Three running for Missouri Senate district that now represents Sunset Hills

LaDonna+Higgins%2C+left%2C+George+Hruza%2C+center%2C+and+Tracy+McCreery

LaDonna Higgins, left, George Hruza, center, and Tracy McCreery

By Erin Achenbach, News Editor

Sunset Hills will be represented by a different state Senate district in next year’s legislative session after this year’s redistricting. Sunset Hills, as well as portions of Fenton and Oakville in unincorporated south St. Louis County are now part of Senate District 24.

There are three candidates running for the seat in the election Nov. 8: Republican George Hruza, a dermatologic surgeon, Democrat Tracy McCreery, 88th District representative in the Missouri House, and Libertarian LaDonna Higgins.

Higgins, 66, lives in Creve Coeur with her husband James. She is retired. Higgins did not give a reason why she is running for office on the Call’s candidate questionnaire.

Hruza, 66, is a newcomer to public office. He lives in Huntleigh with his wife Carri. He is an immigrant from Czechoslovakia and works as a micrographic dermatologic surgeon.

“As an immigrant from communist Czechoslovakia, the U.S afforded my family and myself incredible opportunity and success. I want to make sure that others continue to be able to live the American dream as I did. I am running on individual liberty, responsibility and opportunity for all Missouri residents,” Hruza said on why he is running for office.

McCreery, 55, lives in Olivette with her husband Thom. She is the state representative of the 88th Missouri House District. She was first elected to the House in 2011 an independent and reelected as a Democrat from 2014-2020.

When asked why she is running for Senate, McCreery said, “In the legislature, I am the independent voice for common-sense solutions on issues of education, public safety, tax fairness, health care, and infrastructure to build an economy that works for all of us, instead of special interests. As a businesswoman, community volunteer and public official I am a strong voice for our region. I am committed to addressing the challenges facing our state with members of both chambers and both parties. I will not back down from the needs facing seniors, working families and consumers, and I will continue to advocate for progressive policies that make Missouri a better place to live and work.”

The candidates gave the following responses to The Call’s questionnaire:

(Editor’s note: The following questions and answers appeared in the Oct. 20 and Oct. 27 print editions of The Call. They have been edited to fit in print.)

What issue do you consider the single most important issue in this race and why?

Higgins: “Restrictions on abortion.”

Hruza: “The most important issue facing our region is public safety. We must support our brave men and women in law enforcement by ensuring they have the funding and resources they need to protect our communities, and we need prosecutors that will actually prosecute violent crimes … We must solve this problem if we are to become a world-class city that attracts new businesses and families.”

McCreery: “Missouri’s democracy is not working for everyone. Big money has influenced the legislature and its agenda, further polarizing our politics and our state. The legislature should focus on our critical needs; we must invest in education, health care and infrastructure. We need to attract more employers, provide opportunities and improve our quality of life.

Other issues you perceive in your race and your position on each:

Higgins: “Implementing a system of proportional representation, whether it is ranked-choice voting, or multi-member districts … I would like to see the death penalty abolished in Missouri. I would like to see passage of the Defend the Guard legislation, which prohibits National Guard members from being deployed for active duty combat overseas unless war is declared by Congress.”

Hruza: “We need lower taxes for working families and small businesses, a world-class education system, and greater access to affordable and quality healthcare. If elected, I will be the only doctor in the Missouri Senate and I want to ensure that Missourians have access to the healthcare they need. People should be able to choose their physicians and be treated in a safe and cost-transparent manner.”

McCreery did not respond.

What is your position on abortion?

Higgins: “The total ban on abortion in Missouri is wrong. The Missouri Libertarian Party platform states that an abortion should be a decision between a woman and her doctor. Since this issue has become a matter of law, I would support a ban on abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy, with exceptions for medical emergencies, where steps should be taken to preserve both the life of the mother and baby. We will lose our doctors in Missouri if they fear arrest or prosecution for taking care of their patients.”

Hruza: “Pro-life with exceptions for rape, incest, and the health of the mother.”

McCreery: “I believe people should have accurate, unbiased medical information, so they can make the best health care decisions they can for themselves and for those they love — including decisions about abortion. I worked for Planned Parenthood and have been on the front lines fighting to protect the full range of reproductive rights, including abortion.”

What is your position on the death penalty?

Higgins: “I oppose the death penalty. It is more expensive to sentence someone to death, with all the mandatory reviews and appeals, than to put them to prison for life. Plus, the possibility always exists that someone who was not guilty is put to death.”

Hruza: “I support the death penalty.”

McCreery: “I support the current law and case law. The death penalty should be rare, used sparingly, and reserved for the most heinous violent crimes. I support the criminal justice system of elected prosecutors, judges and juries to determine when this ultimate punishment is appropriate, if ever.”

