Rep. J. Eggleston is all in for state Senate.
Eggleston is running to replace Sen. Dan Hegeman in SD 12 as he reaches the term limit for his time in the House. He says he is running to “produce results for the people of northwest Missouri.”
Eggleston grew up on a row crop farm in Fairport, with no livestock and no air conditioning.
“If you got hot, then you found some iced tea and shade and waited until September, ” Eggleston said. “We had air conditioning on the tractor; since it had no cab, you just kept it moving.”
After eight years in the House, Eggleston doesn’t have senioritis and he isn’t tired of Jefferson City. He writes his own Capitol Report newsletter and enjoys appearing on a local radio station. He still has a passion for serving in the statehouse and wants to continue “because the people asked me,” he said.
“In northwest Missouri, every town needs better roads and is centered around our schools. The next thing we have to have is rural broadband,” Eggleston said.
The district “need[s] someone that understands them. Nearly everyone in that district has something to do with farming, something to do with school, or something to do with small business,” Eggleston said. “I have a background in all three, and the track record to get things done for them.”
“Our roads are built on dirt, and under that dirt is more dirt. It’s great for farming, but we don’t have the rock to build roads on that other parts of the state have,” Eggelston said. “In northern Missouri, we need better roads.”
When asked how he could balance the idea of lowering taxes while also fixing roads, Eggleston said: “You ask the people. Are you willing to pay more at the pump? Do you trust MoDOT’s going to give you better roads if you pay more at the pump or not?”
Highways have become a big topic of conversation since Hegeman called for the director of the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) to step aside a few weeks ago. Eggleston said it all comes down to trust.
“We have to rebuild trust between MoDOT and the people. And once the people understand and believe that they are going to get what they are told they are going to get then I think you are going to be able to justify funding and working with MoDOT better,” he said.
Eggleston said he is concerned with a Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission lawsuit seeking greater autonomy from the legislative appropriations process.
Several senators have publicly said any commissioners who supported the lawsuit should not be confirmed if they were reappointed. Eggleston agreed: “I don’t think you can get legislative support on anyone who signed off on the lawsuit to get reappointment. I think it’d be tough to get any potential director who wants to sue the state to have autonomous power of their money, over taxpayer money, confirmed.”
One of the hottest issues in politics today is education.
Eggleston said people in northwest Missouri care deeply about their schools. On the issue of education reform, he said he views the current reforms as benevolent help that rural legislators can give to the more troubled districts in the cities so long as those bills do not affect the work rural Missouri schools are doing.
“The education reform is to address problems in the schools in the bigger cities. Most of the legislation you see has been to address those issues. As long as they can craft that in a way that allows rural schools to do their own thing, then I’m fine to help out,” he explained.
Time in the House
During eight years in the House, Eggleston was a part of several committees, including the Ethics Committee which he chaired from 2019-2020. He was also a member of Fiscal Review, Agriculture Policy, and Ways and Means committees as well as the Joint Committee on Tax Policy, the Interim Committee on Local Taxation and the Rules-Administrative Oversight Committee. Rules-Administrative Oversight Committee, which he was chair of from 2021 to 2022.
Eggleston led the Ethics Committee when the House censured in 2021, for the first time, a member.
“I like to feel like I’ve made the building a better environment while I was here,” Eggleston said about his time on the Ethics Committee.
While serving in the lower chamber, Eggleston handled SB 153, better known as the Wayfair bill, sponsored by Sen. Andrew Koenig. The Wayfair bill allows Missouri to impose a sales tax on online purchases made through vendors with a physical presence in the state and added various other tax-related provisions.
Eggleston insisted this be offset by a state income tax deduction so Missouri businesses and local governments could be helped, but citizens not be burdened with higher overall taxes.
One legislative accomplishment hit closer to home. It started when doctors told Eggleston and his wife that she needed a kidney transplant. Further, he learned that he was not a suitable donor. That’s when he signed up to be part of what is known as the Kidney Share Program.
While he wasn’t a match, he was a match for someone in Michigan and the chain ultimately led to someone there being an eligible donor for his wife.
“I went in in the morning, they took out my left kidney, put it in a box, and flew it up to Michigan. They put it in a stranger up in Michigan [who] had a buddy who donated to someone else in Michigan, and they had a buddy that then donated to my wife and they flew it down,” Eggleston said. “All three of us donors went in in the morning, and the three recipients got theirs in the evening.”
Without a matching donor immediately available, patients in need of a transplant are put on a list.
“The list in the Midwest is about 2-3 years and not everyone has 2-3 years, so a lot of people die waiting, but it is better than the East and West Coast. On the East and West Coast, it is about twice that; it’s about 4-6 years,” Eggleston said. “And we asked [a doctor] why the difference, and he said people in the Midwest are just more generous.”
The plan was successful, resulting in Eggleston helping his wife and two strangers receive life-saving kidney donations. This has led Eggleston to also pursue legislation regarding organ donation, including legislation that would allow non-organ donors to sign up online and receive a sticker in the mail to put on their license to become an organ donor, living organ donors be treated fairly by life insurance companies, and donors and recipients not be discriminated against based on their COVID-19 vaccination status.
He comes to the race not just with a background in the House, but in technology. After graduating from Maysville High School, Eggleston got a degree in Electronic Engineering Technology. He left Northwestern Missouri to pursue the tech boom in Silicon Valley before later moving back to Missouri to start his own small business in his district.
While in California, Eggleston said his greatest accomplishment was the work he did to revamp the Phacoemulsifer, which is the device eye surgeons use to remove cataracts.
“The old device was very traumatic on the eye, so we found that it was the pump that caused the damage and reengineered the entire machine,” he said. “Previously, a cataract surgery required stitches in the eye and several days of recovery. After we finished revamping the machine, you walk out the same day.”
If he does gain a seat in the Senate, Eggleston said he would not join the Conservative Caucus.
“I will be very conservative, but I’m not going to be a part of a group that says you have to vote in block because then you give up your voice of the people you represent and turn it over to whoever the leader is of that particular group,” he said. “I’ve seen a number of splinter caucuses arise while in the House, and I don’t think that was healthy for the body.”
Eggleston currently represents about 20 percent of the primary vote with his House seat, which is the most in the field. His campaign is being run by Palm Strategies.
“[Eggleston] has a record of finding the most conservative way to answer Missouri’s difficult issues,” said Scott Dieckhaus, a partner with Palm Strategies. “We were excited when he told us he hoped to continue his service to the voters of Northwest Missouri and even more excited when he asked us to join his team.”
He anted up pretty big last year, putting $100,000 of his own money into the race. When asked what his wife’s reaction was to making that kind of investment into a political campaign, he replied, “She is a big supporter. She was supportive when I moved us back to Missouri, when we started our own business, and when I first ran for the House. She has been supportive of me throughout everything I have done.”
When asked what his campaign strategy was, he was pretty direct about his answer.
“You just have to introduce yourself to as many people in your district as possible. Get to know them. Folks want people who are good, both in terms of being effective and being ethical. Folks want people who are going to represent them with dignity and class, and bring some statesmanship,” he said.