Democrat Patrice Billings is waging a grassroots campaign to bring new leadership to Jefferson City as the next state senator from Missouri's second district on Nov. 6th.  

 

A retired 28+ year veteran of the St. Louis County Police Department, Billings is a proven barrier-breaker having been the first female police officer in the country to become a helicopter pilot for a law enforcement agency and earned a Purple Heart for her heroic achievements. She is now a small business owner who co-owns Butterfly & Moon in historic St. Charles.

 

#Boom recently interviewed Billings as part of our "OUT on the Trail" series profiling Missouri and Illinois’ LGBTQ+ candidates in 2018.

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Tell us about your district; where is it, what does it include?

 

Senate District 2 encompasses the western half of St. Charles County. It includes St. Charles Community College on its eastern boundary and covers everything to the Warren County line to the west, the Lincoln County line to the north and south to wine country, including Augusta and Defiance. There are 15 cities, towns and/or unincorporated areas within the district including the two fastest growing cities in the state, Wentzville and O’Fallon. The demographics have changed rapidly over the last few years and fortunately we are seeing a more diverse population move to the area. Presently we have the largest population of any state senate district. I have lived in this district for 33 years.

 

What was the catalyst for you getting into this race?

 

Most of our conservative legislators have been running unopposed in St. Charles County for many election cycles. I could no longer sit idly by and watch while their ultra-conservative policies and agendas continue to harm our citizens and in particular our working families. I am stepping up to begin changing the balance of power in this state and to bring fresh, progressive values and ideas to our government. Our citizens need someone who will truly listen and be a voice to speak for them.

 

There are a record breaking six openly LGBTQ candidates running for the state legislature in Missouri in November. State Sen. Jolie Justus famously said, "If you don't have a seat at the table - you're probably on the menu." What are your thoughts on having out representation in Jefferson City and how do you plan to use that platform?

 

Representation by out, gay law makers is imperative. I strongly feel that our elected officials must get to know us personally, as equals, in order to change the culture of bias in our own state government. We’ll push past any rigid resistance to change by initiating legislation where we can to become an inclusive state which extends protections to our fellow LGBTQ citizens. Sharing personal stories of challenges faced as a result of discriminatory and harmful legislation and attitudes will be part of the message. I have been extensively trained by the nationally-known Victory Institute out of Washington, DC, which promotes LGBTQ candidates.

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Women's rights, voting rights, and of course, LGBTQ rights have been under attack in Missouri for some years now. We all know this is an uphill fight. But where do we start?

 

Dialogue, dialogue, dialogue! We’ll continue to speak up and speak out about all of these issues. I personally believe that our state has been losing population and is having a difficult time attracting new business and innovative industries because we are culturally and legally discriminatory. I see a future where we will be able to change the minds, hearts and attitudes of the staunchest opponents. The extremist attitudes in our government will only change when we start electing those leaders who wish to serve the people of this state, not special interests, and who will endeavor to embrace diversity and fight to restore rights that are continually being eroded. We need those leaders in our state to start running for office. I consider myself one of those leaders.

 

Let's talk about some other issues of importance to our readers. Crime is a major concern in the metropolitan area. As a 28-plus year veteran of the St. Louis County Police Department I'm sure you have some thoughts on this?

 

Crime increases where poverty and lack of jobs exist. Until we address the roots of poverty and break multi-generational economic challenges, we will continue to see high crime levels. Job training programs and better transportation options are part of the solution.We can study other regions whose innovative and progressive ideas have led to a significant reduction in crimes against persons, property crimes and juvenile crimes. Community leaders and citizen groups working together with local law enforcement can adapt and integrate best practices. Assessing what works and what is sustainable can guide future implementation of innovative police-community relations ideas.

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Student Loan debt?

 

I propose we reinvest in higher education in Missouri.  Defunding has become part of the cycle of high student loan debt. When we decrease funding to our colleges and universities tuitions typically rise forcing more long-term debt onto our students. I’d like to see more awareness around MOHELA, our state’s Higher Education Loan Authority. They have been around for decades and provide excellent student loan services. I’d also like to see us crack down on private schools that prey upon students with predatory lending practices which saddle them with unfair or exorbitant loan terms.

 

Access to healthcare for Missourians?

 

When we expand Medicaid to its fullest extent under ACA that will enable us to insure hundreds of thousands more Missourians who are unable to afford the healthcare they critically deserve. Not only would expansion help reduce our uninsured rate, but it would also improve health outcomes and subsequently facilitate employment. Most of the funding would fall to the federal government and with off-sets our state may only be liable for 3 to 4 % of the cost. It’s a win-win. Our current super-majority in Jefferson City won’t even entertain the idea because they are intent on abolishing ACA, purely for spiteful reasons.

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Equality advocates in Missouri find themselves playing more and more defense when it comes to LGBTQ rights. What are your thoughts on the Religious Freedom legislation allowing discrimination based on religious objections that is being introduced around the country?

