David Gregory, a Republican attorney, is running for re-election in the 96th Missouri House District Tuesday, Nov. 3, and is being challenged once again by Democrat Erica Hoffman, a stay-at-home mother and community volunteer.
Hoffman and Gregory previously faced off for the 96th District seat in 2018. In that race, Hoffman, the first Democrat to run in the 96th District in eight years, lost to Gregory 59 percent to 41 percent, or 11,901 votes to 8,303.
Gregory, 35, 12820 Weber Hill Road, Sunset Hills, was first elected in 2016 to represent the 96th District and won re-election for the seat in 2018.
“Re-election to third term to continue fighting for safety and exposing government corruption and waste,” Gregory said on why he is seeking re-election.
Hoffman, 43, 564 Oakwood Drive, Fenton, is a former history and government teacher and is a stay-at-home mother and community volunteer.
“To serve the residents in the community and to bring balance in Jefferson City,” Hoffman said on why she is running.
The candidates gave the following responses to a Call questionnaire:
Would you support placing a constitutional amendment before voters that, if approved, would repeal the supermajority requirement for school-district bond issues?
Gregory: “I do not support the repeal of the supermajority requirement for school-district bond issues. These issues are very serious, long-term and permanent. As such, the supermajority requirement is a strong protection against government abuse and waste.”
Hoffman: “I would be open to the idea only for bond issues that did not require a tax increase. These issues would still require a simple majority vote to approve them. I see the budget difficulties of our local school districts every day. While they are struggling to meet their operating budget for things like transportation that are not adequately covered by the state, they must deal with aging facilities and added costs of security. Bond issues are an important tool they have for improving facilities.”
Are changes needed to the state’s foundation formula for funding education?
Gregory: “Due to the extensive complication of the foundation formula and the efforts to cause change that could harm my district’s funding, I generally oppose efforts to change it.”
Hoffman: “The foundation formula is not perfect and probably should be changed. We began ‘fully funding’ Missouri schools in 2017 for the first time in over a decade and have continued to meet this definition since. Unfortunately, this only happened because the Legislature reduced the standard required to achieve ‘fully funded’ status. An important aspect that everyone should understand is that the foundation formula is only part of the funding picture for education. Our state has continually shifted the costs of other items, such as transportation, onto local school districts for years. Even if the foundation formula was adequately funded, these other items must be considered in the future.”
Are changes needed to the law allowing Missouri citizens to carry concealed weapons? Why?
Gregory: “Our current laws for CCW have been effective. Illegal guns in the hands of the wrong people continues to be the problem we face.”
Hoffman: “Seventy percent of St. Louis County voters opposed concealed carry when it was on the statewide ballot. I agree with the vast majority; concealed weapons are not a benefit to our community. However, I accept that this law is not likely to change, given the leanings of our Missouri Legislature. I do strongly oppose the current law that allows concealed weapons to be used in schools, and I adamantly oppose recently proposed legislation that would allow weapons in locations like day-care facilities, stadiums, bars and polling places.”
Are changes needed to the state’s Open Meeting and Records Law (Sunshine Law)? If so, what would you propose?
Gregory: “Yes. I’ve sponsored legislation that strengthens our Sunshine Law statutes. We must get tougher on government agencies that willfully and knowingly violate the sunshine laws of Missouri. We must fight for more transparency and provide strength to the attorney general’s office to investigate government corruption related to this issue.”
Hoffman: “Yes. I am in favor of any changes that will lead to more transparency in government.”
What do you propose to generate revenue for road and bridge improvements?
Gregory: “We do not have to generate any additional revenue. We simply need to stop wasting the billions of dollars we waste on inefficiencies throughout our $30 billion budget. The elimination of waste, alone, will provide the billions of dollars we need for our infrastructure while at the same time providing historic tax cuts from our hardworking families.”
Hoffman: “Only Alaska has a lower gas tax than Missouri. The tax will need to be increased to maintain our failing highways and bridges. This would allow those who use the roads to help cover their maintenance. Voters narrowly rejected a plan to do so in 2018, largely due to some vagueries in the language, but a new proposal should be brought to the voters.”
Would you support legislation to facilitate a merger of St. Louis County and St. Louis City?
Gregory: “I have never seen a merger plan that makes sense for my district in St. Louis County. As such, I have always opposed the plan to merge St. Louis County and St. Louis City.”
Hoffman: “No, I would not support this legislation. I believe a merger of this sort should require separate approval by the voters of each area.”
Read on for web-exclusive questions and answers:
What issue do you consider the single most important issue in this race and why?
Gregory said, “Safety and fighting crime is critical to establishing the economic growth we need to provide our community with the high-paying jobs they deserve.”
Hoffman said, “Corruption in Jefferson City. Unfortunately, moneyed interests and greed is a huge threat to families in our district and statewide. Lobbyists for special interest groups seem to be the gatekeepers of many laws that pass through the Missouri Legislature. I would be a good steward of the interests of this state and work hard to protect the residents of this district.”
What is your position on abortion?
Gregory said, “I am 100-percent pro-life and will never negotiate my position against abortion.”
