Missouri House District 26
Incumbent Rep. Ashley Bland Manlove had a productive freshman term representing District 26 in the Missouri House of Representatives following her victory in the Nov. 2018 election.
A former Missouri National Guard intelligence analyst with professional experience in the accounting industry, Manlove served as one of just nine Democrats on the 33 member Budget Committee and as one of four Democrats on the Financial Institution Committee. She is also an active member of the Financial Institution Committee, the Subcommittee on Appropriations and the Missouri Black Caucus.
This willingness to get active early on and ability to compromise has helped Manlove, 34, learn the ropes and show her potential as a continued source of leadership for her party and constituents.
Key issues for Manlove, who will run against challenger Jamie T. Braden, Aug. 4, in order to retain her seat, include an emphasis on the fiscal aspects of education funding policy reform, voter registration mobilization and the passage of Medicaid expansion next month.
Manlove is one of just five women of color who currently hold a seat in the Missouri House also happens to be the only openly lesbian representative in the state. She says her first two-year term in office has helped her consider issues from new angles.
“Being on [the Budget Committee] gives me a different perspective on how expansion can help Missourians,” Manlove said. “Expansion would give us funding from the federal government that we can use to replace general revenue that is spent elsewhere. It could help fund education.”
Manlove’s committee work reflects her desire to address inequality of funding and job scarcity. She will need to continue to develop relationships on both sides of the aisle in order to drive change in those areas.
“Right now, we can look at the numbers and determine where those disparities are. If we were able to flip a couple of seats (in November), we could actually have conversations about how to address them.”
Manlove is the niece of former state Rep. Craig Bland and granddaughter of former state Rep. Mary Groves Bland.
Manlove faces a lone primary challenger in fellow Democrat Jamie T. Braden, an educator since 1978 and a resident of the district for decades.
Braden hopes to help tackle domestic issues as a major component of her overall agenda.
She cites abandoned residential properties around the district as a primary example.
“You’ll have a neighborhood with four or five houses abandoned,” Braden said. “The people of the district that I’ve spoken with, many of them are concerned about that, and also the many large and inaccurate increases in property taxes we’ve seen.”
“Everybody’s home needs to be assessed, and that assessment has to be done fairly — and not just based on what someone thinks a neighborhood looks like,” Braden added in reference to rising property tax rates.
The former principal and holder of a plethora of education degrees and certification provided insight into what she believes could help improve the education community as a whole.
“We need to get our virtual programs and our in class programs on the same page and in sync. Another issue is funding for more computers in the classroom and in turn[training] teachers to know how to actually use that technology,” Braden said.
For Braden, however, education doesn’t end with a cap and gown. She hopes to bridge the gap between everyday voters and the bureaucratic hedge maze that is Jefferson City.
“Sometimes a little transparency is not going to hurt anybody. We need to educate communities just a little bit better. It’s the little things these communities may not know,” Braden said.
Braden also supports expanded mental health resources for parents, and has firmly committed to voting ‘yes’ on Amendment II this Tuesday.
“As a former educator, I’ve seen children struggle because they’re taking on some adult problems in their home lives. They see their parents struggling, and at seven, eight years-old, they’re already thinking, ‘what can I do to help?’,” Braden said. “Healthy parents equals healthy children. If we can help the parents, then all kids, all schools, can feel a greater sense of pride in their community.”