Democrat Amy Blansit and Republican Melanie Stinnett at Silver Springs Forum on Sept. 18, 2022. (Photo by Shannon Cay Bowers)

The only thing we can promise in this upcoming election for voters in Missouri’s 133rd House District is that they will be sending a new representative to Jefferson City next year.

In 2020, assuming Republican incumbent Curtis Trent would be reelected was a safe bet. Since then, Trent is moving up to the state Senate, and the 133rd was drastically reshaped in new maps drawn following the 2020 Census. 

Neither Democrat Amy Blansit nor Republican Melanie Stinnett have an easy task in seeking election in a district that stretches from Republic Road to north of Chestnut Expressway and West Bypass to Campbell Avenue. 

In 2020, 65 percent of votes for state representative in District 133 were Republican. This year, estimations indicate a shift, one where Republicans hold a mere 49 percent edge over the Democrats’ 46 percent.

Blansit, in her journey of community betterment, wants to see change at a higher level

Amy Blansit is the Democratic Candidate for Missouri House District 133. (Photo by Shannon Cay Bowers)

Blansit is a Southwest Missouri native, hailing from Branson, where she was raised by her foster parents alongside seven siblings.

“As a female who had a mind of her own, it was a rough go at growing up,” Blansit said. “My entire life we were very engaged in low to moderate-income concerns and what that means in a community, so I grew up very socially aware.” 

She was the first of her siblings to attend college and graduated from Drury University with the help of financial scholarships. 

Blansit is the founder, chairwoman and CEO of the Drew Lewis Foundation, a Springfield-based nonprofit organization that focuses on asset-based urban development and community betterment. 

Drew Lewis Foundation and Blue House Project founder Amy Blansit stands on the porch of a recently renovated home in the Grant Beach Neighborhood
Amy Blansit stands on the porch of the home that inspired the Blue House Project, which helps low to moderate-income families become homeowners. (Photo by Jackie Rehwald)

“Ten years ago, my husband (Drew Lewis) and I had purchased property in north Springfield,” Blansit said, referencing the organization’s old school building in the Grant Beach neighborhood. “He ended up passing from stage four colon cancer, and over the last decade, I’ve worked to build a community hub that serves low to moderate-income families.”

Blansit is also a faculty member at Missouri State University (MSU) in the Kinesiology Department, where she focuses on built environments and how policy and physical geography impact our health — and finding solutions through education, social norming and messaging to better health behaviors. 

Blansit decided to run for the House seat after discovering old papers she had written in elementary school that her mom had kept, where she had expressed aspirations of becoming the first female president. Realizing, from a young age, the potential for change from a higher level, coupled with a time recently spent advocating in Jefferson City, led her to submit her bid for representative. 

“I came back angry that, right now, in our state, a female doesn’t have to be present, no one has to be present that isn’t a very basic white male for a bill to be written, for a bill to be discussed and for a bill to be passed,” Blansit said. “They were so out of touch, and I was infuriated to see that we are not represented.” 

Stinnett thinks her insight and experience in therapy can fill a void in Jefferson City

Melanie Stinnett is the Repbulican Candidate for Missouri House District 133. (Photo by Shannon Cay Bowers)

Stinnett grew up in south Texas, and moved to the Springfield area in 2006, where she graduated from MSU with a degree in speech pathology and currently raises her two children with her husband. 

Prior to realizing what direction she wanted to take her career, she worked in various different settings from hospitals to nursing homes to rehabilitation centers, primarily working with adults.

She eventually landed a position with Cox, where she floated throughout the entire hospital system and soon found herself doing outpatient work with pediatrics.

“It was there that I realized that there was a significant need for therapy services for children in our community… there just wasn’t a lot of outpatient therapy options,” Stinnett said. “That’s when I decided to open up a private business myself in 2014.” 

Melanie Stinnett, candidate for state representative District 133, speaks at the Republican candidate’s forum, presented by Greene County Republican Women’s Club. (Photo by Jym Wilson)

Theracare has since expanded to nearly 30 employees and provides speech, occupational, physical and music therapy. In May of this year, Stinnett sold Theracare to The Arc of the Ozarks, a disability services organization, where she works as the vice president of therapy services. 

“It’s always been my goal to increase access to those services that are just really vital to children to meet their needs and help them grow, thrive and be able to communicate,” Stinnett said.

Stinnett, while not involved in politics prior to this election, experienced the challenges of government regulations and the limitations it put on her line of work. This led her to advocate for children with developmental and physical disabilities in the state Capitol, where she worked with senators and representatives to help forward pieces of legislation. 

“It was through that journey that I saw a sort of void of knowledge,” Stinnett said. “There just aren’t a lot of voices in Jefferson City who have an in-depth knowledge of health care, and how it pertains to children with disabilities.”

Public education and the child care shortage

A Pre-K classroom right after the kids are out the door. (Photo by Shannon Cay Bowers)

When it comes to public education, Blansit and Stinnett both emphasize keeping decisions local. Stinnett pointed out that it was, in part, the state’s responsibility to fund public education, hold school boards accountable for their decision-making, and provide parents an active role in curriculum choices. Blansit, however, doubled down on the “local” component.  While supportive of enforcing state-level standards, she noted that no two school districts are the same, therefore different needs must be met by those who understand them most, at the local level. 

