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Politically Speaking: Sen.-elect O’Laughlin on her agenda for northeast Missouri

State Sen.-elect Cindy O'Laughlin, R-Shelby County
Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio
State Sen.-elect Cindy O'Laughlin, R-Shelby County

Sen.-elect Cindy O’Laughlin joins the Politically Speaking podcast for the first time to talk about her priorities for the 18th Senatorial District — and her experiences as a first-time candidate.

O’Laughlin won the election last week to represent the district, which takes in a swath of northeast Missouri including cities like Hannibal, Kirksville and Bowling Green.

O’Laughlin is a Shelbina resident who co-owns Leo O'Laughlin Inc., a company with deep northeast Missouri ties. She’s been active in local politics for years, but 2018 marked the first time she decided to run for state office.

The 18th District primary was highly competitive, as O’Laughlin squared off against three Republican state representatives.

At times, the race became contentious. A political action committee with donations from plaintiff’s attorneys spent thousands of dollars to defeat O’Laughlin. That PAChighlighted a wrongful death lawsuit that her business settled in 2011. O’Laughlin believes those ads backfired and helped her win by roughly 10 percentage points.

On Tuesday, O’Laughlin defeated Democrat Crystal Stephens with roughly 70 percent of the vote. It comes about a dozen years after the 18th District Senate race was one of the most expensive and competitive contests in the state, with Democrat Wes Shoemyer picking up a seat that was previously held by a Republican.

Here’s what O’Laughlin had to say during the show:

  • She plans to make education policy a major priority when she joins the Senate early next year. “I think that our education system has become such a top-down system,” she said. “And local areas are supposed to control education choices and their local schools. And I think a lot of that control has been taken away by the federal government. And then it comes through [the state department of education], and then you get another set of top-down instructions.”
  • She is not necessarily in favor of increasing taxes to fund transportation projects. And she’s completely opposed to the state turning over responsibility for rural roads to local governments.
  • Like some lawmakers from both parties, O’Laughlin is opposed to changes to state redistricting that voters approved under a proposal known as Clean Missouri. “I see no reason for a largely Republican area to all of sudden be connected to something that’s distant from there to try to engineer the results. I think that’s wrong,” she said. “And as far as I’m concerned, yes, it needs to be looked at.”
  • She is optimistic about the legislature being able to work well with Gov. Mike Parson in the coming legislative session. Former Gov. Eric Greitens’ relationship with the General Assembly was strained throughout his brief tenure as chief executive.

Follow Jason Rosenbaum on Twitter: @jrosenbaum

Music: “Papercut” by Linkin Park

Jason is the politics correspondent for St. Louis Public Radio.