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story.lead_photo.caption U.S. Rep. Vicky Hartzler, R-Mo.
Neal Gist

The incumbent District 4 US representative and her opponent stress their beliefs in assuring individual rights are at the forefront amid the continuing effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler, R-Harrisonville, is running for re-election in the Aug. 4 primary election. The winner of the Republican primary will face one of two Libertarian candidates — Robert Smith, L-Nevada, or Steven Koonse, L-Leeton — and Lindsey Simmons, D-Hallsville, in the November election.

Hartzler, a business owner and former educator in Lebanon and Belton, was first elected to office in 1994 as the state representative for Missouri's 124th District and served three terms in the Missouri legislature.

Hartzler will see one challenger in the upcoming primary election: Neal Gist, of Lake of the Ozarks. Gist originally hails from Houston, Texas, and works primarily in software engineering.

Gist said his philosophy around politics stems from his education, background in campaigning and vocation.

"As a software engineer, I'm well-versed in analyzing massive amounts of complex data in order to fix broken systems," Gist said. "I also understand that when something is broken, the responsible thing to do is address it and restore order. With my combined background in the political sphere, I will be an adept congressman and uncompromising defender of the Constitution and the sacred tenets of life, liberty and property."

From Hartzler's perspective, she pointed to her varied background and time spent as an elected representative in the state and national stages — including service on the House Agriculture Committee, House Values Action Team and Tactical Air and Land Forces Subcommittee — as experience that makes her the best candidate to retain her position.

"My experience and record of getting things done for those I serve enable me to be an effective voice for the people of this area," Hartzler said.

Though the state of Missouri has not had any imposed statewide public health restrictions since June 16, both candidates expressed their focus will be on returning to the pre-pandemic status quo as COVID-19 continues to spread.

"I will focus on getting more people back to work and helping businesses to stay afloat, ensuring that workers are safe, and getting students back in school," Hartzler said.

Gist characterized Congress as "willfully complacent" in sitting by while the economy is ravaged by what he described as unconstitutional and illegal orders coming from governors, mayors and health departments.

"By what right does any mayor have to declare your business nonessential, shut you down, fine you and incarcerate you?" Gist said. "Where in the Constitution can any elected or unelected bureaucrat force you to wear a mask or prohibit your right to assemble? I will fight to ban these outrageous and illegal mandates."

Gist said, in terms of other national issues, he is focused on defunding institutions such as universities, big tech, Hollywood and corporate media in the short-term, if elected. In the long-term, Gist said slashing spending and reversing the national deficit is paramount and said he is in favor of paying off the country's debt, which he said he would like to lead to abolishing the IRS, federal reserve and federal income tax.

At her political core, Hartzler said she is driven by her religious background.

"My faith inspires me to serve others and my belief that each person was created with a purpose and deserves dignity and freedom to pursue their God-given rights and goals," Hartzler said.

From Gist's perspective, he explained that individual liberty is at the forefront of his political philosophy. Gist stressed he believes the progress made in the first centuries of the United States of America's history are in jeopardy at the hands of collectivism and "Marxist ideologies."

Gist said he doesn't think elected representatives have delivered on their promises. He said conservative tenets have not been upheld by Republicans, beyond the relative impeding of progressive ideas, amid exponentially growing debt and the erosion of American values.

"What evidence is there of smaller government, ever, anywhere?" Gist said. "When the espoused values of our representatives do not align with their actions, when habitual failure defines their tenure, we must assume our responsibility as citizens and relieve them of duty."

Hartzler, meanwhile, believes she is set apart by her track record of experience and history of getting things done for the people she serves. She also pointed to the distinction of being the only candidate endorsed by National Right to Life, the NRA and the US Chamber of Commerce.

Hartzler detailed some of her legislative accomplishments as final evidence of why she should earn votes in August, including passing legislation to combat the nation's illegal drug problem by allowing border patrol agents to take down drones used by drug cartels to bring drugs across the border; passing legislation ensuring all Gold Star families receive the maximum amount of benefits after losing a loved one in battle; passing legislation ensuring tax dollars for rural broadband meet current and future needs; and championing legislation to build a new B-2 Operations Center and Vehicle Maintenance Facility at Whiteman AFB, and a new hospital at Fort Leonard Wood.

"I listen and I care," Hartzler said. "I believe taking people's common-sense ideas to Washington is the best way to fix a broken system. I'm a hard worker, and I've been effective in fighting for the values and ideas of this district."

Gist said his sole intention is to represent his constituents and defend each of their Constitutional rights, on the front lines every day pushing back against the "hate machine."

"The advancement of political truth comes through honest discourse, caring hearts and open minds," Gist said. "If you are unwilling to engage in civil conversation, if the weight of your argument rests solely upon the assassination of your opposition's character, then your argument is insufficient and you are a demagogue."

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