Local activist O’Laughlin rises amid state politics, considering running for election


JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – From the small town of Shelbina, Cindy O’Laughlin has become a well-known figure in conservative circles throughout the state.

Throughout her career, she’s been a number of things: a dedicated wife and mother, a school board member, small business owner, an activist, and a staunch conservative.

She also serves as the treasurer for the Missouri Club for Growth, a group that works to promote conservative fiscal measures as well as conservative candidates.

Cindy O'Laughlin
Cindy O’Laughlin

She has been a state board member for Associated Builders and Contractors – Heart of America Chapter, a member of the bipartisan commission to redraw state House districts back in 2011, and was a member of the Ted Cruz for President Missouri Leadership Team in 2015.

But, O’Laughlin could potentially add another facet to that ever-growing list: state senator.

O’Laughlin says she first got involved as a conservative activist during the years of the Clinton administration in the White House. She said that the Monica Lewinsky scandal had caught her attention, thinking that it didn’t reflect well on the nation.

She said that was when she got involved and began helping promote the Bush campaign locally. After that, she said it became a natural transition to beginning to work at the local and state level.

She says that the reason for getting involved is that she wants to help make a difference.

“If I see something in society and I don’t feel that it’s right, and I see people standing on the sideline and say they don’t like it, but are never willing to do something about it… I’m not like that,” she said. “If I see something that I could affect in a good way, then I’m willing to work for it and invest in it. To me, everything you do should be directed toward leaving the world a better place, even in a small way.

“Some people think of me as a hard-right conservative, and I would have to agree with that. If by definition that means that I stand for things that I know have always been tested, that work and are true, then yes, I am going to stand for it.”

And one issue in recent years has been a focal point for O’Laughlin. That issue is education.

“I think if people were honest, they would take even the public schools’ own measurement criteria, whatever it may be, and if they looked at those, they would say they are not good,” she said.

As a former school board member, she says she has met a lot of good people in the education system, but that the issue is that the federal government has slowly over time began to encroach on the institutions.

“There are good public schools, and within every system, there are good teachers and administrators, but they have given up things that I think are time-tested and successful in favor of receiving money,” she said.

She said she worries about the life skills of the children coming out of the school systems.

She was a staunch opponent of Common Core, a set of academic standards that became controversial in the Show-Me State before it was eventually thrown out and replaced with new benchmarks.

“When I witnessed the absurd methods being taught, particularly in math, I thought it was crazy, but again, people do it because the government is directing it,” she said.

She says that issues like that, as well as school choice, she has been a vocal proponent, speaking out and penning letters on the issue. She says that, if the public school system is failing, parents and students should be able to choose what’s best for them.

“If it doesn’t work for the student, you have to continue paying anyway. And if you go somewhere else, you have to pay twice, and it seems wrong. That’s why I support it,” she said. “If it’s not working for your son or daughter, then I believe you should have the option to switch out.”

O’Laughlin says another concern she has is about government overreaching.

“A lot of the initiatives passed on from the federal government basically work to weaken the family structure, and it’s my belief that the weaker the family, the more likely people are to turn to someone for support and guidance. And who do they turn to? The government.”

O’Laughlin admits that she has some very strong opinions and beliefs on a number of issues, and says that because of that, she has given some thought to running for a seat in the legislature.

“I’m strongly considering it now,” she said. “I’ve never really been in a position in which I felt like I could do that, because of family, business, but I’m at a point where I can consider it now.”

Sen. Brian Munzlinger’s seat is up in 2018, which is the district she lives in. O’Laughlin says she is still weighing her options.

Benjamin Peters is a reporter for the Missouri Times and Missouri Times Magazine, and also produces the #MoLeg Podcast. He joined the Missouri Times in 2016 after working as a sports editor and TV news producer in mid-Missouri. Benjamin is a graduate of Missouri State University in Springfield. To contact Benjamin, email benjamin@themissouritimes.com or follow him on Twitter @BenjaminDPeters.