“It’s been really unfortunate to see how much political money has been put into politicizing what should be parents who are focused on building a board that represents all kids that are in the public school system,” Blansit said. “Until we have kids that are excelling in the basics, we’re having the wrong conversation.” 

Blansit and Stinnett both showed concern over the child care shortage Missouri is experiencing, and that the state legislature may need to get creative and act quickly to minimize the negative effects it will have on children and their families in the long run.

Elise Wesley, right, lead teacher in the infants room at the Mercy Child Development Center. (Photo by Jym Wilson)

Stinnett suggested that current regulations might be hindering the child care industry. While she emphasized the need to keep safety measures in place, a shortening of the licensing process and breaking down existing barriers could be a step in the right direction. Additionally, she thinks the legislature can collaborate with businesses and their communities to explore and encourage other options. 

“I think we have to be innovative, be talking with our community leaders, those who are employers who maybe can do innovative things to create options for their employees, but then also our general population as well,” Stinnett said.

The opioid epidemic and Roe v. Wade

Dispatcher Marleen Maupin works a shift taking 911 calls at the Public Safety Center in Springfield, which often receives calls about opioid overdoses happening in Springfield. (Photo by Jym Wilson)

Blansit sees deregulation as a solution, but for a different and deadly issue: the opioid epidemic. Specifically, she views current regulations as detrimental for individuals experiencing problems with opioids to access medical care. However, breaking those barriers is the only aspect where she viewed deregulation as an effective combatant to the ongoing epidemic — further policy needs to be adopted to prevent doctor shopping and increase the capacity to track the biggest prescribers. 

She stressed the need to focus on “upstream” solutions, such as expanding mental health resources, rather than provide more funding to police forces that are already in “crisis mode.” 

“There isn’t one answer, it’s going to be multi-faceted, and it’s going to take years in order to have an effect,” Blansit said.

Stinnett expressed support for the work Sen. Holly Rehder (District 27) has done to combat the opioid crisis. Rehder played an instrumental role in the passage of House Bill 2162, which expanded access to the addiction treatment drug naltrexone hydrochloride (brand names of the drug include Vivitrol and Revia).

Katie Shelton, of Springfield, protests in Park Central Square. (Photo by Jym Wilson)

In regards to the trigger ban that went into effect in Missouri in the aftermath of the Supreme Court decision that overturned Roe v. Wade, Blansit is staunchly against the measures put in place by Attorney General Eric Schmitt, which effectively banned most abortions in the state (without exceptions for rape or incest). While she understands the need to find compromise with her Republican counterparts, Blansit thinks the current legislation is extremist and is more about controlling women’s rights rather than it being an argument about life. 

In respect of the overturning of Roe itself, Stinnett is supportive of the decision around abortions being left up to the states. Regarding Missouri’s trigger ban, she placed emphasis on ensuring the new law is properly implemented.

“I think, looking for clarity and language might be something that would be a benefit if individuals like physicians or other people feel like there are concerns,” Stinnett said.

Campaign finance: Who has money on their side

House District 133 has become more urban, and potentially consequently for Stinnett, more Democratic. That’s not to say, however, that Stinnett and her Republican donors have given up aspirations of their party holding onto that seat. 

Based on the most recent campaign finance reports available from both candidates, Stinnett is operating with about three times as much funding as Blansit, with nearly $60,000, compared to nearly $20,000 for the Blansit campaign. How that impacts the election is yet to be determined, but Stinnett’s campaign has been significantly funded by a $50,000 debt, whereas Blansit owes just over $300.

Stinnett has received contributions from the Missouri Alliance Political Action Committee (PAC) and the Missouri Hospital Association, among others; Blansit has received contributions from the United Transportation Union PAC and the Missouri Women’s Leadership Coalition, among others. 

(Editor’s note: Daily Citizen Board Chairman Thomas Carlson and his wife Chandler, as well as board members Jim Anderson and M. Suzanne Shaw, have made donations to Blansit’s campaign. Board members play no role in news coverage decisions.)

Despite their differences, Blansit and Stinnett both emphasized compromise and collaboration with the opposite party.

“I certainly wouldn’t have the campaign I have today without the support of other people who have been in politics longer than me,” Stinnett said. “As far as the other side of the aisle…I believe in a collaborative environment, and I think we can have that in Springfield.”

Blansit said she was motivated to run in part because it looked like a Republican candidate might run unopposed despite the increased competitiveness of the district.

“I believe in a balanced government, and I believe that representation should come from a variety of people that look different, think differently and come up with a compromise that represents a mass majority,” Blansit said.

Where and when to vote, and what you need to bring (Click to expand story)

When and where: The general election will take place on Nov. 8. Polls open at 6 a.m. and close at 7 p.m. You can identify your polling location here. Information on absentee voting in Greene County can be found here

Finding your district: Information about what state House and Senate district you might live in can be found here.

What you need: This is the first election that Missouri’s new photo ID law will be in effect. The Secretary of State’s website provides information about what forms of ID will be acceptable.

Jack McGee

Jack McGee is the government affairs reporter at the Springfield Daily Citizen. He previously covered politics and business for the Daily Citizen. He’s an MSU graduate with a Bachelor of Science degree in journalism and a minor political science. Reach him at or (417) 837-3663. More by Jack McGee