Tom Barr and Darin Chappell candidates for Missouri House District 137
The two Republicans vying for House District 137 have both served in government for years. Now they want to travel to Jefferson City to represent residents of Fair Grove, Strafford and communities east of Springfield in Greene County.
Darin Chappell has worked as a city administrator for three southwestern Missouri towns, lectured on the U.S. Constitution, and appeared as a guest on conservative radio shows. Tom Barr is currently an elected clerk of the Greene County Circuit Court and founded a Springfield-based direct mail company.
In the absence of a Democratic nomination, the winner of the GOP primary will continue to serve the district, which is currently represented by Marshfield Republican Rep. John Black. A redesigned house map incorporating new census data separated part of Webster County into another district.
Barr, born in New York and a resident of the county for more than 30 years, centers his campaign on “streamlining” government services and resident access. During his tenure as circuit clerk, the court’s website was redesigned, online capabilities were enhanced, and the ticket hearing system was streamlined. Prior to his election, he founded Ozark Mailing Service, which he sold in 2010.
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“It may be corny, but I really think Springfield definitely provided me with the American dream,” Barr said in an interview. “We grew the business, we did well, and that’s really why I do public service. It’s to repay Springfield and Greene County for the wonderful opportunity they gave me.”
Chappell, whose family has lived in the area for nine generations, taught government and finance courses at Missouri State University for five years before moving into city management. He has also served as a minister in the Church of Christ and teaches Bible classes twice a week. Chappell is focusing on his experience with budgets and administration, as well as his passion for the Constitution, in his bid for a seat in the House. He first asked to run in a district of Springfield House before changing to the Eastern District of Greene County after the redesigned map was released.
“In my entire tenure in the three cities, I never once had a budget in the red and I never once advocated for a tax increase,” he said in an interview. . “I just took disposable income and ran the city in a conservative way. And I found that conservative government works every time we try it.”
The News-Leader asked both candidates about their positions on important policy issues. Here’s how they responded. (Questions and answers may be edited for length and clarity.)
Abortion is now prohibited in Missouri under all circumstances except for medical emergencies under the state’s trigger law. Are you happy with the state abortion laws?
Tom Bar: I am 100% behind the current law as it is. I am proud to have been endorsed by Missouri Right to Life, I am 100% pro-life and believe that life begins at conception and therefore I support the current law.
Darin Chappell: Right now, I see Missouri prominently. I am 100% pro-life, I believe life begins at conception, and I believe those lives are precious and worth protecting. And the legislator did.
Gun laws in Missouri – they are very lenient, which has been a priority for Republicans. What is your position on the current laws and are there any other laws you would like to see on this?
Chappell: Well, I served in the army, I was in the navy and the reserves of the American army. I come from a long line of military families…so to suggest I’m pro-gun is an understatement.
I am a big supporter of the second amendment and our gun rights, I believe in responsible ownership. And I think the responsibility rests on the shoulders of those individuals who own and use guns. But that’s freedom, isn’t it? You have to let people be able to do, even if they don’t do as well as you would like them to.
steer: I support SAPA (the “Second Amendment Preservation Act, a 2021 state law that seeks to overturn federal gun laws). But I would also like to continue, as I have done in my campaign, talking to law enforcement because I don’t want anything to happen to them in terms of the danger.
The Medicaid expansion is expected to receive funding this year, but many Republicans in Jefferson City have opposed it. Are you satisfied with this result?
steer: I think the voters approved it, the Supreme Court weighed in on it, so yes I am. I agree with where we are now.
Chappell: I am in favor of a safety net for those who cannot fend for themselves, but I oppose the use of this safety net for those who could fend for themselves but who, for whatever reason, chose not to. And I think this expansion of Medicaid has opened the door so slightly for people who just don’t want to support themselves to be able to use the program in a way that Medicaid was never intended to be seen and used.
Republicans have pushed for changes to the initiative petition process, raising the threshold to make it harder for voter-led ballot measures to be approved. Are you in favor of these changes?
Chappell: We (in the Ozarks) don’t like to say no to people. Very nice, very nice, but we don’t like to say no. So things can be on the ballot that, frankly, I’m not sure everyone actually supported on the day they signed the ballot or signed the petition. And so I think raising the threshold could very well be a good thing. I think we need to look at how money from out of state is also allowed to influence those decisions.
steer: The initiative petition process, that is democracy in its purest form. I wouldn’t have a problem with a review of the initiative’s petition process. However, I would not vote for any change to the process unless it finally comes to voters. I would like people to have the last word on this.
Let’s talk education. What is your position on the best learning environment? Do you support public schools or do you think other options should be available?
steer: I think there should be options. I don’t believe we need charter schools in southwest Missouri, we have great school systems in our district. … We have excellent schools in Ash Grove, Strafford and Rogersville. And I know there have been debates about bills about parents being able to send their children to open enrollment anywhere. My concern is how to keep harmless the neighborhoods from which they leave? They still have teachers they have to pay, guards they have to pay, the cooks, the transport workers, the bus drivers. I would have to look very carefully at how the schools are going to keep their funding.
Chappell: I am a supporter of all of them, but I believe that parents must have the ability to decide for themselves what is best for their children. … But if we truly believe in local control, surely parents are as local as possible. When you boil down the most basic parts of the equation, parents are the ones who have to decide where their children go to school.
I would love to see charter schools be available here in and around Springfield. Charter schools are public schools, they are only one format, but they are still public schools. I would like to see us have options for private schools, home schooling and public schools and make sure that our public schools are well funded, but also held accountable.
Would you be interested in participating in the state budget process if elected? What is your view on government budgeting and spending?
Chappell: I hope to be part of the budget committee because it is not only my background, but it is also what I taught at the university level.
We have seen a huge increase in the state budget over the past decade. And when you have increases of that amount, what you tend to ask yourself is what are the priorities of that money being spent? Are we doing everything possible to ensure that we are tackling waste, fraud and use?
What most people don’t understand is that the budget is a financial document, without a doubt. And it’s also a planning document, no doubt, but it’s also a statement of priorities. And so when things are budgeted, what the state is telling voters is that we believe those are our priorities, and the things that aren’t budgeted are less so.
steer: I would be happy to serve on the budget committee or any other House committee dealing with government business and efficiency. I am interested in growing the economy, making government smarter, and expanding workforce development. I’m a big believer in workforce development, and by making sure we can train and keep those people in high-skilled, high-paying jobs, we want to keep them here. So I’m a big fan of the OTC (Ozarks Technical College) and those.
If you could snap your fingers and change one thing in government, what would it be?
steer: I was thinking about this whole gas tax situation, and I know there are some in Missouri who are not in favor, and others certainly are. I know there is currently a process where you have to keep your receipts and then you have to send them in to receive the additional tax. At some grocery stores, if you buy a certain product, you get five, 10, or 15 cents off a gallon of gas. Why can’t we work on a project that would allow the people of Missouri, if they so choose, to receive this at the pumps? I think the technology is there.
Chappell: I think our infrastructure problems need to be solved. I-44, I-70, I-35, it all falls apart. We are in the middle of the nation, right in the center. We have trucks going east-west, west-east, north-south, south-north. And if Missouri can’t afford to handle that kind of traffic, and those highways can’t take the daily beatings, it’s not just Missouri that will suffer, it’s the whole nation. So we have to find a way to solve these problems on the basis of a long-term solution.