A Hallsville defense attorney on Tuesday became the second Democrat to enter the race to unseat U.S. Rep. Vicky Hartzler next year.
Lindsey Simmons, who grew up in Marshall and graduated from Harvard Law School, announced that she would seek the Democratic nomination in the Fourth Congressional District. In an interview, Simmons focused on military issues, healthcare, trade and the environment, and said she believes 2020 will be a “change election,” that will remove Hartzler from office.
Simmons joined Erich Arvidson of Cooper County as the second candidate vying to face the five-term incumbent.
Simmons said she didn’t know Arvidson prior to the campaign, but she has spoken with him about their primary. She said she wouldn’t have entered the race if she didn’t think she was the best person for the job, and the best candidate to face Hartzler.
Until he was 82, Simmons’ grandfather farmed the same, rented land in Saline and Cooper counties as his father did, she said. When he started having health problems, the family had to sell their combine, tractor and other equipment to pay his medical bills.
It is a common issue among her friends and neighbors, and highlights how people have to base their healthcare decisions on the amount of money they have instead of on the care they need.
People don’t like being told what to do, especially in Missouri, she said.
While she believes a single-payer healthcare system is the best option, she doesn’t want to force anybody into it, she said. The federal government should offer a single-payer option and let it compete with private insurance, she said.
“If we’re right, and a public, government-run, high-quality, low-cost kind of care is actually better, people will go towards that,” she said. “That’s how markets work: if there’s a demand for it, and we’re giving an adequate supply, that is where the business will go.”
Arvidson said he thinks a primary can help engage more people, noting the candidates have a district about the size of Massachusetts to cover. He’s committed to bringing the issues of rural towns to the forefront and working to bring healthcare to everyone, he said.
“People identify with the struggles I’ve faced growing up poor, food insecure and managing my parents’ healthcare in a rural area,” Arvidson said. “I’m working to advocate for those people who share those struggles and whose voice gets drowned out in national conversations.”
Access to care is another issue in rural Missouri. With trauma hospitals based in larger cities, people may have to travel long distances for emergency care, she said.
Expanding Medicaid would help rural hospitals, she said. Medicaid reimbursement rates should be examined to make sure hospitals are making enough money to stay open and operational, she said.
Trade is another issue that’s important to Simmons, especially how trade disputes with China have been hurting soybean producers, she said. Farmers are bearing the brunt of the dispute, she said.
China taking intellectual property from U.S. technology companies is a serious issue that affects national security, but dealing with that shouldn’t come at the expense of farmers, she said. If the U.S. maintained better international relationships, it could work together with other countries to hold China accountable, she said.
Farmers “are losing a lot of money, and I’m concerned that the family farm might not be able to be passed down because they won’t own it anymore,” she said.
Simmons also sees climate change as a threat to farmers. When she was studying agricultural law, she would read USDA reports about temperature stresses on livestock and uncertain precipitation hurting crop yields. With historic flooding of the Missouri River this year, people can see the effects, she said.
It’s unfortunate that the “Green New Deal,” was rolled out the way it was, she said. She thinks most people know climate change is a serious problem that needs to be addressed. The platform included a list of aspirational goals, without a plan on how to achieve them, she said. Some used the uncertainty to instill fear in others, making them think their entire lives would change and they had no control over it. Others made jokes out of it, taking away from the important conversation, she said.
“We all have to band together on this one, because our communities, especially our communities by the river, are at stake,” she said.
Simmons said she ran for Congress because she was ignored when she contacted Hartzler to share her concerns about President Donald Trump tweeting in December that he would order all U.S. forces out of Syria.
Simmons was five months pregnant when her husband, Chris, an Apache helicopter pilot for the U.S. Army, was moved to a forward location in Syria, where his unit relied on local allies for supplies, she said. Trump was abandoning the allies who helped her husband make it home to see their first child, she said.
She hoped Hartzler could share her story with the House Armed Services Committee, or at least let it inform her when working with the president. She never got a response, she said.