First day of candidate filing for the fall 2022 election cycle. (Photo courtesy Missouri Secretary of State office Twitter account)

The Republican candidate for Missouri’s 30th Senatorial District — primarily Springfield city proper — will be decided on August 2, as voters head to the polls for the primaries.

Incumbent Sen. Lincoln Hough and primary challenger Angela Romine, by some measures, share similar stances and principles on various issues, but it’s their differences that will decide their candidacy.

The Springfield Daily Citizen introduced Hough and Romine earlier in the campaign trail, but now let’s get to know them.

While Missourians have different issues that uniquely affect them, Hough and Romine shared their opinions on how some developing concerns can be handled at the state level. These include the state of the economy, education, the role of local government entities and crime, among others.

Parent’s rights and education

Pre-K kids play during their last day of the spring 2022 semester at Boyd Elementary School. (Photo by Shannon Cay Bowers)

While concern over “parent’s rights” in public education is nothing new, the COVID-19 pandemic, race relations and a widening rift between political spectrums has made some parents question their childrens’ educational institution’s right to enforce mask mandates, teach certain curriculums or introduce controversial books.

In recent years, many state legislatures have adopted various forms of a “Parents’ Bill of Rights,” which establish the rights of parents in various aspects of their children’s upbringing, notably in education and health care. This spring, Missouri lawmakers debated the “Parents’ Bill of Rights Act of 2022,” which introduces new requirements for schools to follow that would provide parents the opportunity to become more aware and active in their children’s education. 

Angela Romine looks to unseat Lincoln Hough in the Republican primary in the 30th Senate District. (Photo by Jack McGee)

Romine said she believes it should be a collaborative effort between the state, the local school board and community members to determine curriculums and books used in classrooms.

“I do believe the state has the authority,” Romine said. “States and local school boards should work together, but our government was meant to be a state-level power; states should protect parental rights. Perhaps people might not agree with that, but school is entrusted to teach kids to think critically, and equip them with job skills.”

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Alternatively, Hough is a strong advocate for local control, exemplified by how he felt about a bill that a Missouri legislator tried to pass a few years ago.

“[In Boone County] they were talking about banning plastic bags,” Hough said. “We had a lawmaker that said, ‘No, you can’t do that as a local community,’ and I remember standing up on the floor, talking to him and asking him what then is the role of that local elected city council? Aren’t they tasked with making decisions for their community?”

Lincoln Hough, the incumbent in Senate District 30, seeks reelection, but first must win the Republican primary in August. (Photo by Jack McGee)

While banning plastic bags isn’t the same as regulating school curricula, Hough sees the state’s role in these situations no differently.

“Fast forward a few years, and we’re talking about curriculum in schools,” Hough continued. “I think it should be up to the school boards to run their districts and ultimately this is one of those things that if the community doesn’t like how a school board or a city council is operating, I believe it should be up to the community who [votes] on the school board or the city council.”

Springfield voters did just that when they headed to the polls earlier this year to decide on two new school board members with the elections of Kelly Byrne and Steve Makoski.

Public health in the context of COVID restrictions

(Photo by Kaitlyn McConnell for CoxHealth)

While public health departments have always played an important role in communities in offering services, information and guidance for both community members and city leaders, the coronavirus put them in the spotlight.

Mask mandates, vaccine requirements, social distancing and quarantine requisites brought into question how far local governments can go in protecting the health of the community, often with the direct influence of the health department. In fact, the COVID-19 restrictions adopted by the city at the onset of the pandemic were a contributing factor in Romine’s initial decision to run for Springfield City Council. 

“Public Health has its role, but would do well to look at how their views and policies affect things outside of their scope,” Romine said. “…There were a lot of people that were told they could not work. But if things were as bad as they were predicting, then everyone should have stayed home. You cannot divide people and tell them who can work and support their families and who cannot.”

Romine compared the role of the city council to that of her other profession in massage therapy. She said that as a massage therapist, similar to that of a city council member, it was not her place to give out medical advice.

“The economic impact could have been worse,” Romine said. “Now look at the mess we are in; we have inflation and supply chain issues.”

Welcome to Springfield sign Wide (Photo by Dean Curtis)
Welcome to Springfield sign. (Photo by Dean Curtis)

Hough noted his support for some of the measures Jefferson City implemented after COVID-related restrictions lapsed, but said he thinks they should not go in further in limiting local control, reiterating the same principles in his opinion on the role of school boards.

“In my opinion, that’s as far as that needs to go,” Hough said. “I think those decisions need to be made by the experts and they need to be made as close to the people as you can. There were ideas to require the legislature to approve decisions that were made at the local levels…so then you’re talking about calling us back for special sessions dealing with situations that are, quite frankly, fluid and fast-moving and need to be handled sometimes quickly.”

Hough said some of the new guardrails put in place by the state legislature were sufficient in ensuring decisions by health departments would require a stamp of approval from the local government body.

Crime, mental health — and where they meet

Community Crime map for June 8, 2022 to July 8, 2022. (Photo: www.communitycrimemap.com)

Crime is a recurring concern among voters in just about every election. While Missouri saw decreases in crimes against society, violent and property crimes in 2021, hate crimes, drug and alcohol and firearm-related crimes skyrocketed. That’s according to statistics from the Missouri State Highway Patrol, which collects crime data from all law enforcement agencies in the state.

