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The News Tribune reports on elections to equip community members with the tools they need to participate in democracy. That includes sharing candidates' positions on important issues and making information about the voting process accessible. For full coverage of local candidates in the November 2020 election, visit newstribune.com/election

Two candidates are vying for the open House District 62 seat in the Missouri House of Representatives.

Democrat Nancy J. Ragan and Republican Bruce Sassmann are running for the seat left open by Rep. Tom Hurst, R-Meta, due to term limits.

Because of its rural makeup, District 62 is geographically among the largest districts in Central Missouri, touching on seven counties. It takes up the southeastern corner of Cole County, southern Osage and Gasconade counties, the northeastern corner of Miller County, all of Maries County, and the extreme northwestern corners of Phelps and Crawford counties.

Ragan grew up in Maries County on a family farm and joined the U.S. Navy after high school. Since returning to Missouri in 1997, she has worked as a mechanic and industrial electrician and operated her own small business for three years. In 2007, she bought a farm in Maries County and started raising cattle, while working full time in other jobs. Currently, Ragan works for Quaker Windows and lives in Vienna.

Sassmann has lived in the area his entire life, currently in Osage County. He is a retired funeral director, store owner and entrepreneur with a varied professional background. During his career, Sassmann has held an insurance license, securities licence, real estate and broker's license and a pesticide applicator's license, as well as being a licensed funeral director and embalmer. He was also previously a mayor and city alderman in his hometown of Bland.

Ragan said she decided to run for the House seat because she wants to see more "average people" representing the public.

"I think that the people are not represented," Ragan said. "Most people are just average people. I think it's time that just average people run for office to represent average people, instead of the extreme views."

Ragan said it is important for representatives to be willing to work with others.

Sassmann said he is running for office because he can make a difference in the position.

Important issues to Sassmann include defending the Second Amendment and supporting anti-abortion legislation.

Sassmann also places importance in increasing rural broadband access and increasing funding for vocational and technical training.

"As a representative of the 62nd Legislative District, I will work to find the balance of progress and economic development with the protection of our rural lifestyles," Sassmann said.

In light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, one of Ragan's priorities also is expanding broadband internet in rural areas of the state.

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With many people working from home and children doing online schooling, some internet services aren't equipped to handle the work load.

"In view of the pandemic, in the rural areas broadband internet would be a really handy thing to have, and we don't have it," Ragan said. "There's kids going to school right now that have people at home at risk, but they're going to school because they're not going to get an education if they stay at home."

Ragan also wants to see public education well funded and said some residents have expressed dissatisfaction with the education their children are receiving.

"My interest from the get-go was what I see as a defunding of public education," she said. "We need public education. This country had that from the very beginning, and that's part of what allowed our people to become educated."

Other issues of importance to Ragan are affordable access to health care, vocational training and supporting family farmers in Missouri.

Sassmann said one of the greatest challenges facing the state is a balance of public services with public resources.

"The public and private sectors argue about the differences between wants and needs," Sassmann said. "Recognizing the difference between special interest and public good will continue to be a historic controversy."

Sassmann defeated two other Republican candidates in the primary election, earning 40 percent of the vote over Tom Reed and Chris Beyer.

Ragan was unopposed in the primary for the Democratic nomination.

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