State Rep. Greg Razer is running unopposed in his reelection bid for the 25th House district seat. The freshman Democrat presently comprises 1/2 of the Missouri LGBT Caucus in the state legislature, along with Republican State Rep. Tom Hannegan from St. Charles.

 

Prior to his legislative duties, the Mizzou graduate was a Field Organizer for PROMO, Missouri's statewide LGBTQ advocacy organization, and Deputy Regional Director for U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill from 2008-2016. 

 

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

  GregRazer5

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

 

I represent the 25th House district in Kansas City. For those familiar with the city, the 25th district includes the Country Club Plaza, Brookside, Waldo, and parts of South Kansas City.

 

A smart politician once said there are only two ways to run a race: run scared or run unopposed. You're doing the latter. What's the campaign trail look like?

 

Running unopposed has allowed me to free up my time to work for other candidates in the area. I have spent a lot of time working to help re-elected Claire McCaskill, not to mention various local candidates. Having said that, I'm still making sure I talk with my constituents. I host town hall meetings, coffees, and happy hours on a regular basis. I enjoy talking with voters in relaxed environments - I find that's how the best discussions occur.

 

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 has your experience been as an out politician and how do you use that platform?

 

The experience has actually been quite good. I haven't experienced any backlash. In fact, it's been the opposite. I enjoy the work of legislating and working with members from around the state and on both sides of the aisle. I have worked hard to find solutions not only to issues facing our urban areas, but also in our rural communities. That has led to what some reading this may consider unexpected friendships and alliances. After building a bond and trust on various issues, legislators find that they like and can trust me. That has led to numerous, private conversations about LGBT issues. Rural Republican legislators may pull me aside and say, "Greg, would you help me understand something? I think I get being gay or lesbian...but I just don't understand this transgender issue..." Because of relationships I've built, these legislators are now searching me out and are trying to learn in an honest and frank way. What your readers see publicly is important, but these sorts of conversations behind the scenes may be even more beneficial in the long run.

  BoomVote18blue

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 with the current partisan makeup in Jeff City. How do you view your role as a progressive Democrat?

 

The role can vary depending on the situation. As a progressive, sometimes our role is to try to block bad and dangerous right wing ideas from becoming law. Sometimes it's to point out during debate the hypocrisy of the right wing ideas. However, ultimately I view the role as a progressive in Jefferson City as someone who is there to give Missourians a better choice. While the right wing refuses to end discrimination against LGBT people, we're there to stand up for all Missourians. While the right wing fights to take access to healthcare away from Missourians, we're there to ensure everyone has safe and affordable care. While the right wing works to pass legislation to allow guns everywhere (schools, colleges, bars, public buildings, etc), we're there to fight for sensible gun control measures. Missouri needs and deserves common sense progressive values in our state government, and that's what we're there to give.

 

You'll again be introducing the Missouri Nondiscrimination Act, which would protect LGBTQ Missourians from discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodation. I've heard from several folks over the past few years that the votes are actually there to pass in both chambers; that it's just a matter of getting the legislation to the floor for a vote. Do you think that's the case? If so what can be done to compel the leadership to give MONA a vote?

  GregRazer3

This will be the 21st consecutive year MONA has been introduced. Including my time working from PROMO, I personally have been fighting to pass this legislation since 2004. Do I think we now have the votes in the House to pass it? Yes. What we need is for Missourians who support the legislation to reach out to officials in Jefferson City and voice their support. After I file the bill it's then up to incoming House Speaker Elijah Hahr to assign it to committee. The quicker he does that the better. People around the state can reach out to his office and encourage him to "get MONA to committee". Then we need citizens to call their legislators and express support for the bill. Here's the problem though, most of the people reading this are already represented by pro-LGBT members. So how do we reach suburban and rural legislators? I suspect many of you are like me - you grew up in rural Missouri.You have friends and family who are still there. We need to encourage our friends and family to reach out to their legislator. That suburban or rural legislator needs to hear from his/her constituent. They need to know that someone in their own district cares about LGBT issues, and is watching their vote on MONA. Only when those two things begin to happen will we see movement, because now these legislators are only hearing from the extreme right wing in their district when it comes to our issues. Let's change that.

 

Let's talk about some other issues of importance to our readers. Crime is a major concern in the metropolitan areas. What's your plan to address it?

 

This is obviously a major problem in Missouri, and the full answer would be far too long for this article - so let me focus my answer to guns. We must find a away to curb violent gun crimes in our state. One way of doing this is working to get guns out of the hands of known violent criminals. However, under Missouri law we provide criminals a loophole that allows them to purchase firearms. In our state, if one individual wants to sell a weapon to another all they have to do is meet up, exchange money, and walk away - no background check required. I have filed legislation that would require the two individuals to simply go to a licensed firearm dealer, have a background check run, and give the peace of mind that one responsible gun owner is selling to another responsible gun owner (or at least the best we can tell). This idea isn't radical, it won't infringe on anyone's 2nd Amendment rights. It's also not the ultimate answer to our gun and crime problem. However, it is one step in the right direction. The bill failed in committee along party line votes last session, but I look forward to continuing the debate this year.

