The Missouri Times is speaking to new lawmakers this session. Get to know more of the “Freshmen to Watch” here.
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Just two months into her first term, Rep. Ashley Aune has taken the Capitol by storm. A communications professional, Aune hasn’t shied away from speaking up in committee hearings or meeting with lawmakers on the other side of the aisle to find common ground.
“I’m trying to stay above the fray,” Aune said when asked about her goals in the statehouse. “Rather than focusing on the things that divide us, focusing on the things that we can agree on and find compromise on and we can talk through.”
Like many younger Democrats, Aune views the 2016 presidential election as a sort of “wake-up call.” If someone as volatile as Donald Trump could win the presidency, what would that mean for candidates like her — an affable 35-year-old who was raised to place a premium on philanthropy and altruism?
So after serving as a volunteer on some campaigns — in Kansas and Missouri as well as nationally — and volunteering with Moms Demand Action and Northland Progress, Aune ran for HD 14 when Matt Sain decided to forgo a re-election bid. She beat out her Republican challenger in November with 53 percent of the vote.
“As I got older and got more interested in politics, I realized what an opportunity public service is and how I can be actually useful to my community in other ways that aren’t just philanthropic and are actually actionable, and that excited me,” Aune said.
“It was a combination of passion and weaseling my way into the right organizations and making those connections and figuring out where I fit in and where my skillsets fit in,” she added.
Aune is part of a freshman class seeking to partner with those on the other side of the aisle to work on legislation, even laying the groundwork for a new bipartisan caucus. For her part, Aune is working with fellow freshman Rep. Bill Hardwick, a Republican, on a cybersecurity bill and has talked with Rep. Chad Perkins about a pathway for legalizing cannabis.
“She is a passionate advocate with a dedicated drive,” House Minority Leader Crystal Quade said. “I’m really excited to see all that she gets done.”
A graduate of the University of Kansas, Aune is a communications specialist who owns her own virtual marketing agency, Propel Creative Studio. She started her company after becoming frustrated with traditional ad agencies in Kansas City, and now works with clients from all over the country.
“My communication skills are something that I feel really strongly about finding ways to use to benefit both the legislature and the Democratic Party in our state,” Aune said. “As a super minority and coming off a really rough election cycle, we have so much work to do with our party. People always say Democrats can’t craft a message, Democrats can’t sell policies, they make it too complicated, they’re too elitist, but I built a career on speaking to people in a way that moves them. I spent my career figuring out how to get people to take action, and that’s the thing I’m really hoping to impact the legislature with.”
Aune grew up on the Kansas side of Kansas City in Lenexa and moved to her district more than three years ago. But even before she moved to HD 14, she spent considerable time working in the Northland area.
“In a way, when I started campaigning in my district, I felt like I intimately knew the people in my district because I had spent so many years crafting communications and marketing messages to reach families, specifically women and heads of households who make health care decisions,” Aune said.
Aune said her suburban district isn’t unique when it comes to priorities for her constituents: health care, COVID-19, and education are all priorities.
Aune serves on the Emerging Issues and Rules – Legislative Oversight committees as well as the Special Committee on Small Business. She’s filed legislation to protect voting rights for minorities as well as to establish a committee to review gun laws and gun violence in the state.
Kaitlyn Schallhorn is the editor of The Missouri Times. She joined the newspaper in early 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., including the 2016 presidential election, and humanitarian aid efforts in Africa and the Middle East.
She is a native of Missouri who studied journalism at Winthrop University in South Carolina. She is also an alumna of the National Journalism Center in Washington, D.C.
Contact Kaitlyn at firstname.lastname@example.org.