Hough is a supporter of bolstering mental health services across the state as an avenue to prevent crime. Both as a senator and during his time as a Greene County Commissioner, Hough expressed the importance of the resources he’s helped allocate for mental health services across the state, notably the collaboration between Greene County and Burrell Behavioral Health in their adoption of a 24/7 Rapid Access Unit. 

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“When you’re lacking those [services] there are people who fall through the cracks and sometimes make poor decisions and lives are changed forever,” Hough said. “What I’ve always said is I don’t ever want someone who reaches out and says, ‘I need someone to talk to, I need a little bit of help here.’ I don’t ever want them to get a busy signal; I don’t want them to get put off and hear, ‘Well we can get you in next week sometime.’”

If elected, Romine would advocate for providing additional funding and support law enforcement agencies and ensure Missourians would be allowed to exercise their Second Amendment rights. 

“Unfortunately you cannot legislate evil out,” Romine said. “Assaults and murder are against the law, evil people keep doing those things. Hatred is evil and will cause people to do evil things…people seeking to commit evil acts are going to break the laws no matter what laws have been put in place.”

Gun laws

Small, lightweight handgun at Eagle Pawn & Jewelry. (Photo by Shannon Cay Bowers)

Despite some bipartisan support at the federal level for new gun restrictions, including Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt, both Hough and Romine expressed skepticism on whether or not some of its contents infringed on the Constitution.

The gun bill contains funding for states to improve mental health services via the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act. It also closes the boyfriend loophole (in which unmarried, convicted domestic abusers can still own guns), enhances background checks for younger gun purchasers and incentivizes states to implement “red flag” laws that would allow a judge to temporarily take away an individuals’ firearms based on the suspicion that they are a threat to themselves or others.

“I am not in favor of [red flag laws] because ultimately it goes against the Constitution and the Missouri Constitution,” Romine said. “… Now there are stipulations. For example, violent criminals can no longer have guns, and I do believe that because they have already shown the propensity to harm people.”

Romine also emphasized that “red flag” laws failed to provide the individual in question their right to due process.

Hough, on the other hand, while extremely dubious of “red flag” laws, is open to solutions.

“I think anytime you’re talking about taking away someone’s constitutional right there needs to be a really high threshold,” Hough said. “And I don’t know that the threshold of having one judge somewhere decide whether someone should be able to have a firearm or not until they can prove they are in a mental capacity to still have possession of that.”

However, Hough recalled how deeply distraught he felt dropping his 8-year-old son off on the last day of school, directly following the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. 

“I’m more than happy to work with anyone in any way to keep our kids, our neighborhoods and our communities safe,” Hough said.

Abortion

Gov. Mike Parson State of the State Address on July 27, 2021. (Photo: Springfield Chamber of Commerce)

While the Second Amendment remains protected in the U.S. Constitution, the right to an abortion is no longer. On June 24, the United States Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, and confusion and anger ensued. Minutes after the ruling, Missouri enacted a trigger law to prohibit nearly all abortions in the state. 

Despite early assurances by Gov. Mike Parson and Attorney General Eric Schmitt that Missouri’s trigger law does not apply to contraception or the Plan B “morning after” pill, the law is ambiguous to some and has already contributed to the chilling effect, a term used to describe the inhibition of a legal exercise of rights due to the fear of prosecution. 

“I’m a pro-life Republican, always have been,” Hough said. “Now, where this changes is when you start talking about contraception, and I think this is where some people are going to have an opinion that is different from mine, but I don’t think that we need to go further than we have already gone in the state.”

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Missouri invokes ‘trigger law’ to stop abortions following overturn of Roe v. Wade

On Friday, minutes after the Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade, Missouri’s attorney general issued an opinion that “triggers” a state law banning abortion. “With this attorney general opinion, my Office has effectively ended abortion in Missouri, becoming the first state in the country to do so following the court’s ruling,” Attorney General Eric…

Romine aligned similarly with Hough on birth control and contraception and ultimately said that the state should do more to protect life, including making adoption more affordable and enforcing child support dues be met. 

“We do need better solutions for those women who make the wrong choice,” Romine, who has been endorsed by the Missouri Right to Life organization. “…We should always err on the side of life; we cannot undo the outcome of an abortion.”

These were only a few of the many issues Missourians, Hough and Romine are concerned about, but nonetheless demonstrated their fervor to represent Springfield and bring their ideas to Jefferson City.

Either Hough and Romine may have the opportunity to put their words into action depending on the outcome of the election, reflecting how District 30 constituents feel on these same issues.

Voters that live in Missouri’s 30th Senatorial District and select a Republican ballot can decide between Angela Romine, Lincoln Hough, or a write-in candidate at their local precinct on August 2, before the winner will move on to face Democrat Raymond Lampert in the November general election.

Jack McGee

Jack McGee is a general assignment reporter at the Springfield Daily Citizen, with a focus on regional politics. McGee most recently worked at Carbon Trace Productions, a documentary film company, as a producer. He’s a Missouri State University graduate and former reporter at student-led newspaper The Standard. More by Jack McGee