  GregRazer1

Student Loan debt?

 

Up until the 1860's, college was viewed as something that was only attainable to the wealthy and elites. That changed thanks to President Lincoln in the midst of the Civil War when he successfully passed legislation that helped make college possible for all Americans.  That has been a point of pride in our country ever since. However, that is quickly beginning to change. In state after state we are seeing the proportion of our college/university budgets shift from being predominately state funded, to tuition based. In Missouri, state funding was the primary source of money for our colleges, while tuition helped fill the gaps. However, starting in 2003 we began to see the gap between state funding to tuition funding close. Today our colleges are funded by students (and student loans), with the state filling the gaps. What does that mean for student loans? Well, instead of all 6 million Missourians (and our businesses) chipping in to help fund our colleges and universities, we're putting that burden directly on the backs of students. We have to flip this trend if we ever want to bring down the massive student loan debt that students are now forced to carry. (Also, not coincidentally, the gap that began to close here in Missouri in 2003 was the same year Republicans took control of government in Jefferson City.)

 

Access to healthcare for Missourians?

 

Let me be blunt - expanded access to healthcare in Missouri is not going to happen anytime soon so long as the Republican party is in charge. While other, more conservative states have successfully expanded Medicaid, our legislators have dug in their heels and refused to even debate the issue. In the long term we need new leadership in Jefferson City. In the short term, we have to make sure we are electing officials to send to Washington who commit and have a proven track record on supporting access to quality, affordable care - people like Claire McCaskill.

  GregRazer4

Increasing the minimum wage to a living wage?

 

A minimum wage increase is on the ballot this November. It will raise the minimum wage by $0.85 every year until it hits $12 per hour. This issues is squarely in your hands - the hands of the voters of Missouri. If you support an increase in the minimum wage, then don't stay home on November 6th...get out there and vote!

 

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 am a firm believer in the separation of church and state. If a religious institution is free to discriminate all they want - so long as they are not taking money from the government. Once they accept money from the state we get to have a say on how that money is spent, and what standards we expect. We saw this issue rear its ugly head just this past year in Kansas. By a narrow vote, their legislators are now giving taxpayer dollars to religiously affiliated adoption agency who can discriminate against LGBT individuals and couples. If the organization wants to discriminate, fine - just don't take my tax dollars. But if you want my tax dollars there must be rules to be followed.

 

Presently we have two openly gay members in the state legislature. That number could grow considerably this year if the political winds blow just right. What advice would you give to any or all of these LGBTQ freshmen if elected to join your caucus?

 

First and foremost, be yourself.  People can see through phoniness, but people appreciate authenticity. Also, find issues you are passionate about that will force you to cross the aisle and build relationships with people of the opposite party. Democrats and Republicans alike too often silo ourselves - go out and be willing to work with someone who is not like you. Work on an issue that people wouldn't expect the LGBT person to care about. Build respect and trust amongst the other members and you'll find success.

 

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

 

The same thing everyone is concerned about - the economy, schools, healthcare.  Ultimately I think people see that it's time we once again invest in ourselves. That includes our schools, our infrastructure, and the health and well being of our people.

  GregRazerWindow

Voter turnout will be key in this election. Talk to our readers, especially the younger readers, about the importance of one person, one vote.

 

We often hear politicians talk about the importance of your one vote. Let me tell you about what happens when you don't vote. Let's say you're reading this article in a bar. Look around and maybe you see a couple dozen people enjoying a happy hour drink the day after election day. You didn't vote because, well, like you've said a hundred times, "my one vote doesn't really matter". However, it's quite likely that someone in Missouri a school board member will be elected by one vote. Maybe it's your district, and because you didn't swing by and vote there's now a homophobe on your school board instead of that nice lady that knocked on your door. Worse yet, not only did you not vote but neither did the 24 other people sitting in the bar with you. You all stayed home and the pro-LGBT candidate lost by 23 votes. That's absolutely possible. Still worse, those of you at the bar stayed home just like the people at the bar across the street...and the bar on the other side of the state. Let's say you and 20,000 LGBT voters in Missouri just don't bother to vote. It's the day after election day and you feel like Trump has been vindicated because now his buddy Josh Hawley (a man who takes money from anti-gay bigots) has narrowly beaten Claire McCaskill by 16,000 votes. This is possible...these kind of vote totals and narrow margins happen. You can make a difference, but only if you...and the person sitting next to you...and your friend across town...and your buddy across the state all get up and vote on November 6th.  It's ultimately up to you.

 

Any final thoughts?

 

Vote.  Vote on November 6th. But don't stop there...follow what's happening in Jefferson City. Reach out to your elected official and invite them to have a drink with you. Get to know who represents you, and how you can help make our state a better place for everyone. With the smallest bit of effort you'll be surprised at how accessible your government really is...try it.

 

"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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