tell people what to do and they get ignored, so they go down there to force the government to do whatever it is they want,” Ashcroft told The Missouri Times. “Government, at its absolute most basic function, is here to protect your freedom to live your life the way you want to.”
Ashcroft’s entrance in the race admittedly ruffled a few feathers. Ashcroft’s key opponent in the race, Jack Spooner, was courted by party leadership and donors in the area well before Ashcroft threw his hat into the ring. The move may have kept a small number of uncommitted folks away from the race — fearing taking sides in a bitter primary. In other cases, Ashcroft admits that it closed a few doors early on.
“I’ve had some people come to me and say that they would like to support me but that they made prior commitments to [Spooner],” Ashcroft said. “I completely respect that, you have to follow through, and it’s refreshing to see politicians stick to commitments like that.”
Ashcroft is running largely as a common sense candidate. He repeatedly insists that his philosophy and, indeed, his entire approach to campaigning and public office is very simple.
“The government doesn’t do many things very well,” Ashcroft said. “And the few hundred people in Jefferson City making the decisions, there’s simply no way that their collective knowledge is greater than the collective knowledge of 160 or 170 thousand people in this senate district. No matter how smart people are in Jefferson City, these people know a heck of a lot more about how they want to live their lives and how to solve their problems.”
Ashcroft says that he’ll be widely open to compromise on a number of subjects, citing his 10 years as an engineer before going back to law school for a degree as proof that he knows how to work in an environment that isn’t all about individual success.
“Honestly, if you’re designing a bridge, you don’t care if you get credit for the bridge,” Ashcroft said. “You care if it works, if it’s safe. Is it affordable? Can we build it? It couldn’t matter less who gets their name on it.”
Ashcroft points to the battle over Medicaid expansion as an example of politicians refusing to look outside the box, or allowing political concerns to trump policy adjustments.
“I don’t think anyone, no matter how against expansion they might be, is against expanding healthcare availability to the people that most need it,” Ashcroft said. “Medicaid is one of those solutions, or at least it could be one. It’s not the only solution though. We need to be focusing on what the problem is. What are all the possible solutions to the problem? Why is this one better? At that point you’re supposed to have a rigorous debate. I feel like right now we are fighting over one solution instead of the best solution.”
Ashcroft’s views will largely reflect his Republican Party affiliation. He supports 2nd Amendment rights and supports a broader tax base with a lower overall rate. The premature birth of his son Samuel and the subsequent panic over whether or not he would survive has engendered a deep pro-life streak in Ashcroft.
Ultimately, Ashcroft is hoping to add a less partisan presence to the Senate chambers, should he succeed in both a tough primary and likely a blood-soaked general election for a swing seat. He talks, with a kind of breathless passion and excitement, about government providing chances instead of, as he calls it, “picking losers.”
“People say the government shouldn’t pick winners and losers,” Ashcroft said. “It tends to pick losers. And I think its purpose is to allow you to become the best version of yourself that you can be. It has to allow you to do that, not try to mandate or force everything for you.”