Democrat Chris Ruggles filed in late March to take on incumbent republican Brian Yates in the 56th Legislative District which includes the city of Lee’s Summit in Jackson County.
I had the opportunity on Thursday to spend some time talking to Democratic candidate Chris Ruggles in Lee’s Summit:
MB: So, Chris you’re running in the 56th Legislative District against Brian Yates [R].
Chris Ruggles: Yes.
MB: And what made you decide to run?
Chris Ruggles: I don’t like the way he is doing things for Missouri. For example, voting against veterans homes – was a big thing that I didn’t like.
MB: And so this is an actual vote where he…
Chris Ruggles: Yeah.
MB: …voted against establishing a veterans home or funding?
Chris Ruggles: Funding. It wasn’t even that. It was a vote to put on the ballot for us to vote if we wanted to have an eighth cent sales tax. So he didn’t even want the voters to vote for the veterans homes.
MB: So he wanted…so basically it was a vote to effectively kill funding for veterans homes.
Chris Ruggles: Yeah. Basically. That was one thing. Another thing is to…part of our goal is to get Democrats here in Jackson County elected and he has never had an opponent since 2002. And he’s been unchallenged since then….
….Basically, I don’t, I just don’t like the way he votes. And he doesn’t represent me and my views, so.
MB: Could you tell me a little bit about your background?
Chris Ruggles: I grew up here in Jackson County. I went to Fort Osage High School. I graduated in 2001. After that I went to the Navy. I was in the Navy for about three years. I was stationed in San Diego. I did search and rescue. And then I was sent to Hawaii and I was stationed in Hawaii about a year. And I was in a motorcycle accident that paralyzed my right arm…I was discharged after that…I’ve been going to school since then.
I was an Eagle Scout. I did Boy Scouts all through middle school and high school….We were always out in the community…I’m a member of Crown Point Church…
MB: So you come to politics…what actually brought you to your interest in politics?
Chris Ruggles: Ironically, it was Joe. He said, I had him as a professor about, a few years ago, he said, “If you don’t like the way things are going get involved and change things.” And so that’s what I intend to do. So that’s how I got involved.
MB: What do you see as the challenges of the Missouri General Assembly and ways to solve some of those challenges?
Chris Ruggles: Well hopefully it’ll be easier once we get a Democratic majority elected, so. That’s a big challenge. I think that we’re having a hard time passing good bills. I don’t know if you’ve, I’m sure you have, looked over some of the bills that they’ve passed. But, the ice cream. [laughter] And that’s kind of ridiculous. [laughter]
MB: Though, though it’s hard to be against ice cream.
Chris Ruggles: Yeah, okay.
MB: There are other priorities…
Chris Ruggles: Yeah, exactly.
MB: …a little more pressing. What do you see as some of the priorities?
Chris Ruggles: My priorities that I would like to have passed is getting all the people that were cut off of Medicaid back on. Because…I kind of understand why he did that because, I can and I can’t, because he wanted, he said he wanted to get the fraudulent providers off, but I don’t think there was that many to begin with. And so, there’s just too many people, good people, that were affected by that. And, and I know a lot of them. College students. Disabled people…and an elderly friend of mine…was cut off of it.
MB: And how did that affect, how did that affect that person’s life?
Chris Ruggles: Very drastically. She’s having a hard time. She has a terminal disease and so she can’t work. And so, it, it drastically affected her. Because she is, she’s on a fixed income…and she can’t afford all those hospital bills. And so it really, it really hurt her.
MB: Other than Medicaid, what, what other things are priorities for you, things that need to be addressed?
Chris Ruggles: The fact that they made MOHELA just a big empty shell. And there’s nothing in that anymore – is a big problem. I think there’s a big problem when in-state tuition is, for Missouri, are higher that out-of-state tuitions. And I think that we’re going to end up losing a lot of quality people to colleges out of state. And, in turn, lose a lot of jobs because most likely they’re not going to come back to Missouri. I think that’s a big problem, too.
MB: Your, your opponent, you’ve alluded to the fact that he hasn’t had challengers before. He’s well funded? You have an idea where his money comes from?
Chris Ruggles: Lawyers. Insurance companies. Just basically things like that. I think he’s actually getting a lot of money from fitness clubs, because if you look at his bills, he’s sponsoring a lot of things for fitness clubs basically. [laughter]….
…MB: In a sense it’s sort of like special interest legislation?
Chris Ruggles: Yeah, basically. That’s all he’s doing I think.
MB: As you’ve started this campaign, you, you filed relatively late…
Chris Ruggles: Yeah.
