The race to fill the seat being vacated by one of the most powerful lawmakers in Jefferson City is on – 18 months before the election.  Republican State Senate President Pro Tem Ron Richard will retire in 2018 because of Missouri’s term-limit law.

And two GOP House members are angling to replace him in the 32nd District which incorporates Joplin and a surrounding area.

Representative Bill White of Joplin threw his hat into the ring Tuesday night, joining Representative Charlie Davis of Webb City, who’ll roll out his official kick-off in July.

Both men will close out eight-year term limits in the House next year as well.  White says he’s running to make a difference in government.  “Are you going to sit there and do nothing, or are you going to get up and do something about it,” White said.

White is an attorney who has specialized in children, the elderly and business law.  As the Juvenile Attorney in Jasper County, he dealt with juvenile delinquency and abuse cases.   In the House, he’s a member of the Judiciary Committee and serves as Vice-Chairman of the Special Committee on Litigation Reform.

White offers two reasons he’s seeking a Senate seat.  First, he’s unhappy with the policies lawmakers passed this year, especially the budget legislation.  Second, he’s appalled with the behavior in the Senate this year, where infighting has ground the chamber’s business to a halt on numerous occasions.

“The way it’s been non-functioning I guess I should say.  We need to have people that are mature, professional, and can actually do the job up there, and not get locked into little petty squabbles.”

State Rep. Charlie Davis, R-Webb City

White’s opponent in the race defends the scope of legislation passed this year, if not the relatively few number of bills.  Representative Davis contends Republican priorities, such labor and legal legislation, were signed into law.  But he agrees with White that the Senate has under-performed.

“Am I a little bit disgruntled with some of the things that happens in the Senate, absolutely” said Davis.  I think the Senate needs to do the peoples’ will.  They need to stand and fight for the people.  And sometimes, it seems like in the past few years, we have seen the Senate not necessarily do that.”

Davis served six years in the United States Navy as an electronics technician.  He’s a 28-year businessman who owns a computer/IT business in Joplin.  He’s fiercely conservative, and says he’ll direct his campaign message to a like-minded base which dominates the region.

“I’m going to go on a strong constitutional, conservative-Christian platform, to be the voice life in Missouri, to be the voice for limited government, as well as be the voice for the blue collar, common worker.”

Davis is loyal to Richard, who he’s seeking to succeed in office.  He thinks Richard was wrongly accused of being corrupt after receiving $100,000 from Joplin businessman David Humphreys.

“David Humphries gave many individuals large contributions.  Because of Amendment 2, he did it at a certain time that was right before Amendment 2 was going to kick in.  And it just so happened that it happened to be during that time period.”

Amendment 2 sharply restricted campaign donations, but has since been locked in a court battle.  Humphreys gave his contribution to Richard five days after the Senator filed legislation viewed as highly favorable to Humphries business.

The measure became mired in controversy and never advanced in the legislature.  It would have dramatically weakened the state’s Merchandising Practices Act, which offers protections for product liability.  Republicans filed well over 20 bills in the past session to dismantle it and similar laws which open the door for liability lawsuits.

Davis, like most members in his party, contends those laws are a drain on business.  He’s calling for many of them to be repealed as part of his platform in the Senate race.