Crystal Stephens doesn’t just know about the issues facing a plurality of Missourians, she has lived them.
In 2012, she and her son survived some rough times; a tree fell on their car and they ended up homeless. Now, in 2018, she is looking to represent Missouri’s 18th Senate District in the General Assembly — Stephens is the Democratic candidate in the race.
“I rebuilt our lives,” Stephens said. “It wasn’t easy. To be honest, it had more to do with my never giving up than it did anything else. We did use social safety net programs to get back on our feet, we are back on our feet now, but we absolutely had to have the help.
“I know there are obstacles we faced — with income, trying to get everything settled, and mountains of paperwork — just to get a little bit of help. And, to be honest, it’s humiliating.”
She has also struggled as a single mother to get her son, who has been diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, into school and access to a good education.
Stephens notes that she had personal experience with disability programs, with health care programs, and knows the struggles Missourians go through.
“We shouldn’t be humiliating people for being in a bad situation when they are trying to do better,” said Stephens.
A native of Illinois, Stephens grew up in a mostly Republican family showing quarter horses. Throughout her life she has worked in a variety of fields, including serving in the U.S. Army for two years, working as a nurse’s aid in Clark County, building websites, and programming touch screen computers for restaurants and marinas.
Having been involved in politics for quite a while, Stephens is the president of the Missouri Federation of Women’s Democratic Clubs 6th Congressional District, the secretary and co-founder of the Mark Twain Federated Democratic Club, and the former secretary of the Marion County Democratic Central Committee.
“I decided to run [for the Senate] because there is no one out there representing the people, they are all representing corporations,” Stephens said. “I want to fight for people who went through the same things I went through.”
If elected to the state Senate, she wants to work on closing some loopholes in the system and helping citizens get access to health care. Stephens notes that a healthy populous is a healthy workforce.
“There are a lot of people out there trying to survive,” said Stephens. “And every day that they are focused on just trying to survive is a day they can’t be productive. They are just worried about where their next meal is coming from, if they can pay the rent, if they can get any health care, if they can afford their medication. So, they can’t get out there and get involved in their community and try to make a change.”
In addition to getting all citizens healthcare, Stephens wants to get “dark money” out of Missouri politics. Part of the effort would include introducing legislation that would block lawmakers from joining ALEC — the American Legislative Exchange Council.
According to Stephens, ALEC is helping bring dark money into the state and members of the organization are representing corporations instead of the people.
“I personally believe that any state legislator belonging ALEC is violating the Missouri Constitution,” said Stephens. “The Missouri Constitution states that the government is decided by the people and ALEC is writing our laws and those are corporations.”
The Democratic candidate also lists transportation infrastructure as a top priority along with maintaining water treatment plants and sewer lines across the state.
Stephens will face Republican Cindy O’Laughlin in the general election on November 6, 2018. They are vying for the seat left vacant by term-limited Sen. Brian Munzlinger.
Alisha Shurr is a reporter for the Missouri Times and Missouri Times Magazine. She joined the Missouri Times in January 2018 after working as a copy editor for her hometown newspaper in Southern Oregon. Alisha is a graduate of Kansas State University. Contact Alisha at firstname.lastname@example.org.