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Fourth Congressional District: Lindsey Simmons

Party: Democratic

Opponent: U.S. Rep. Vicky Hartzler, R-Harrisonville

Residence: Hallsville

Occupation: Attorney

Education: Missouri Valley College, Harvard Law School

Previous political experience: Worked for former U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, former Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster and former U.S. Rep. Ike Skelton.

Family: Husband Chris, son Jace

What should Congress do to address calls for police reform?

So police reform is something that I think about quite often, my brother actually used to be a law enforcement officer and I am a trained attorney. I worked as a defense attorney for many years. And one of the cases that I worked on was for a very honorable man named Shawn Williams, who when he was a teenager was wrongfully accused of a murder that he did not commit. In fact, the detective on the case knew that my client was two states away during the time the murder took place, and went ahead and hid that evidence from trial, and then coerced the sole testifying eye witness to lie about our client to get him a conviction because she was under threat of her children being taken from her by this same police detective.

But the detective who did all of that work, forcing witnesses to lie on the stand, coercing them, hiding exculpatory evidence, that man is still walking around, receiving his pension. And that's largely a product of our lack of ability to prosecute him. So one of the things that Congress can absolutely do and must do is in qualified immunity. When a cop is a bad actor, and especially when they're obvious that actor, this detective I'm speaking about has done this in over 50 cases, and that person deserves to be prosecuted. And so ending qualified immunity, I think goes to the top of the list.

We also need to end mandatory minimums, which are incredibly racist, we need to ban the use of chokehold, we need to ban no-knock warrants, we need to make sure that we are demilitarizing the police. I am an army wife, my husband is currently deployed, he's in the military. When people in civilian communities are using the same equipment that he uses at war, that is a problem. And not only because of the fear that it brings into those communities, but also because soldiers are trained in a way that civilian law enforcement officers are not. And military members are subject to the UCMJ, a separate code of conduct that holds them accountable for using those weapons against civilians in an inappropriate way. And that is not the same for civilian law enforcement officers. And so we have so many of these discrepancies that make it less safe for civilians, but also make it less safe for law enforcement as well. And so I think that those just kind of skimming the surface are some of the big points that Congress can absolutely address.

Has the federal government's COVID-19 response been adequate? What could have been done differently?

No, it has not been adequate at all. There are a number of steps that should have been taken that could have been taken from the very beginning, starting at the very top with the leadership. We've heard recordings recently, in recent weeks, that the president of the United States knew how dangerous this virus was, but chose to present a very different picture to the American public. We know that people like Vicky Hartzler came out in February saying that the virus was under control when we're sitting here at the end of September and it obviously is not. Missouri itself has the third-highest -- for three days running now we have the highest rating of COVID-19 that we have had.

And so not only was it not under control in the beginning, it is still vastly out of control. And a big reason for that is one, at the outset, we did not have proper testing mechanisms. And by gutting the global pandemic response team, this administration left us without the resources we need to cut through the bureaucracy and get testing out to people in time because we had a lack of testing, we had a lack of an ability to contact trace and therefore contain the virus which is something that is incredibly necessary if we want COVID-19 to go away.

We were left without PPE for our frontline workers. There was a time when we didn't have enough ventilators in some hospitals across America. There was a time when there just weren't even enough tests for people who were severely affected by COVID-19. And sadly, that is still the case and far too many hospitals at far too many centers. We have a crisis at our schools now. We have a crisis at nursing homes. Crisis at our meatpacking plants and other industries are people are forced to work closely together. While people like Vicky Hartzler are writing bills that would give immunity, legal immunity to these meatpacking plants waiving all liability to them for not being able to provide a safe working environment for their employees.

On top of just our response and trying to handle the virus itself, our inability to do that has caused a tremendous economic crisis, that the economic problems that we have are a direct result of the administration's incompetence and handling the public health crisis. And that means that we now have people who are unemployed, millions of people who are unemployed, people facing evictions, people struggling to make ends meet. We have parents who are having to choose whether they need to go back to work to keep the roof over their head, or keep their children home from school because schools also are vastly underfunded, especially in the state of Missouri and don't have the resources needed to make sure those kids are actually safe. And so we have created an economic crisis, we've created an educational crisis, we've created a housing crisis, all because of our inability to properly respond to a public health crisis. And on top of that, and the small amount of relief that has come through the cares act, we know because of reports from inspectors general, especially from the Small Business Administration, that put out a report, noting that businesses in rural areas which definitely affects the state of Missouri, and businesses owned by women and people of color, disproportionately were denied or not able to receive the paycheck protection program funding.

