The Missouri Times is speaking to new lawmakers this session. Get to know more of the “Freshmen to Watch” here.
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — After helping other candidates with their campaigns across two states, Rep. Emily Weber made the leap to the statehouse herself this session.
Weber said she began getting involved in politics following the 2016 election, and her community encouraged her to take the opportunity to bring her activism to Jefferson City.
“Just after the 2016 election, I was at the grocery store and someone told me to go back to where I came from,” Weber told The Missouri Times. “Basically I jumped in on every campaign I could get my hands on, both in Kansas and on the Missouri side. I got really involved and met a lot of people in both states, and then I realized that my state [representative], Judy Morgan, was terming out. I knew we had to get another progressive woman, and no one was really speaking up for it, and then people started asking me why I hadn’t decided to run for office yet.”
Weber, a Democratic newcomer representing HD 24 in Kansas City, won her district by 89 percent of the vote in November. Weber said she moved to the area to obtain her bachelor’s degree in fine arts from the Kansas City Art Institute and has since worked in graphic design in the area.
Weber said her first month in office had been a challenging and rewarding experience.
“This is a very unique time for our freshman class,” she said. “It’s been basically everything all at once for the first few weeks, so it’s been a real eye-opener. Getting your feet wet and finding your voice as a freshman, all of that was a lot to handle but getting all that thrown at me is how I learn — dive in or don’t dive.”
Weber said she had filed legislation on reproductive health and gender discrimination, bills she isn’t sure will progress with a GOP majority in place. She said she was following her predecessor’s lead in trying to start a conversation about topics that don’t get a lot of play in the Capitol.
“I want to make sure that we’re helping our community,” she said. “I know with the majority being Republican, a lot of our bills won’t be heard, so what I want to do is work across the aisle on common ground [issues] and bills we can talk about and come to some sort of agreement on. I’ve filed some bills that’ll never be heard, but I’m always going to file those — I think it’s very important that we at least make sure these are always filed, even if they don’t go anywhere.”
Weber said one thing she carried over from her work on campaigns was the drive to increase diversity in the statehouse.
“The way that we’re going to get there is through encouraging more diverse people to run for office,” she said. “I’m the first Asian-American woman to be elected to the House, and I would love to see more diverse individuals start running for office so they can have a voice at the table.”