Should police departments be defunded?

Higgins: “No. Police need more training not to target minorities, and how to de-escalate during dangerous situations.”

Hruza: “No, we must support, defend and respect our brave men and women in law enforcement.”

McCreery: “Absolutely not. I’m proud to be the only candidate in this race to be endorsed by our St. Louis County Police Officers and our state’s Fraternal Order of Police. I have always worked to ensure they have the funding and resources they need to serve our communities.

What will you do to improve Missouri’s economy?

Higgins: “I support legislation loosening and repealing onerous licensing laws that arbitrarily prevent Missouri residents from earning a living. Such unneeded government laws and regulations impede the growth of small businesses and decease economic prosperity of all individuals.”

Hruza: “In order to improve the state economy, we must reduce crime, improve our education system, lower taxes for working families, and remove burdensome red tape on our small businesses.”

McCreery: “When we pass laws that support working families, we improve our economy. Raising the minimum wage, supporting union workers and decreasing the costs of childcare put more money back into the pocketbooks of working families.”

Would you support legislation to facilitate a merger of St. Louis County and St. Louis city?

Higgins: “No.”

Hruza: “I do not support a … merger.”

McCreery: “No.”

What do you propose to generate revenue for road and bridge improvements?

Higgins: “Missouri got an overall C minus from the American Society of Civil Engineers for our transportation infrastructure. Missouri has more miles of roads to maintain than any of our surrounding states, yet our gas tax is lower than most of them … The gas tax increase will provide some funds to improve the transportation system in Missouri, however, it should be noted that according to the Federal Highway Administration, the heavier-weight diesel powered trucks and semis are causing 15 times more damage to our highways, yet diesel is taxed at the same rate as gasoline. Pennsylvania, Illinois, Indiana and California tax diesel at a higher rate than gasoline, to make up for the difference to the damage done to our roads. And one needs to also think about the move to electric vehicles, which are substantially heavier than our gasoline vehicles.”

Hruza: “Recent federal transportation legislation provided adequate funds for Missouri’s transportation needs. I will ensure this money is allocated toward essential infrastructure projects.”

McCreery: “Our state’s infrastructure is critical to our growth and quality of life. We need to continue to identify projects of the highest need and use existing revenue to upgrade and fix our roads and bridges.

What process do you favor for redistricting? What do you think of the state’s current redistricting process?

Higgins: “An independent non-partisan committee. It’s obvious that gerrymandering is alive and well in Missouri using the current system. In the 2022 elections, more than half of the Missouri House seats are running unopposed.”

Hruza: “I support the current process approved by the voters.”

McCreery: “Politicians should not be in charge of redistricting. An independent body is necessary to ensure the process is fair and transparent.”

What do you think of the leadership of Gov. Mike Parson?

Higgins: “Could be worse.”

Hruza: “When dealing with complex issues, everyone cannot agree on everything. I believe that in some instances, Gov. Parson has created great solutions for our state. At times, I would have favored a different approach.”

McCreery: “Gov. Parson has focused on stripping away women’s rights, attempting to weaken labor unions and giving tax breaks to the richest Missourians. His policies and agenda hurt working families and I will continue to advocate against positions that aren’t in the best interest of my constituents.”

What do you think of the state’s COVID-19 response?

Higgins: “Could have been worse. I was relieved that we were not forced to get vaccinated. It’s obvious that the vaccine does not prevent contracting COVID.”

Hruza: “Because this was a novel crisis, I feel that the state responded in a responsible way for the health of our residents.”

McCreery: “The state response was mediocre at best. Missouri’s COVID response relied on local governments and local health departments to decide testing, closures, mask protections, and vaccine roll outs. A more uniform response would have been more clear, consistent and created more public confidence in the decisions that were made.”

What changes should Missouri make to its health care system?

Higgins: “Like other states, I support increasing the scope-of-practice of licensed medical practitioners to make Missouri the most free-market state in the nation to obtain or provide health care at affordable prices. Such reforms are supported by both consumer groups and free market advocates as a sensible and safe way to increase access to health care services for families and reduce costs.”

Hruza: “We need to increase patient access to affordable, high-quality health care at a reasonable cost for Missourians.”

McCreery: “To promote access to quality health care for all Missourians through preserving and protecting Medicaid expansion, including supporting improved reimbursement rates; opposing harmful, unsound and unscientific medical legislation that has become all too common in the Missouri Legislature, such as banning access to abortion, birth control, criminalizing physicians and disastrous public health decisions; and restoring the functionality of our state public health departments so they are able to manage and respond effectively.”