Jill Schupp: “Let’s Move Forward in a Different Direction”

Boom Magazine

Sunday, November 2nd, 2014

By:COLIN MURPHY & COLIN LOVETT

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While this year’s election is lacking in any high profile statewide races, one of the marquee match ups across Missouri remains the 24th State Senate District in suburban St. Louis pitting State Rep. Jill Schupp (D-82-Creve Coeur) against Republican Jay Ashcroft (scion of the conservative former Missouri Governor, U.S. Senator and United States Attorney General).

The race offers the chance for a rare pickup for Democrats in the State Senate. Schupp, a former Ladue School Board Member, Creve Coeur City Councilwoman and for the past six years, State Representative has been campaigning tirelessly across the district as a progressive voice.

#Boom sat down with Schupp at her home to talk about the race, LGBT equality and more.

Last month, the LGBT community received some good news with the Jackson County Circuit Court decision stating that out of state same-sex marriages must be recognized by Missouri. What are your thoughts on that? 

I am delighted and it makes perfect sense to me. When someone comes from another country and they are married you recognize that; when someone comes from another state you recognize that. This is really a civil rights issue, so I’m a proponent of people having the ability to be legally married andSchupp4 all that comes with that.

When did you first become aware of LGBT issues?

When I served on the Ladue School Board from 2000-2006 we had someone at a high level, the Chief Financial Officer – he and his partner, who was a teacher in the district – they wanted to share in benefits. So our superintendent came in and said we’re going to have a nondiscrimination policy at the school board level and we did that. It was all public. We didn’t make a big to do over it but it was all public and there in our notes and all open to the public so anyone could speak to it but no one did. We talked about it and said this was the right thing to do. We should have partnership benefits and decided what it meant to be a partner and to establish a relationship because obviously we didn’t have marriage… so, we figured out the rules around that and put it forward and it was a really big deal. I remember the LGBT student group was very excited that they saw people in the leadership take the helm and say we’re going to do this. It was a very big deal.

You’ve been a strong supporter of the Missouri Nondiscrimination Act (MONA). How do you see that advancing in the current political climate in Jefferson City?

I think the times – they are a changing’. I really do. I think all the pieces are coming together and we’re moving forward. I think the people who have been at the helm of this movement have done it in a way that has been smart and it’s been a civil justice and a civil rights issue. If we all look at it that way and know that this affects our friends, our family members, our neighbors – why would we ever turn our backs on treating people equally?

Talk about moving from the House to the Senate and continuing your work for social justice.

I think it’s a real opportunity. I’m excited because there are so many issues I think that really matter and make a difference in how people live their lives and how their families’ move forward that I’ll get a chance to work on in the Senate. I feel like in the House we were focused on so many divisive issues all the time; I don’t want to mess with that stuff, I don’t want to have to spend my time focusing on that. There are problems out there that impact people’s lives and I believe that at the end of the day, when we all step back and look at this, we say, aren’t we here to support each other? I know it sounds so cliché, but the whole golden rule thing – treat your neighbor how you would treat yourself. Isn’t that really what this is all about? Anybody in public service has got to come back to that as the essence of why they go in to serve.

Obviously, there’s a chance to educate the opposition on our issues – have you seen their response changing around issues like MONA?

I think this is one of the problems with term limits is we don’t have a lot of time to spend to get to know each other and when you get to know each other, when you can talk to each other about real-world experiences and what’s going on in peoples’ lives it really makes a difference. When you’re in there for eight years and you’re in and you know you’re going to be out rushing forward to push whatever brought you to the table in the first place – I think on the Senate side what I see as an advantage for me is just the smaller number of people. I feel like there’s just a greater opportunity to sit down, work together, collaborate, get to know each other and understand why do you have that perspective? Why do I have my perspective? Where’s common ground? I think term limits create a problem. I think the Senate is where we can move beyond that problem.