MB: …You’ve been, you’ve been getting people that have come on board and decided to help you out. And you’re, you’re planning on a grassroots campaign.
Chris Ruggles: Yeah, pretty much. We don’t have a lot of money like he does and therefore we can’t do a lot of things that he can do. So basically, our, the way that I’m going about it is the grassroots campaign. Knocking on doors. Making phone calls. Getting out and talking to people instead of spending ten thousand dollars on a mailers and things like that, so. I just can’t afford things like that.
MB: But, and over time, that kind of thing will kick in to, to an extent.
Chris Ruggles: Yeah, yeah.
MB: So, what kind of reactions are you getting door to door.
Chris Ruggles: Pretty positive. A lot of people don’t like his policies…People are fed up with the economy and the way it’s going. They don’t like paying a hundred dollars at the pump every time they go fill up their vehicle, so. I think the economy is a big issue for most people. And he hasn’t done anything to address that.
MB: Are people aware of his record when you go door to door?
Chris Ruggles: Most of them are not.
MB: So, when you’re dealing with them door to door, you’re talking with people as you go door to door, are you educating them about his, his record and how you’re different?
Chris Ruggles: Yes.
MB: So you go through the process…
Chris Ruggles: Yes.
MB: …and they receive that pretty well?
Chris Ruggles: Pretty well, yeah. I tell them he’s voted for…vouchers in 2007. He voted for allowing uncertified teachers to teach in Missouri.
MB: And, and in this district they very much want to support public education.
Chris Ruggles: Yeah. I think educ…the schools here in Lee’s Summit are why a lot of people move to Lee’s Summit, because they’re probably the best schools in the state I think. So that’s why I think t
hat lee’s Summit has grown exponentially in the last couple of years, so.
MB: So, so things are, the economy and support for public education…
Chris Ruggles: Yeah.
MB: …are big issues. Anything else that people have brought up to you that are concerns for them?
Chris Ruggles: Outsourcing of jobs.
Chris Ruggles: Yeah. There’s a few people that were pretty concerned about that.
MB: There’s not a heck of a lot that the Missouri general Assembly can do about that.
Chris Ruggles: Yeah, exactly, so. I try to tell them that I’ll do the best I can…Pretty much the main worries of people, number one, the economy. Number two, it’s a split between health care and education….
…MB: What kind of support do you feel you’re getting from the Democratic establishment, Democratic activists? Do you feel good about that?
Chris Ruggles: Yeah…They’re starting to come around and help me out. With flyers, like this, donor lists, not too many volunteers yet…
MB: Volunteers are a hard part of every campaign.
Chris Ruggles: Yeah, yeah. It’s a job no one wants to do.
MB: Are you finding that you’re learning more about fundraising, how to make things work? You see that that will pick up?
Chris Ruggles: I’m actually planning a fundraiser for the weekend after labor day. We’re going to do a five K run, that’s going to be called “Running with Ruggles.” So, hopefully we’ll get a lot of name recognition with that, and a lot of, hopefully, raise some money with that, too…
MB: …Before you decided to run were you ever this deeply involved in campaigning?
Chris Ruggles: I was in, once I started, once I got into college. Before that, when I was in the Navy, no. When I was in high school, no.
MB: …From your perspective now, just the experience from filing to now, how are things different in your perception.
Chris Ruggles: It’s a lot of work. You never realize how much work it is until you actually get down in the dirt and do it. It’s definitely a lot of work. But, again, at the same time, there’s, there’s a lot of rewards. The networking is just amazing. Just meeting people and getting out and saying, “Hey, I’m running for state representative,” and just getting their reaction is pretty amazing, so. It’s definitely been a pretty unique learning experience…
…A lot of people don’t realize how much state politics affects them until you get out and say, “This is what we do,” things like that, and I think the finally realize how important state politics are…
Let’s look at some of that fitness club legislation on the part of republican Representative Brian Yates:
Yep, it’s there.
Okay, let’s look at Brian Yates’ (r) first quarter 2008 campaign finance report filed with the Missouri Ethics Commission on April 15th:
Yeah, you can just feel that grassroots fever.
Hmm. republican Brian Yates has placed his bets. His committee maxed out to some republican state wide candidates. I wonder if they’re all friends? You think?
Now that Chris Ruggles is running in the 56th it looks like Brian Yates’ committee will probably have to spend a little more money close to home and a little less money on republican candidates elsewhere. That’s a very good thing.
Chris Ruggles is going to run a hard charging campaign, with or without money. If he gets some money it’ll be a little easier for him. You all know what to do.