Voters Guide

Missouri House,12th District: Candidates’ careers influence their priorities – public safety and education

Sandy Van Wagner
Sandy Van Wagner

Both candidates vying for Missouri’s 12th District House seat spent a lot of time in the public sector before their retirements.

Republican Ken Wilson, who is finishing up his first term in the House, is a retired public safety official and former police chief in Smithville.

His Democratic challenger, Sandy Van Wagner, was a public school teacher.

Both candidates heavily support causes tied to their career backgrounds.

Wilson said legislation that supports and strengthens public safety is a top priority. He also wants to continue to work to “protect our personal information and privacy that is under constant attack from many different fronts.”

Van Wagner listed providing “outstanding public education” as her No. 1 issue. She said this includes early-childhood education and strengthening support of higher education for people who want to further their expertise at a university or career program.

She is not a proponent of public school students transferring to private schools when a district loses accreditation. Rather, she’d like to see more state money devoted to students who are at risk of attending schools that don’t meet their needs.

“Public schools accept 100 percent of the children 100 percent of the time, regardless of need, ability, spoken language or social economic background,” she said. “Private schools pick and choose.”

The candidates’ views fall along party lines on the issues of taxes, Medicaid expansion and the new 72-hour waiting period for abortions.

Wilson described recent income tax cuts as “fiscally responsible and beneficial for all Missourians.”

But Van Wagner said individual taxpayers will see little relief while “tremendous” cuts for corporations threaten public services, including education.

Wilson said the Medicaid system needs to be reformed, and he doesn’t trust the federal government’s expansion plan.

“We do not need to blindly add thousands onto the state system that is broken,” he said. “It is not fiscally or socially responsible.”

Van Wagner argued that expanding Medicaid is the best thing to do for many Missourians — not only because of added health care benefits, but the potential for added jobs and increased labor income.

“All of these are benefits, not to mention the bottom line of saving lives,” she said. “What is not to like?”

As for the new abortion waiting period, Van Wagner says it’s disproportionately unfair to women in lower income brackets.

There is only one abortion facility in the state, she said, which would require most Missourians to travel and find lodging for several days.

“Statistics have demonstrated that waiting does not modify an individual’s decision is this case,” she said. “Waiting only makes what is already difficult more of a hardship, a burden that falls particularly upon poor women.”

Wilson disagrees that it’s an unfair law.

“It is important to remember that this is not prohibitive legislation. If a woman wants an abortion, she can still do so. All that this law does is allow more time to make this life-ending decision,” he said.

DEMOCRATSandy Van Wagner

Age: 59

Address: 4206 Scottsdale Road, Smithville

Occupation: Retired public school science teacher

Education: Master’s in natural sciences and bachelor’s in elementary education, both from the University of Missouri-Kansas City; middle school certification graduate program, Northwest Missouri State University

Previous public experience: Smithville school board member, 2007-present; Court Appointed Special Advocate for abused children in Jackson County, 2008-present

Website:; Facebook: Sandy Van Wagner, Candidate for Missouri State Representative

REPUBLICANKenneth Wilson

Age: 60

Address:19507 Diamond Lane, Smithville

Occupation: Retired; spent 26 years as a law enforcement officer, including 11 years as Smithville police chief

Education: Bachelor’s in criminal justice, Missouri Western State University; graduate of the FBI National Academy

Previous public experience: Missouri House, 2012-present