Editorial Note: This story is part of a series covering every primary election for State Senate
Jefferson City, Mo — Missouri’s largest Senate district is up for grabs in 2022. Senate District (SD) 12 is comprised of 18 and a half rural counties across Northwest Missouri.
As term-limited Sen. Dan Hegeman leaves the Senate, three Republicans from SD 12 have announced their campaign for the vacated seat.
The Republican candidates are Rep. Rusty Black of Chillicothe, Rep. J. Eggleston of Maysville and former Rep. Delus Johnson, of Savannah, who served eight years in the House from 2010-2018.
All three candidates served in House districts that fall inside of SD 12, giving each of them connections to the sprawling rural district. For each candidate, increasing their voter base outside of local support will be the key to winning.
Like all of the candidates in the race, rural issues are at the heart of Black’s campaign. Black feels that his background as a farmer and rural school teacher of 33 years gives him the perspective to succeed as SD 12’s Senator.
“I think those experiences and the contacts that I’ve made gives me a unique perspective and ability to communicate and know people that are directly involved in agriculture,” Black said.
Black has focused on providing high-speed internet to rural homes in SD 12 as well as using technology to increase the efficiency of agriculture in the district.
“Let’s use less chemicals, let’s apply it only where it’s needed to the fact that it’s not going to take near as much energy to put those (pesticides) in the air … Just continue to improve that technology and do a better job of what’s called precision agriculture.” Black said. “So I think my touch in that is valuable.”
Aside from rural infrastructure and agricultural advancements, Black views rural education as another key to his platform. Black served on the House’s committee on Elementary and Secondary Education, and chaired the committee of Educational Appropriations in his time as a Representative.
For Black, recruiting talent to teach in rural schools and helping rural schools find solutions to improve education opportunities is a priority. Black supported SB 1010 during spring session in an effort to provide more opportunities to rural schools.
The bill will allow for high school students to transfer to schools outside of their residential school district and goes into effect July 2023.
“I think it might get people to think outside the box on how we can work together to help the small schools that are obviously not growing or not going to grow very fast to provide better opportunity,” Black said. “So doing the enrollment thing has caused Rusty Black a little criticism — I see that as an okay thing.”
Black hasn’t backed down from Republican criticism in the past, as he’s been unafraid to vote for bills that have caused Republican controversy. If he wins the seat, Black doesn’t see himself banding with the Senate’s conservative caucus in an effort to vote independently for his constituents.
“We use the word RINO, we use this and that. To me, Rusty Black, that’s on an individual decision basis,” Black said. “Do I want to help rural roads? Damn right I do. And people are gonna call me a liberal Republican, because I want to help rural roads.”
“I’m a Rusty Black conservative. I’m sure that down in the Senate, there are going to be people want me to take sides and there’ll be times that I look like I take sides…I’m a Republican, and I’m going to make decisions as well as I can, and try not to worry about those camps.” he added.
Eggleston is another candidate who’s background is in farming. Eggleston has also been a substitute teacher as well running a small business focusing on consumer electronics.
“I was born and raised in working on a farm growing up so I understand the farm life. And what our farmers have to go through. I grew up in the 80s, when farming was very difficult, the interest rates were terrible.” Eggleston said. “Those traits of hard work and good and prudent financial management have certainly come in handy for me at the at the Capitol during my state Rep. time.”
Eggleston spent time in California working on robotics and medical projects in Silicon valley. He helped make significant improvements to the technology used in cataract surgery. Eggleston’s work turned cataract surgery recovery from a several day event to an outpatient procedure.
Like Black, one of Eggleston’s main priorities is high-speed internet access to rural homes.
“Internet is this generations infrastructure project. In the early to mid 1900s. It was getting electricity to all the rural homes later on it was getting wired, telephone and rural water out to all the rural homes,” Eggleston said. “I would love to see wall-to-wall all-you-can-eat internet for every home in Northwest Missouri.”
Eggleston has also identified rural road improvement as a priority. In Eggleston’s view, the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) has neglected Northwest Missouri roads even in times when funding has been adequate.
“The lettered routes, low volume routes of northwest Missouri have been neglected to the point where they are crumbling, they’re narrow, they’re dangerous — they’re just pothole filled. Part of that has been a money issue getting enough funding to MoDOT,” Eggleston said.
“I would like to sit down with leaders at MoDOT. I’m elected to Senate with myself and the other state Reps. from Northwest Missouri to outline some of our most problematic roads that need immediate attention, and some major repaving projects. So we can have better roads up in our way,” he added.
