Two area women are moving to the November General Election to represent Missouri’s 18th Senatorial District.

Crystal Stephens and Cindy O’Laughlin will be on the ballot for District 18 this November.

After the polls closed Tuesday, two political first-timers received the support from the district to make it to the General Election. Democratic candidate Crystal Stephens ran unopposed and Republican candidate Cindy O’Laughlin beat three opponents who have all previously served in the Missouri House.

O’Laughlin and Stephens are going around the district meeting with residents and businesses. They both hope to make District 18 more prosperous bringing more jobs and opportunities for all.

In interviews with both candidates, I wanted to answer questions many of us may have regarding the new leadership. Here are their responses.

Are you going to do anything different with your campaign? Are you going to keep at the same pace?

O’Laughlin: I’ll keep my campaign the same. I’ll have more conversations with more state level people. I feel like my quest is to make contacts with as many people as I can in our area. I feel like our little towns and counties are struggling, we need the ability to push more assistance out to our area. I like to talk to people who own businesses and people in hospitals and talk about the challenges they face and how to address those. We need to make an area that people want to come back to, and I think that could be broadband. My goal is to talk to people, listen to them and I’ve done a lot of that so far and I’ve learned a lot.

Stephens: The issues are the same, so I am going to sticking by what I’m running on. I will probably switch it up a little bit because [O’Laughlin] and I are so different from one another. My campaign is not about attacking anybody else, it’s about the issues and about who’s better for the job, who can make a difference in the 18th District for everybody, not just a certain group. I want to do a lot of debates because there are a lot of issues. I don’t want to make this into a nasty campaign.

How do you hope to bring more jobs and prosperity to District 18?

Stephens: The first thing we need to do is to have a trained workforce. We need to get young people to stay in rural Missouri, so we need to offer them better wages. We need to keep Missouri pro-union and we cannot have Missouri be a Right to Work state. I think we need to build our infrastructure, we have a very old infrastructure. Businesses may not want to move in because we have infrastructure that is falling apart. I think a part of the problem is people are afraid to learn new skills and bringing in renewable energy. I think bringing in renewable energy will also bring a lot of jobs. Missouri pretty much has everything need, we need to utilize all of of the resources we already have. Any profits we make in Missouri need to stay in Missouri, not given to private energy companies.

O’Laughlin: I was just in Louisiana, Mo. and talked with a local business owner and she said if they had better infrastructure maybe more people would stop in and enjoy the town. To me, it seems like a bureaucratic tangle, and if there’s enough pressure applied it’s a problem we can solve. If we bring everyone to the table, we need to work together to get that done. I stopped into a business where he fabricates trailers. One of his employees made $19 an-hour. The employee worked there for a few months and then said he had to quit his job because he could get a job at Walmart and get the rest of his entitlement paid by the state. The way it’s currently setup, if you make a dollar too much, they take everything away from you. A lot of people have to quit their jobs because they can’t afford to work. We need to distribute more money to our folks in rural Missouri to support our area.

With politics dividing so many people, how important is bipartisanship?

O’Laughlin: We’re not going to get where we want to be if we’re at each other's throats. I have some foundational beliefs that I don’t bend on, but I am willing to sit down with those people who maybe we don’t see eye-to-eye. I want to sit down with a lot of people and talk about issues and ask them what they think the best solution is. I think we have to at least start the conversation. I think we need stress more that we’re all looking for solutions, rather than saying I’m in this party, you’re in that party and the two can never meet in the middle. We have to come up with solutions that we can explain. If we keep with the status quo, we’re not going to get anywhere. The status quo isn’t working [in the district].

Stephens: We have got to stop making people so afraid of each other. This is causing a lot of racism, bigotry and I think that it boils down to we need to start educating people on facts and stop pushing alternative facts. We cannot talk to others like, ‘us vs. them.’ Nationally and on the state level, I think we are all agreeing on a lot of issues, but we’re disagreeing on how to get there. If we can stop motivating people to act on fear, I think we can come together and get along a lot easier. We should be doing what is best for the people and not doing what is best for outside industries.

How does it feel to potentially be the first female District 18 senator?

Stephens: You have no idea how excited I am to possibly be District 18’s first female senator. When I started running, I did not know there had never been a woman in the 18th Senatorial. We need more women in politics. In Missouri, we have many more women than men. Women are not second-class citizens and I’m very happy to be very happy to be running for this. We need a woman who is running to represent the district and not corporations. We need fair representation when women are the majority in Missouri.

O’Laughlin: I have always thought people should be judged on their abilities. So I’ve never really paid attention to the fact that I’m a woman that we need to add that to the equation. I think I’ve demonstrated that I can achieve success over the long haul. I think women and men approach issues in a different manner. We have some very successful women mayors in the district.

What’s one thing you want to let potential voters know about you?

O’Laughlin: I want them to know that I’m a successful business owner and we’re in the business of responding to unforeseen challenges and we do it successfully and quickly. I know how to prioritize and how to focus on priorities. I’m not just someone who’s going to Jefferson City and handing out money like shuffling a deck of cards. I’m willing to speak up about things that most people would not be willing to, simply because I’m not excited about staying down there forever. The thing that is most important to me is [at home].

Stephens: There weren’t enough candidates who didn’t have experience with the issues. There’s a difference between knowledge of an issue and experience with an issue. Instead of running and actually understanding the issues and that people aren’t just numbers. When you pass a law you’re doing it to help actual people. Some politicians have become insensitive to the fact that there actions affect everyone in Missouri. I have personally experienced a lot of the issues, I know what people are facing. We have to work on projects to help people on project at a time. The government is supposed to work for the people, not for corporations.