 

I believe now, more than ever, we must be vigilant in resisting trends that lead our state governments, and more to the point, our democracy, toward a theocracy. Our Founding Fathers specifically warned against fusing religion with government. We must eliminate the trend of discriminatory and other laws being passed using religion instead of the Constitution. We have people of all faiths in this state and in this country and all of us should be wary of allowing the entrenchment of one particular faith over all others influencing our public policies and laws.

 

When speaking to voters in your district, what are the top issues they want to talk to you about?

 

I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and talking to literally thousands of individuals in my district while out knocking on doors. The overriding issues that concern them are lack of funding for public schools and early childhood development programs, sensible gun safety regulations and the threat of their healthcare choices and health insurance options being taken away from them. I’ve also heard a great deal about how tired people have become with the extremism in our state government, both politically and with regard to religious conservativism becoming pervasive in law making.

 

People want to elect those who will listen to them on these important topics and be a voice for them in Jefferson City.

 

We'll likely know the fate of Brett Kavanaugh by the time this is published but I'm interested in your thoughts on the #MeToo movement in general and what's happening with it around the country. As a barrier breaker in the police department I'd imagine you have a unique perspective on the issue.

 

The perspective of a woman affected by sexual assault or sexual harassment is almost all of us. It is a crime that is devastating, life altering and is a  haunting experience. I know of very few women who haven’t experienced either an assault or harassment, usually at the hands of someone they knew and trusted. The “movement” is coming at the same time that women are stepping up and stepping into their own power. Many of these women are using their strength to run for office, lead boardrooms, shatter glass ceilings, and even more importantly, call out the men who victimized them earlier in their lives. There’s a lot of support for women pouring forth right now. With that support, women find that speaking one’s truth is a powerful part of healing. Also, and just as importantly, women who have been victims of sexual assault and/or harassment need to know that someone hears them and believes them when they recount their experiences. Women should always be made to feel safe coming forward knowing that they are not telling their stories in vain.

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Over the years I’ve been privileged to have been involved with organizations that advance women’s issues, both locally and globally. I was a member of the Board of Directors for Safe Connections here in St Louis for many years. It is an organization that has been around for decades and offers counseling and support for survivors of domestic abuse and sexual violence. They also operate a 24-hour help line. Those services are invaluable in our community and help so many people, but one of the best programs they’ve developed revolves around educating boys and young men in our public schools and on college campuses on how to keep relationships safe and free from control. Those are the exact skills that must be taught and learned if we hope to, one day, eliminate sexual assaults against women. Until that happens there will always be a need for a collective efforts to bring awareness to the issue and demand an end to control and violence against women. #MeToo

 

Voter turnout will be key for a Billings victory. Talk to our readers, especially the younger readers, about the importance of one person, one vote.

 

The slogan one person, one vote refers to the rule, under the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution, that the power of one person’s vote should be equal to another person’s vote within one’s state. That’s why it’s hugely important to have fair and equitable legislative districts of roughly the same population size drawn after censuses. If those districts are allowed to be gerrymandered then voting power is skewed to benefit one voting bloc or group of people over another, usually to the detriment of a minority group of people.

 

As most Missourians should know by now there will be a chance to vote on Amendment 1, also known as CLEAN Missouri, in November. Among other political ethics reform items it will include a change as to how state legislative districts are drawn after each census and by whom; in this case by a non-partisan state demographer who would try to ensure partisan fairness or voting fairness in each district.

 

I will be voting in favor of Amendment 1.

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Any final thoughts?

 

My campaign is part of a national trend of first-time female candidates running for office who have a military or law enforcement background. And, we are seeing more women run for local and federal offices in historic numbers. Women can bring balance and fresh perspectives. Recent interviews with me airing on NPR and local public radio, helped attract the attention of the BBC, coming to Missouri from Washington, DC, for a look at how some of the “red” counties are close to flipping to “blue”, ie Democratic, and will be interviewing me as part of the grassroots movement to replace some of the conservative incumbents.

 

I’ve been told that my opponent is very vulnerable to a challenger like myself.  I’m humbled by all the media attention, the endorsements from more than 25 groups and organizations, and the support and mentorship by current legislators such as State Sen. Gina Walsh and State Rep. Deb Lavender. The memberships of groups such as PROMO, EMILY’s LIST, Sierra Club, Mobilize Missouri, National Women’s Political Caucus, as well as several union groups: AFL-CIO, IBEW, SIEU, Pipefitters, and many others, lead us to believe we have a real shot of winning on Nov. 6. But we will only win if everyone gets out to vote. We invite new followers on social media @Billings4Senate or on Facebook. I have a channel on YouTube linked to www.BillingsforSenate.com

 

 

"OUT on the Trail" is an ongoing series of profiles on out LGBTQ candidates in 2018. Check out our interviews with Kathy EllisTom HanneganMitch WeberIan MackeyPatrice BillingsGreg Razer , Ryan DillonMaggie TrevorGreg HarrisKelly Cassidy and Lamont Robinson.    

 

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