After two tours in Afghanistan and a stint in graduate school in the nation’s capital, Mark Osmack is back home. And despite his frustrations with his current representation in the state legislature, Osmack isn’t leaving.
In fact, he’s staying — to run for Senate in the 15th district.
“The current leadership in Jefferson City clearly isn’t getting it done. Their policies of cutting healthcare, cutting education, cutting workers’ rights aren’t making anything better,” Osmack told The Missouri Times in a wide-ranging interview. “My goal is to bring Missouri back and push us forward so we can be a place where people want to live.”
Osmack recently moved back to St. Louis County where he was born and raised. The 37-year-old attended Lindbergh High School before studying English at the University of Missouri and public policy at George Washington University. A recently-promoted major in the U.S. Army Reserves, Osmack also served two tours in Afghanistan in 2010 and 2013.
Osmack fundamentally disagrees with the current senator from the 15th district — Andrew Koenig, a member of the Conservative Caucus, on a variety of issues, including the recently-passed bill banning abortions in most cases. Koenig was heralded a hero among conservatives supportive of the bill for handling negotiations during the last week of the legislative session.
Supported by most Republicans in the General Assembly, HB 126 prohibits abortions after eight weeks and doesn’t allow for exemptions in cases of rape or incest. Osmack argued the bill is so restrictive because Republicans want to use Missouri to challenge Roe v. Wade, the decades-old U.S. Supreme Court decision that declared a woman’s constitutional right to privacy includes medical decisions such as abortion.
“I would have fought tooth and nail against that,” Osmark said, contending lawmakers — particularly those who are “pro-life” — should work to lower the cost of adoptions and increase prenatal care for women and access to pre-K education and daycare. “If we really want to help people, that’s how we do it — not by saying if you’re the victim of rape or incest, sorry not sorry.”
He pointed to education, gun violence, healthcare, and workers’ rights as priorities for him if he’s elected. When it comes to gun violence, specifically, Osmack said his experience in the military and as a victim of a carjacking in St. Louis have formed his opinion that more guns isn’t necessarily the answer to gun violence.
“[Koenig has] had 10 years to address the cost of higher education, to help protect public schools, to reduce gun violence, to protect women, and he has done nothing,” Osmack said. “I don’t think it’s reflective of the district.”
“I must have missed the memo when colleges turned into banks,” he continued, arguing many universities do have the ability to lower the cost of tuition and offer better wages and healthcare options to adjunct professors. “For public schools, they need to be reminded they serve the people of the state — whatever state that is.”
Osmack isn’t a stranger to political campaigns. He unsuccessfully ran for U.S. Congress in 2018, and he’s worked with Democratic Sens. Tammy Duckworth and Claire McCaskill (the former Missouri senator).
“I never took a knee; I never stepped down from being involved, and that has really kept the momentum for this,” he said of his state Senate race, adding his messaging and policy ideas have also already helped form his new campaign.
Regardless of how the 2020 election turns out, Osmack says he’s already a winner. He recently became engaged to Caitlin O’Brien — and it’s clear she’s by his side in politics. He proposed after tricking her into believing they were canvassing for a local candidate, and their save the date cards for their wedding looks like Missouri’s voting ballots.
“She is beyond wonderful and extremely strong and intelligent. I wouldn’t be able to do it without her. My family has been extremely supportive, but especially her,” Osmack said.
As for his potential constituents, Osmack promised to be “fearless and bold” in advocating for policies he believes will better the district and state. And he promised he’s here to stay.
“This is my home, and I’m not leaving. I was born here, and I’ll die here,” he said. “It is my love to commit my life to making [Missouri] better, and this is the way I know how.”
Kaitlyn Schallhorn is a reporter with The Missouri Times. She joined the newspaper in March 2019 after working as a reporter for Fox News in New York City. Throughout her career, Kaitlyn has covered political campaigns across the U.S. and humanitarian aid efforts in Africa. She is a native of Missouri who studied journalism at Winthrop University in South Carolina. Contact Kaitlyn at firstname.lastname@example.org.