Eggleston touts himself as one of the most conservative candidates in Missouri. He entered politics over concerns of the Affordable Care Act, commonly referred to as Obama Care, limiting the healthcare options of Missourians.
Eggleston wants to continue cutting taxes in Missouri, as well as eliminating special tax exemptions that some interest groups in Missouri receive.
“We can afford to lower the overall tax rate for the average citizen. This applies and sales tax, property tax, and certainly income tax as well,” he said. “And re-looking at that, to make sure folks are getting the best bang for their buck out of government would be on my plate.”
“I want to make sure that our citizens get the most and are able to be as prosperous as they can. And their government really takes from them as minimally and apologetically as possible when it comes to the tax code,” Eggleston added.
Though he considers himself one of the most conservative politicians in Missouri, Eggleston doesn’t see himself being difficult to work with or willfully blocking legislation with the Senate’s conservative caucus.
“I’m one of the more conservative members but I’m also very reasonable and easy to get along with and can work well with people,” Eggleston said.
“I’m not going to be handing over my vote and my voice to the leader of some sub-caucus … I will continue to be one of the more conservative-minded legislators. Someone who, with every vote, and every bill thinks about how it affects the average-joe Missourian and their families and make my decisions based on those principles.”
Delus Johnson sees himself as the most conservative of the three Republican candidates for SD 12. Johnson received recognition from the American Conservative Union (ACU) all eight years in the House for what he calls an “unblemished conservative voting record.”
“A lot of Republicans don’t really even know what a conservative is. Conservative means you either vote to conserve or reduce, never increase,” Johnson said. “Whenever I looked at a bill, if it had the words increase, or require, I voted no on every single one of those. I consistently voted against every single tax increase every fee increase, and every new restriction over Missouri businesses.”
Johnson currently has a 90.29 lifetime rating from the ACU, highest among all Republican candidates in SD 12.
Johnson differs from the other two Republican candidates in SD 12 as his background doesn’t involve farming.
Johnson’s platform revolves around tax code and business expansion. In Johnson’s view, Missouri should never consider increasing taxes as long as there is a surplus, such as the current surplus of federal funds given to states for economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I’m very pro-business, I’m going to definitely ensure that it’s as easy as possible to open, start or expand a new business, and was strongly opposed to any new restrictions over small businesses,” Johnson said. “I also am a believer in lower taxes. I will definitely filibuster any type of tax increase such as the Missouri gas tax, or any other increase in taxes.”
Johnson served as a Captain in the St. Joseph, Mo. fire department for 20 years, and was decorated with the Fire Chief’s life saving award during his time serving. Johnson sees his time as a firefighter as valuable leadership experience that translates to his time as a politician.
“So not only my political background of a conservative state Rep., but also my leadership skills as a Captain of a fire department. Both are definitely going to be assets in the Senate.” Johnson said.
Even as the most conservative candidate in the race, Johnson doesn’t see himself joining the Senate’s conservative caucus. He believes he can help bridge the gap between the caucus and the more moderate Republicans in the Senate, lead by Senate Majority Leader Caleb Rowden, R-Boone County.
“I always felt able to create a consensus between the true conservatives and leadership. So my conservative belief in voting will never alter no matter what, but I do believe there’s a certain consensus that you can bring between the conservatives and leadership,” Johnson said. “From leadership to conservatives, I’ve got a great relationship with all of them — And although I’ll never alter on my conservative voting record, I will certainly try and bridge the gap between any type of discrepancies on legislation as well.”
Johnson also sees an opportunity to work with Democrats in the Senate. Johnson served with Senate Minority Leader John Rizzo, D-Jackson County, in the House and has a good relationship with him.
“I’m a person that reaches across the aisle. I’m a person that reaches from the conservatives to the leadership. I never waver on my conservative voting, but if I can help somebody get something across the aisle, I will certainly do that regardless of their political affiliation,” Johnson said.
Campaign financing breakdown
Rep. J. Eggleston
Contributions in the April cycle: $3,619.33
Largest contributor: Larry Hart, real estate developer, $1,000
Total cash on hand: $179,359.03
Rep. Rusty Black
Contributions this cycle: $14,111.29
Largest contributor: TIED Margaret Black and Steven Black, $2,400 each
Total cash on hand: $13,986.10
Former Rep. Delus Johnson
Contributions this cycle: $1,500.00
Largest contributor: TIED John Waller, sales agent, and Allen Johnson, engineer, $500 each
Total cash on hand: 45,905.61
All campaign finance information from the Missouri Ethics Commission
Featured Image: A breakdown of SD 12 by county. The largest district in Missouri encompasses 18 and a half rural counties. (@MissouriMapper on Twitter).
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