Missouri House District 36
By Tyler Schneider
Incumbent Mark Sharp took over the District 36 seat in a special election following DaRon McGee’s resignation from the Missouri House in April 2019. After taking office in November of 2019, he dedicated himself to a key pair of issues: crime and education.
A former teacher at Caddo Mills High School in north Texas, and KIPP Endeavor Academy in the 18th & Vine district in Kansas City, Sharp moved back to south Kansas City seeking to have an even greater impact on the issues he cared for the most.
“If we’re gonna make some real change, if you wanted to have a broader impact, maybe legislation might be the best way to go,” he said of his entry into politics.
During his first partial-term, Sharp served on the Downsizing State Government and Workforce Development Committees, the Special Committee on Urban Issues and was an active player in crime and justice reform legislation.
“Last session, I was the only freshman and only Democrat to have a gun sense bill heard and voted out of committee,” Sharp said of House Bill 2169 — more commonly known as Blair’s Law — which would make discharging a firearm in city limits a state offense.
Sharp also co-sponsored House Bill 1964 (strengthening penalties against tampering with a witness or victim) and House Bill 2207 (enacts a pre-trial witness protection program).
His efforts come at a time when gun violence in Kansas City has led to a homicide rate that is growing at a record pace, but these issues also carry a special significance for the young legislator.
“My sister, who was a college senior at MU, was a murder victim to domestic violence and my best friend at UMKC was a murder victim to gun violence,” Sharp explains.
On education, Sharp has a slew of priorities, including regaining accreditation for his alma mater, Hickman Mills C-1. He seeks to rework Missouri’s current foundation formula and push for allocate more funds for student free and reduced lunch, mental health services and ESL programs.
While it’s true that Laura Loyacono has not held public office prior to entering this race, she is no stranger to the often contentious and frequently intersecting realms of education and politics.
Loyacono — who holds a master’s degree of public administration from KU — has over 30 years of public policy experience, including 13 years worth of experience serving on the National Conference of State Legislatures. She has also worked closely with well known political figures such as former U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill and former Colorado Governor Richard Lamm.
Loyacono was one of many women who were driven to become more directly active in regional politics when Donald Trump won in 2016, though she had always expressed an interest in doing so from a young age. One of her chief issues is women’s rights, alongside similar levels of concern for public education and curbing gun violence and the corresponding homicide rate increase that has alarmed many in KC throughout the first half of the 2020.
“I think the Missouri legislature is hostile to women’s rights in lots of ways, from not fully funding health, to reproductive freedom to equal pay for equal work. These issues would be priorities of mine. I am also very concerned with the infant and maternal mortality rate for women of color. It’s exceptionally high in Missouri, far higher than the national average,” Loyacono said.
A key theme in Loyacono’s rhetoric is a distaste for the “hyper-partisan nature” of legislators in Jefferson City circles. She hopes that the gubernatorial candidate of Nicole Galloway (D) and the handful of well-equipped female political candidates throughout the Show Me State will help turn things around for an issue she is deeply invested in.
“Women’s issues shouldn’t be partisan issues, but in Missouri, they are,” Loyacono explained. “I’m not telling anyone to vote for me because I am a woman. You should be voting on my record and policy positions. But I am absolutely running to defend and fight for these rights.”