For the first time in eight years, someone other than Lynn Morris will represent eastern Christian County in the Missouri House of Representatives.
Morris, R-Nixa, is term limited by state law and is running for a spot on the Christian County Commission. Four candidates, all Republicans, have filed to run for his office representing Missouri’s 140th House District.
All four candidate spoke at an Ozark Chamber of Commerce luncheon held July 23 at Ozark High School. Due to public health concerns of the COVID-19 pandemic, the event was held outside in a parking lot, and each candidate spoke from a microphone under a tent for about two minutes each.
Jason Shaffer ran for state representative in 2018. He lost the Republican primary to incumbent Lynn Morris by a vote of 3,443-2,755. Shaffer earned about 45 percent of the vote.
Shaffer has served three terms on the Ozark Board of Aldermen.
“As an aldermen for the city of Ozark, I’ve done what I can to protect the citizens from overreach by government, including additional taxes or regulations. I believe I can do the same thing as a state representative,” Shaffer said.
Professionally, Shaffer is an attorney who operates his own practice in Springfield.
“Largely what I’ve been doing for the last 25 years is defending my clients’ constitutional rights against an intrusive government. Too often I’ve seen government choose winners and losers through regulations and enforcements of statutes. They put their thumb on the scale of justice trying to pick who should benefit and who should not,” Shaffer said.
Jamie Ray Gragg is a longtime resident of Christian County with deep roots.
“My family has been around here for a long time—mid 1800s, my family moved to Christian County, and we’ve been here ever since,” Gragg said.
Gragg, a newcomer to running for office, but decided to file to run based on the burdens he sees Christian County residents face.
“I’m very concerned about where our country is going, and it all starts right at home on our direction,” Gragg said. “Many of the things that are concerning are family issues. I’m not a business owner, I’m a father. I’m a resident. I am a son.”
Gragg is worried about overall feelings of discontent in government.
“I’m very pro-life. I’m very pro-Second Amendment, and I like to see smaller government,” Gragg said. “I like to see when we push safety in our country. I think we have a lot of issues when it comes to division, and I think when we can work on that here at home, show them how well it works here, and we can be a good example to the rest of the state and, of course, the rest of the country.”
Tricia Derges has lived in Christian County for 30-plus years. She and her husband have a large family with eight kids and 23 grandkids.
“I think I have a great diversity that is critically, critically needed on the floor in Jefferson City. I’ve been up there the last six years helping to write, helping to testify toward very important, critical health bills. As you know, we’ve got a health crisis now on top of, obviously, educational crisis. We’ve got a lot of things going on,” Derges said.
Derges was a business owner in Ozark for more than 20 years. In her 50s, she sold he business and went to medical school in the Netherlands Antilles and obtained a Doctor of Medicine. She returned to southwest Missouri and opened Lift Up Someone Today, a nonprofit clinic named the top new non-profit company of the year by Drury University in 2018.
“We’ve served over 25,000 people. I do not take federal aid; I have little tolerance for government control regarding getting their hands in business, medical, or education. I will absolutely fight that, because they can tell you what to do then,” Derges said.
Jeff Parnell is a graduate of Evangel University who has worked for 38 years in operations management in the vehicle tire business. He lives in Garrison.
“I live in the most rural part of the 140th District, down south,” Parnell said. “I love this area with a passion that only someone who has left it a couple of times and come back can know.”
Parnell hopes to curb regulations that business owners and managers face, regulations which he sees as burdensome or “government red tape.”
“My philosophy: strict constitutionalist, fiscal conservative, pro-business, pro-life, pro-liberty, pro-Bill of Rights, pro-school choice, anti-chaos, anti-anarchy, (and) anti-lawlessness,” Parnell said.
In 2008, Parnell ran for Congress, losing to Democrat Ike Skelton in Missouri’s Fourth Congressional District. Skelton, who served for 34 years in Congress and died in 2013, was the chairman of the U.S. House Armed Services Committee at that time.