Government & Politics

Democratic attorney will challenge U.S. Rep. Vicky Hartzler in Missouri’s 4th District

Democrat Lindsey Simmons, a 32-year-old attorney from Hallsville, is challenging Republican U.S. Rep. Vicky Hartzler for Missouri’s 4th Congressional District seat.

Simmons, a seventh-generation Missourian who grew up in Saline County before graduating from Harvard Law School, has never before sought public office. She has worked for several high profile Democrats from Missouri, including former Sen. Claire McCaskill, former Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster and former Rep. Ike Skelton, Hartzler’s Democratic predecessor in the 4th District.

She is married to an Apache helicopter pilot in the U.S. Army and has a 17-month-old son named Jace.

While Simmons acknowledges defeating a five-term incumbent will be an uphill fight, she said she is ready to take on that challenge.

“This is a serious campaign,” she said. “I’m not doing this to move the needle. I intend to win. I am not entering this race with a small child and a husband about to do his third deployment as a hobby. I believe the people in this district are ready for change.”

She is the second Democrat to jump into the 2020 race. Erich Arvidson, a loan officer at Veterans United in Columbia who lives in Cooper County, filed paperwork in July.

Simmons graduated summa cum laude from Missouri Valley College in 2010 with a degree in history and English. She worked as a legal fellow for McCaskill, a litigation law clerk for the Missouri Attorney General’s Office, and after graduating from law school, as an associate with the firm Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen, & Hamilton in New York City.

She moved back to Missouri when her son was born last year, shortly after her husband returned from a deployment to Syria.

It was his experience in Syria, in part, that Simmons said inspired her to jump into politics.

She pointed specifically to a Dec. 19, 2018, tweet by President Donald Trump declaring that ISIS was defeated in Syria and that the U.S. would be withdrawing its troops from the war-torn country.

“When my husband was in Syria, he and his fellow soldiers very much relied on assistance from local allies,” she said. “And the president was turning his back on those allies. I certainly can’t turn my back on the people who kept my husband alive and made sure my son had a father when he was born.”

So, she said she wrote to Hartzler’s office to express her concern.

“I wanted to share our personal story and let her know how this type of decision could impact my husband in the future,” she said. “I’ve yet to receive any response at all from her office. Not even a form letter. Complete radio silence.”

Simmons said after that she began to pay closer attention to Hartzler. In August she filed an ethics complaint alleging Hartzler violated congressional ethics rules with a tweet promoting a company with which she does business.

Hartzler’s office dismissed the complaint at the time as “politically motivated.”

Since defeating Skelton in 2010, Hartzler has cruised to victory in the 24-county west central Missouri district—never winning less than 60 percent of the vote in each subsequent election.

Simmons’ campaign pointed to three formerly-GOP held Congressional seats -- the 5th district in Oklahoma, the 1st district in South Carolina and the 4th district in Utah -- where Democrats scored victories in 2018 despite only making up 40 percent of the district’s electorate.

Simmons said her campaign will focus on issues like health care, specifically a plan to allow the federal government to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies to lower drug prices, and a public option for individuals to enroll in a government health insurance plan.

She does not support a Medicare for all plan, because “we shouldn’t force things on people. We should give people options.”

Simmons also panned the president’s trade policies, saying “farming families deserve better than being a casualty in a trade war.”

Related stories from Kansas City Star

Jason Hancock is The Star’s lead political reporter, providing coverage of government and politics on both sides of the state line. A three-time National Headliner Award winner, he has written about politics for more than a decade for news organizations across the Midwest.