Hoffman said, “I believe this issue has been settled at the national level and it should remain so. I am thoughtfully pro-choice and would like to see abortion rates reduced by offering more family planning options, access to contraception, and education. There are times when abortion is a medical necessity and it is extremely difficult to have an abortion in Missouri due to current restrictions in place on the women of our state. While these restrictions have placed hardships on women, they have not reduced the number of abortions in this country, as women will seek treatment across state lines. Our society would benefit greatly if we paid as much attention to all the vulnerable of society as we do to this issue.”
What is your position on the death penalty?
Gregory said, “I believe there are crimes that warrant the death penalty.”
Hoffman said, “I oppose the death penalty on both moral and practical grounds. Most developed nations have abolished the death penalty, and it’s probably time for the United States to catch up. The Innocence Project has helped to free hundreds of wrongly convicted citizens, sometimes decades after their original conviction. Our criminal justice system is imperfect, and it is inappropriate to take a life based on the results of that system.”
What is your position on tax-increment financing? Are changes needed to this law?
Gregory said, “TIFs are constantly abused within our communities. While not all TIFs are bad, I believe significant reform is needed and I have supported reform efforts in previous years, especially those reforms that support our schools from TIF abuse.”
Hoffman said, “Each project has to be looked at individually, but I do believe TIFs are overused. Studies have shown that TIFs often produce little economic benefit while negatively impacting existing local businesses and special taxing districts such as schools and fire departments. Unfortunately, cities sometimes enter into these agreements with little regard for the impact a TIF will have on these public services. City governments should not have the ability to impact the tax base for these entities.”
Should there be a statewide mask mandate?
Gregory said, “No. Some rural counties in the state of Missouri have had little to no COVID cases. Mask mandates should be handled on a county-by-county basis contingent upon actual need. I also strongly believe in the people of this great state and believe the vast majority of people know how to make the right decisions for themselves.”
Hoffman said, “Yes.”
Do you support the changes the Legislature made to the Sunshine Law in 2019, including exempting some legislative records?
Gregory said, “Absolutely. When I have vulnerable constituents reaching out to my office in need of help, the last thing I will do is subject them to the political bullying of political operatives and opponents. If necessary, my constituents’ information and requests will remain confidential as I execute the services of my office.”
Hoffman said, “No, I am very concerned at any attempt to cover government information. I understand the need to protect individuals’ names and addresses, but that explanation provided by those in the Legislature seems disingenuous at best.”
What will you do to improve Missouri’s economy?
Gregory said, “The first and foremost thing we must do to strengthen our economy is create a safe environment for people to live. Let’s face it: No one is willing to live in a place they think their family is unsafe. With safe environments, we can focus on workforce development, organic growth for our current corporations, and incentivize other job-creating entities to relocate to Missouri.”
Hoffman said, “One thing that I have done already is work tirelessly toward the approval of Medicaid expansion in Missouri. Once implemented, this will be a huge economic benefit to rural Missouri, where local hospitals are often one of the largest employers in their counties.
“More generally, we live in a consumer-based economy that will only thrive when our residents have good-paying jobs and families have disposable income. Although the state has received press for adding jobs in the transportation and distribution industry recently, most of these are low-paying jobs that often have limited additional benefits. The fact remains that we continue to see higher paying jobs leave the state. Missouri ranks 40th in median household income. Rather than looking to the successes of the states ranking higher than us in nearly every economic category, those in Jefferson City prefer to align our economic and social policies with other states that rank near the bottom. This needs to change, and I would do everything in my power to make that happen.”
Should police departments be defunded?
Gregory said, “No. We need to provide more funding for police to ensure they are safe as they lawfully execute the duties of their oath to keep us safe.”
Hoffman said, “No.”
What do you think of the leadership of Gov. Mike Parson?
Gregory said, “Gov. Parson has proved to be an outstanding leader and will continue to remain an outstanding leader for the next four years. He has focused on fighting crime and developing the work force in Missouri to organically create job opportunities throughout the state.”
Hoffman said, “I am unimpressed with his leadership of our state. He slashed the education budget, as well as the school transportation budget. He did not support Medicaid expansion, even in the midst of the COVID pandemic, and he has not supported a mask mandate as COVID has proliferated in the state. In addition, he has generally disregarded the needs of suburban areas of the state.”
What will or have you done to work across the aisle in Jefferson City?
Gregory said, “I have always prided myself on being a respectful official and always looking to work with my friends on both sides of the aisle. Several pieces of my legislation have been supported by Republicans and Democrats. For example, strengthening our fight against carjacking crimes was supported by both sides of the aisle.”
Hoffman said, “I am willing and eager to work with anyone willing to help protect the interests of our community. As the State Legislative Chair for the Missouri Sierra Club, I have worked closely with legislators of both parties on bills related to the flooding that has impacted our district.”
Do you support right-to-work legislation?
Gregory said, “I have always supported right-to-work legislation in the past when it came to the House floor.”
Hoffman said, “No. Right to work is wrong for Missouri. Missouri residents overwhelmingly voted it down in 2018. Missouri residents have been opposing it for over 40 years, and I will continue to fight any efforts to make Missouri a right-to-work state.”
