JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — For more than a year, the 151st Missouri House district had no representation in the Capitol. Tila Hubrecht, who won a special election in August along with the primary and the right to take the seat in the general election, is filing the post that has been vacant since a gubernatorial nominee went awry.
Former state representative Dennis Fowler once held the post. But in 2013, Fowler voted to sustain Gov. Jay Nixon’s veto of a sweeping tax cut, one of only 15 members of his party to do so. Soon after, Fowler resigned his post and Nixon nominated him for an appointment to the Board of Parole and Probation.
Republicans in the senate, angry over Fowler’s vote and the timing of his new appointment, blocked the nomination. Fowler’s old seat, for months and months, went unfilled.
Enter Tila Hubrecht, a former schoolteacher who recently earned her Master’s degree in nursing. Hubrecht appeared twice on the August primary ballot. She appeared once for the special election, so constituents from the 151st would have a state representative during the September veto session. But her second appearance on the same ballot was as a candidate in the Republican primary, seeking the right to run for the seat in the 2014 general election. Needless to say, the distinction caused some confusion.
“After I won [in August] a few people took my signs down because they thought I had already won, and I had, but they didn’t realize there was another election,” Hubrecht said. “It was confusing for people.”
The long gap in representation has Hubrecht pledging to make constituent services her top priority for 2015. She says she’s been “flooded” with calls already, and expects a significant backlog of questions and concerns as well.
Hubrecht had a little more time than most to familiarize herself with the Capitol. After her special election win in August, Hubrecht attended the veto session as a full member of the House and spent some time meeting with her future colleagues.
For now, she’s not sponsoring any legislation, although she has signed her name as a co-sponsor to a handful of bills, including one to mandate parental consent for abortions and the infamous prescription drug monitoring program. The freshmen rep is angling for a spot on the House Healthcare Appropriations committee, which she said was her number one choice. A working nurse, Hubrecht has a little more experience with healthcare policy than many of her fellow members.
That experience is why Hubrecht joins the large chorus of Republicans opposing any move to expand Medicaid eligibility under the Affordable Care Act. Hubrecht says that Medicaid is a vastly underperforming program that should be focusing on reforms.
“I’m not necessarily against Medicaid expansion,” Hubrecht said. “But I don’t feel comfortable even considering it until we have a total review, an unbiased review, of how it’s functioning, how it’s operating. I’ve literally had patients die waiting on a response from Medicaid, and that’s just not acceptable.”
The Stoddard County representative said there was no singular issue that was drawing her focus in the coming months, but that “many, many little issues,” would be dominating her time. Hubrecht, a mother of two whose father once sought a state senate seat eventually won by Bill Foster, has personal interests in agriculture and education, two issues with broad implications in her rural district.
And while running for two elections while earning a Master’s degree might seem stressful, none of it compares to the way Hubrecht worries for her family. Hubrecht’s youngest daughter, Sara, is an aviation enthusiast with aspirations of joining the Air Force. She spends her free time flying, something that tends to raise her mother’s blood pressure.
“Put down that my daughter flies and that it gives me a heart attack,” Hubrecht said.
Collin Reischman was the Managing Editor for The Missouri Times, and a graduate of Webster University with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism.