Lisa Buhr, the Democratic contender for the Missouri House of Representatives District 49 seat, said she wants to use her experience as a state employee and legislative assistant to prioritize labor and increasing state worker pay.
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"I've seen firsthand the process and the people that participate in the process now, and I know that I can do a better job," Buhr said.
Buhr has worked as a legislative assistant for about five years and as a state employee for the past 18 years. She said her time as an assistant has given her experience with several areas while working under three representatives: Michael Frame, a union pipe-fitter; Jeremy LaFaver, a children's advocate; and Greg Razor, who prioritizes transportation.
Missouri is ranked last in average state employee pay, and Buhr said her own experience as a single mother working for the state shows change is necessary.
"If you work for the state, I don't feel that you should have to live in poverty," Buhr said. "And in my 20 years, almost, I don't even make $30,000 a year. And I have three children. I have to work two and three jobs to make ends meet, and it shouldn't be that way."
Buhr works a second job cleaning houses for around 10 hours a week and dropped her third job as a waitress to start her campaign.
Another focus for Buhr, if elected, would be to prevent or undo legislation she said could hurt labor, including prevailing wage, paycheck protection and right to work.
"My family is third-generation union — my grandfather, my dad, my brother," Buhr said. "I grew up in a union house. I had insurance; I didn't have to worry about a lot of things that people right now have to worry about."
Buhr believes legislators are pushing measures unpopular with workers and not recognizing the issues Missourians face, such as rising costs and stagnant wages.
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"We need people there in the Capitol that know what it's like to hurt and to struggle," Buhr said. "Because it seems like maybe our Legislature doesn't know or doesn't pay attention to the people that they represent, because there's a lot of people in Missouri who are hurting right now."
Buhr acknowledged the district has a history of voting Republican, with Fitzwater taking 62 percent of the vote in 2014 and running unopposed in 2016, but said she hopes to reverse the trend with "boots on the ground" and interacting with voters.
She said she's lived in the district for 10 years and visited her grandmother's home in Holts Summit often while growing up in Jefferson City. She volunteers at the Fulton Soup Kitchen, helps at her church's food pantry when possible, and is active with her daughter in Girl Scouts.
House District 49 covers the southern half of Callaway County, including Fulton, Holts Summit, Kingdom City, New Bloomfield and Mokane, and a small portion of Cole County.