Rep. Greg Razer went into the General Assembly fully aware of what it meant to be in the minority party. He knew that if he wanted to effect change it would have to start by building relationships with people on both sides of the aisle.
And that is what he did.
The Democrat from Kansas City has worked to foster friendships that cross the political divide that are built on mutual respect and mutual appreciation. And from there, Razer works to share his unique point of view.
“I’m not afraid to cross the line on some of those issues and I feel like that translates into folk feeling comforting coming to talk to me,” said Razer. “If you are willing to talk about rural Missouri issues and [agricultural] issues, others think ‘maybe this guy isn’t so bad after all.’”
Coming from a unique rural and urban background, Razer isn’t one too shy to cross party lines. He’ll dive into agriculture issues and issues that affect rural Missouri and the state as a whole.
Though change, for a freshman representative especially, is slow going.
“It takes a year to find the bathrooms on that building, much less figure out how to pass a bill or the details of all the different pieces of legislation that come through,” said Razer, who was the Deputy Regional Director for U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill before running for office.
It was fascinating, according to Razer, after the first year and then going into the second. The first year, every bill that came was a brand new bill, but by the second year, would recognize bills from the year before. Everything slowed down that second year, he noted.
As part of the transportation committee when he’s talking about infrastructure, it’s not just big highway projects for his county but also the smaller bridges that need repairs in rural Missouri.
Razer is proud of his advocacy for the state transportation system, trying to get more funding for the Missouri Department of Transportation so that the state’s roads and bridges can get the work they desperately need. He was able to work with the Democratic caucus to make sure as many as possible were on board to get the referendum for additional funding on the November ballot.
He is also working on what he calls “simple, common sense gun reform laws.” Razer wants to make sure that a responsible gun owner is selling to another responsible gun owner by attempting to close the loophole that doesn’t require doing background checks in individual-to-individual sales.
“No one wants firearms in the hands of known criminals but we are providing them with the loopholes,” said Razer.
But in all the legislation Razer works on, he is probably known the most for his relentless support and advocacy for the Missouri Nondiscrimination Act, or MONA.
“Next year is 2019, let’s not get to 2020 and still be a state that openly allows discrimination against LGBTQ people. Not only is that wrong but it is embarrassing. It’s embarrassing if we can’t get this done by the year 2020. I would love to get this finished and move on to other issues,” said Razer. “We are nearly two decades into the 21st century, and in Missouri, you can still be fired in your job for being gay, it is ridiculous.”
The legislation, which has been introduced in the General Assembly every year for two decades, passed out of committee in the House this year. It is the second time that has happened.
Beyond that public success, Razer says that perhaps the bigger success is the number of conversations he has had behind the scenes with people trying to understand the issue and how it affects their district, their constituents, and the state as a whole.
Members of the majority party, from districts he would never expect, have pulled him aside wanting to have an honest conversation about the issue.
And he attributes those conversations to the relationships he has built.
To Razer, a lot of his success isn’t big bills he has passed or things that the public necessary sees, but rather the conversations he has with people to help move the needle.
“Next year is going to be a new year, we are going to have new members and we are going to have to start those conversations over,” said Razer. “But I think I’m making progress, albeit slowly.”
This appeared in the fall 2018 edition of the Missouri Times Magazine, available in Jefferson City at the Capitol, Tolson’s, Cork, and J. Pfenny’s, and online here.
Alisha Shurr was a reporter for The Missouri Times and The Missouri Times Magazine. She joined The Missouri Times in January 2018 after working as a copy editor for her hometown newspaper in Southern Oregon. Alisha is a graduate of Kansas State University.