How do you view your role as a Democrat in the minority with a Republican super-majority?votebranding2

It’s sort of interesting because when I first came in as a Democratic Representative six years ago the Republicans did not have a super-majority. We had 74 Democrats and we complained quite a bit about being in the minority but that was such a different scenario than it is today. I think that it’s very difficult, but what I’ve learned is when you build alliances and build trust with people then you’re able to move some things forward. So I’ve been able to get some things done. You know, I haven’t changed the world and frankly, I’m there to change the world to make it a better place. I haven’t been able to do that yet but when we chip away at little pieces of inequality and things that are unjust we’re moving in the right direction. So I’m just going to continue chipping away as much as I can.

Let’s talk about your race. Obviously it’s very high profile running against Jay Ashcroft and the chance for a Democratic pickup. As you campaign, what are you telling voters distinguishes yourself from your opponent?

It’s interesting because I like to start off and hear what my constituents are interested in and what they care about and it varies quite a bit from door to door and person to person. Then I like to tell them about some of the things I stand for and then towards the end I will generally mention who my opponent is because not everyone out there is paying as much attention as you and I pay. Many people are taken aback that it is Jay Ashcroft who is running and know his father and know what he’s done and know he’s been an extremist and they don’t’ know much about Jay Ashcroft. All I know is he has indicated or that it has been indicated in the media that he will likely follow in his father’s footsteps, that Jane Cunningham has said in her support of him that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. So I believe his views are of a different time and different era and an era that we’re trying to break away from. Even within the Republican contingent there’s people that are saying there are people here who are to extreme for us – let’s move forward in a different direction. So I think I’m trying to point out our stark differences and how we would legislate and what are our ideas and ideals.

What are your thoughts on this last veto session and what all went down?

I was really disappointed in the Senate. I think that what we think of as a sense of decorum and statesmanship and honoring the minority’s ability to step up and speak for as long as they care to about an issue was undermined by calling into previous question on the issue of the 72 hour waiting period [for abortion] and in particular when it was called on Jolie Justus, who has just been an exemplary Senator who has worked hard to collaborate and to be a strong voice for the minority opinion and representative of a strong minority. I think that was disheartening to see. It was really disappointing because now we have in place this public policy that is so egregious. It makes this the second most punitive law in the nation and I just don’t think that’s where Missouri is.

So it was disappointing and disheartening. Now since veto session has occurred, I’ve heard some people say that was a particular moment in time and that the legislature in the Senate will not move forward in that same direction. I hope that’s true. I hope that they will recognize that as each one of them were individually sent to work in Jefferson City by a large group of people – so was everyone in the minority party. When you look at elections statewide that of our six statewide elected officials four of them are Democrats, two are Republicans and it doesn’t reflect what the lines being drawn across the state represent. So we need to move forward with care and caution because we take away and say the voice of the minority should not matter and it does not matter in the state of Missouri. I think it does matter. Hopefully this race points out that there is clearly an appetite for a different voice than what we’ve heard.

What are you hearing are the issues of most concern to voters in your district?

Obviously jobs and the economy – we want to make sure that they have what they need to support themselves and their families and pass on to the next generation a life that is good as or better than what they had. So making sure our kids have access to quality education no matter where they live is essential to making sure that they can get a good job, making sure that they have affordable access to college, making sure that everyone – that all of our neighbors have affordable access to healthcare is critical. We have an opportunity in 2015 – this is the last year to do that – where the government will pay 100 percent of the cost in implementing Medicaid for people who are living at 138 percent of the poverty level.

So the whole idea that we keep shipping off money, sending it to the corporations and the one percent when the middle class continues to be squeezed I think is really problematic and I think that message resonates with the people of this district. I think, frankly, taking away women’s rights to make their own decisions for their families and themselves is something that is setting us backwards instead of forwards. I think women are saying, “Hey, I’ve already lived though that battle. Don’t keep sending us back there.” So I think those are issues that resonate in this district.

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