COLUMIBA - The special election for the 50th district is a week from now. Democratic candidate Michela Skelton is campaigning to increase the minimum wage, expand health care access, increase education funding and infrastructure.
Skelton was born into a military family and grew up in rural Alabama and sought the same kind of upbringing for her children.
“We lived in a wonderful rural community where it was more like family then just a neighborhood,” Skelton said. “That’s why we moved to Boone County, to give that same gift of freedom to explore without fear and having that support of a great community and great neighborhood.”
Skelton graduated from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville with a degree in Public Administration and Policy Analysis and received a law degree from Washington University in St. Louis. She worked for the non-partisan Senate research office and interned at a nonprofit fighting against housing discrimination.
“I’ve worked for federal agencies, for the private sector and non-profits. So I’ve kind of worked a little bit of all over throughout my working career,” Skelton said.
One of Skelton’s first priorities, she said, is to raise the state minimum wage, but also let counties decide their own minimum wage.
"I would want our minimum wage to be changed to a living wage so you can actually support yourself without having to rely on government social safety net programs,” she said.
Skelton said paid leave is also something she will promote, saying it is critical for families and can help prevent people from using social safety net programs.
"When I had my son Theo, I was only able to take off two weeks and most families don’t even get that,” she said. “They're making the choice immediately after the birth of a child, or a parent or grandparent having a stroke, having to continue working full time while trying to manage those family crises."
Tyler Gillam, a Skelton supporter, said he wants to see her fight for education, infrastructure and workers if elected.
He said he wants her to "be a voice for our workers."
"Right now, we have right to work being passed and she’s against it, and it would be a good thing to see her fight for the wages that our workers deserve and help fight for our economy,” he said.
Skelton said, “We’ve had so many laws that have gone into place for five or ten years that have slowly been stripping away the rights of workers to ban together and demand better wages and better health care and better benefits, predictable schedules, things that really help working class families support themselves, be active in their communities, and raise their children.”
Skelton also wants to increase funding for education. She said Missouri has trouble attracting "the brightest teachers’" because, she said, there is low teacher pay.
“They are also continuously cutting money out of all of the supplementary programs for schools. School transportation funding, school lunch programs, and all of that money has to come out of the classroom budget,” she said.
Gillam said, "She wants to fight for public education. I”m a Mizzou student, there’s been a lot of cuts to funding for Mizzou and it’s going to affect the students here in Columbia and it’s just very important for us to have the full funding for our education because education is very important.”
Health care is another priority for the campaign.
“So many people are struggling without real adequate health care. They might have insurance, but they have high deductible health care plans, or they fall into that gap from being able to get subsidies for health insurance and our really low medicaid rates.”
Skelton said she wants to expand medicaid and open up the Missouri Consolidated Health Care Plan. She said it is the state employee health care plan that is open to local governments and foster parents to buy into.
"I want to see us have actual competition on our market places by opening up that plan for people to buy into,” she said. “It’s a really great health care plan. It has access to so many doctors and health care facilities and so people would actually be able to go see a doctor when they’re sick.”
To help pay for the campaign’s key issues, Skelton wants to take away some tax cuts.
“I think that is a big part of the problem we have right now is we keep talking about where can we take money from other essential programs we’re offering to fund these other critical programs,” she said. “We need to be talking about reversing some of those big tax cuts so that we can have more revenue to actually pay for all of the critical services of the government.”
Sara Walsh is the Republican candidate in the race. Residents in the 50th district can vote for their candidate Tuesday, August 8.