Meanwhile, people who are wealthy and well connected, we're able to cut to the front of the line like Vicky Hartzler, who took almost half a million dollars in that funding while our businesses continue to struggle, while our frontline workers still don't have hazard pay, and when our kids are being sent to schools that are underfunded, and have not been able to get increased funding, because we have people in positions of power who don't want to give it additional funding to local and state governments. And our local governments need that funding. We need that help in our hospitals, our public health county officials, they need that assistance, and we just aren't doing it.

Has the economy under President Trump benefited working- and middle-class workers and families?

Oh, no, I do not think that this economy and has been working for working people even pre-COVID. I mean, it's certainly not working now. We are in one of the worst economic downturns that this country has ever had. And the reason again, this is so important, the reason that we are experiencing this economic crisis is due to the Trump administration, and to people in Congress like Vicky Hartzler, who refuse to step up and do the right thing because they're more interested in allegiance to a political party than an allegiance to the American people. And if we had had an appropriate response to COVID-19, we would not be experiencing the economic downturn that we are, people would not be unemployed, they would not be losing their houses, they would not be in danger when they go to the workplace.

Even before COVID-19, though, you had things passed by this administration, and by a Republican Congress, like the Trump tax cuts, which supposedly helped so many working people. This is of course a myth. What we know is that the effective corporate tax rate dropped by more than 40%, while the effective tax rate for working people dropped by 2.4%. And that tax cut for working people expires in just a few years, but the tax cut for corporations goes on in perpetuity. We know that the No. 1 metric that people use to try and continue this method (is that) the economy was so great before is the stock market. But the stock market only shows how stocks are trading. It only shows how people who own capital in this country are doing and the vast majority of working people, especially in the state of Missouri, do not own stocks. And so they have been struggling.

Our state, we have rural hospitals closing. We have rural school districts that were down to four days a week because we couldn't afford the fifth. We have people living in food deserts. We have an absence of rural broadband. We have huge economic problems in the state, predating COVID. COVID has merely exacerbated those problems. So the idea that working people were doing so well. You know, in the months leading up to COVID-19 becoming a horrible issue in this country, it is a myth, it is a profound myth.

Name three policy priorities for you if you win election.

So I get asked this question a lot, and I like to frame it more as values, like what are the values guiding me in making decisions about what needs to be done, because the No. 1 most important thing that we have to do is recover from COVID-19, recover from the public health crisis, recover from the economic crisis, the housing crisis, the employment crisis, the educational crisis ... and one of the worst places country has been in generations. And so there isn't one of those things that is necessarily more important than the others other than ending the public health crisis, because that is the underlying root cause of everything else.

And so, I think that the most important thing for us to do is No. 1, to focus on families. We need to be making policies that help working families, that help military families, that help farming families survive this crisis. And that means giving people additional subsidies so that they can make it through. That means expanding assistance to small businesses, including independent contractors and people who are self-employed, who were not really able to have that assistance the first time around. It means that we need to make sure our frontline workers have hazard pay, we need to take care of families. We need to make sure that we have fully funded and operable daycares for the exact same reason, we need to make sure that we are prioritizing the things that build better families that lead to better communities and really support economic growth and sustainability in our communities.

The second thing that we have to do is make sure that those policies are fair, they need to be fair for the American people. Right now, we have a number of policies that benefit the people at the top and screw over the rest of us. And that's really what I think the 2020 election is about. We need to make sure that the rest of us are getting the benefit of the deal. And we haven't been for a very long time. One great example of that comes in the form of the way that work is taxed in this country. Capital gains is a separate kind of tax bracket for people who make their money trading stocks, trading real estate, and not doing manual labor. Like these are people who make money by having something and selling it for a higher price. People who are taxed under the capital gains rates are taxed far lower than a janitor or then a soldier or than a teacher. If a person makes $40,000 in capital gains tax, it's possible that they pay 0%, whereas a person who works makes that same $40,000, could be taxed anywhere from 12% to 22%, depending on how they file. That is crazy. People should be taxed the same for the same amount of money that they make. It shouldn't matter where that income comes from.

We also need to make sure that the way that we put people in office is fair. We need to reform campaign financing laws, we have to make sure that the people who are elected are answering only to the people who actually elected them, and are not doing the bidding for companies and wealthy people and lobbyists who have the money to basically buy their seat in office, and one of the reasons that I do not accept any PAC donation, I only accept money from people.

And the third thing that is just really important to me as a military spouse is freedom. ... And that includes the freedom to pray, how you want to love who you want to live, how you want, to hunt healthy game, to breathe clean air, and it includes making sure that we are upholding and always trying to march forward in pursuit of the promises that this country espouses. And so that is how I look at crafting meaningful policies that will help people and stay true to the American values that we all share.

ABC 17 News Team


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