KANSAS CITY, Mo. – When Richard Brown won a seat in the House of Representatives last month by beating incumbent Rep. Bonnaye Mims, D-Kansas City, many saw it as an upset.
Mims outspent and outraised Brown. Her receipts of $62,357.02 before the election were nearly 9-to-1 what Brown had raised. Eight days before the election, she had outspent him $28,304- $1,184.
But when the dust cleared, Brown had beaten Mims by more than 1,000 votes, carrying 65 percent of the district.
For the middle school teacher, it was validation of his hard work and faith in God and a reward for a wife he loves.
“I may have been an underdog to you guys and to the political experts out there, but people in my community, they know me,” he said. “I’m a guy who works. People who know me at my church and people in my neighborhood, they know me as a worker.”
Brown said he’s followed politics for a while, he served as an intern in the Missouri House while in grad school. He’s been active in his community where he was the president of the neighborhood association, a role he relinquished when he won his new seat. (Brown is unopposed in the general election.) But it wasn’t until his wife, Regina, urged him to that he decided to run for public office.
“When are you planning to run for public office?” Regina, who has cancer, asked him.
“Well, I’m not really thinking about that, I’m more concerned about you,” Brown said. “My concern is more about you than running for public office.”
“Well, I want you to think about it. I want you to pray about it. Ask God what is it that he wants you to do.” Regina told her husband.
But a couple of weeks later, Brown said he hadn’t heard anything from God yet. But Regina told him again, “I want you to keep praying on it and this time ask the Lord to make it as clear as the nose on your face. What is it that he wants you to do?”
“Lord, what is you want me to do? Make it as clear as the nose on my face what it is you want me to do,” Brown prayed.
The next day, he was working on something at school and read the collective bargaining agreement for the teachers’ union. He encountered a part that said the only way a teacher from Kansas City Public Schools can break their contract and not pay the $2,000 penalty is if they are elected to the Missouri General Assembly.’
“When I saw that, I showed it to my wife. She said, ‘It doesn’t get any clearer than that.’ And that’s how I got into this thing,” Brown said.
In addition to his faith, the social studies teacher said he will bring his experiences from education to Jefferson City.
“When we talk about politics and children, there’s a whole lot that they have in common,” Brown said. “I hope that working with kids, it’s helped me to gain a perspective and a sense of humor and a lot of patience. I hope that I can bring those skills with me to the House and be a very effective leader.”
He also said he doesn’t see the value in arguing over differences. He aims to be a consensus builder.
“You get nowhere arguing and fighting with people, but you can move mountians when you work with people,” Brown said.
That doesn’t mean he won’t have issues of his own to focus on. Naturally, he mentioned that he wants to work on the foundation formula. He also mentioned an interest in expanding Medicaid and he sees improving infrastructure in the state as a “game changer” for economic development.
In addition to his work as a teacher at Central High School, Brown said he’s a “union guy” and he serves as a trustee for the Kansas City Public Schools retirement system, where he chairs the investment committee.
When he goes to Jefferson City as a legislator for the first time, he hopes to bring his reputation as a hard worker and a man of faith. And he won’t be forgetting the wife he leaves behind.
“I’m crazy about my wife,” Brown said. “Without her and our faith I would not be going to Jefferson City.”