What do you think of the state’s COVID-19 response?
Gregory said, “Missouri’s COVID response has been strong. We need to remain committed to getting businesses back open for business.”
Hoffman said, “The state has lacked leadership in the COVID-19 response. We are fortunate in St. Louis County to have had local leadership that is willing to make hard decisions for the protection of those who are most vulnerable to this illness.”
Do you support the changes to “Clean Missouri” that are on the ballot as Amendment 3?
Gregory said, “Clean Missouri changed the criteria for the legislative district so as to decrease the importance of our community values and increase the importance of a ‘competitive’ district. Our community values are extremely important. We should not be forced to vote in districts that are ‘competitive.’ Rather, we should be allowed to vote based on the values with which our parents raised us and our community supports.”
Hoffman said, “I absolutely do not support the changes. Missouri voters overwhelmingly approved ‘Clean Missouri’ in 2018. Amendment 3, ‘Dirty Missouri,’ is a product of our Legislature trying to undo the will of the people for their own financial gain.”
Are changes needed to the state’s eminent domain laws to prevent abuse?
Gregory said, “Eminent domain’s original intent was a good thing. The problem isn’t eminent domain. The problem is the abuse of eminent domain. I will always support the changes needed to eliminate the abuse within government action.”
Hoffman said, “We have seen abuses of this power occur in nearby communities when properties are being taken for the purpose of redevelopment, rather than public use. Many other states have worked to curb these abuses, and Missouri should as well.”
What bill would you sponsor as your first legislation post-election?
Gregory said, “My greatest passion is fighting crime and eliminating government corruption and waste throughout our great state.”
Hoffman said, “I’m looking forward to supporting multiple causes such as adequately funding public education, equality for all Missourians, protecting District 96 from worsening floods, and preserving jobs and wages. These are things that will help strengthen our community, and I’m hoping to be able to do that with bi-partisan support. We need to work together for the betterment of Missouri.”
What changes should Missouri make to its health-care system?
Gregory said, “Missouri spends more on social services than any other program in the state. Over 40 percent of our billion-dollar budget is spent on social service. As a result, we need to be looking for ways to eliminate the abuse and waste of these programs.”
Hoffman said, “Missouri took a big first step in August when we approved Medicaid expansion. It’s unfortunate that the state Legislature did not enact this several years ago, but instead watched billions of our federal tax dollars go to serve residents in other states. With this expansion, many Missourians who were previously unable to obtain adequate health care will now be able to do so. In addition, this expansion will be a huge benefit to many rural Missouri hospitals that were previously struggling to keep their doors open.”
Should there be a Transparency Division created within the office of the Missouri Attorney General for the sole purpose of prosecuting violations of Public Records and Public Meetings statutes?
Gregory said, “Yes. The idea of this division is a direct result of the Sunshine Law legislation I sponsored. Government corruption and waste is rampant and this is only one tool in the tool box that leads us toward the elimination of government abuse.”
Hoffman said, “I think people want more transparency in their government, as do I. I don’t have enough information to say that a Transparency Division is the best way to achieve that, but I am willing to consider it.”
Should the Missouri Attorney General be given subpoena power to investigate Sunshine Law violations?
Gregory said, “Yes. As mentioned above, this is a direct result of my Sunshine Law bill.”
Hoffman said, “Yes.”
With fewer than 50 percent of rural Missourians having access to high-speed internet service, should Missouri’s newspapers continue to be the medium in which all public notices required by law are published and distributed in print to provide due process to those persons affected by the public notices?
Gregory said, “The better answer is expanding rural broadband immediately for all Missourians so as to provide those Missourians with the tools they need to succeed.”
Hoffman said, “Yes. It’s also a tragedy that 50 percent of rural Missourians do not have access. As a state, we should be working to bring our infrastructure into the 21st century.”
Should members and staff of all governmental bodies be prohibited from downloading or using software designed to send encrypted messages by electronic means that automatically self-destruct on communication devices purchased with public money? In other words, should the Confide app or other such software be prohibited from use because such apps are capable of destroying public records that should be available to citizens?
Gregory said, “Yes.”
Hoffman said, “Yes. Transparency is essential to fair governing and should be a priority in every governing body.”
Other issues you perceive in your race and your position on each:
Gregory did not answer.
Hoffman said, “Protecting public education. My opponent has shown time and time again, he is not willing to protect public education with his YES votes for charter school expansion in St. Louis County. ‘Choice is good’ is a too-oft repeated refrain from those attacking our public schools, teachers and staff.
“I would compare it to Interstate 70. It runs across the state, does a good job of quickly moving traffic, and has been doing so successfully for years. However, it needs upgrades and support from heavy usage. Does it make sense to take money from the Hwy 70 maintenance fund, build another highway directly next to it, and then restrict who can drive on it? No it doesn’t. The charter school system is the same concept. It offers a similar product at an additional cost to us with no better results for our children and no local oversight. The other problem is that those who promote charter schools often have businesses that make money off this concept. We have seen numerous examples of charter school corruption in the city of St. Louis. I have a serious problem with people using our children for financial gain.”