Marvin Manring, local Democrat candidate for House District 127, woke up at 4:30 a.m. in his Stockton, Missouri, home Thursday, Sept 29. In the cold dark of the harvest morning, he fitted on a suit, stopped at a gas station to pick up glazed donuts and coffee, and then hit the road to make it to Jefferson City by 9 a.m. sharp.
Driving against the sun, Manring traveled to attend a press conference held by Rep. Sarah Unsicker (D-Shrewsbury) in the Capitol over legislation she filed in special session that would require all Missouri residential care facilities to be licensed — including religious schools that are currently exempt.
Unsicker’s HB 15 is legislation Manring endorses on a topic he’s followed closely. Last month, he sat in the Cedar County Courthouse, listening and taking notes as the AG Office made moves in an attempt to shut down Agape Boarding School. He’s kept tabs on legislative action regarding state boarding school exemptions, licensure, and oversight. He’s also spoken publicly on his concerns about boarding school abuse in Missouri since the matter became widely publicized in mid-2020.
The handling of the Agape case is something Manring’s opponent, Ann Kelley (R-Lamar), said she has “no position on” when questioned impromptu in her office by the CCR shortly after Unsicker’s press conference, which Kelley did not attend.
Kelley said in her office she has no position on the Agape Boarding School case due to “lawsuits being involved.”
Walking out of the Capitol shortly later, Manring said it troubled him that a potential future representative of Stockton held no position over a high-profile case such as Agape. He said that response is just one example of how splitting House districts within rural Missouri counties can be problematic. Hyper-local issues and diverse opinions often get lost in the noise if a local state representative’s base is located in a different county from those specific issues and opinions.
Manring was quick to endorse Unsicker’s House Bill 15 and was the only person from Stockton who attended the press conference unveiling news about the bill. But, he said, it’s not the people’s job to attend these types of press conferences — he said it’s the Representatives’ job, adding that it’s also the Representatives’ job to be a voice for the people, too.
“That is exactly the type of scenario where we needed a voice for the people — for our community,” Manring said, before starting his drive back to Stockton.
Manring’s campaign has been relatively quieter this election cycle compared to his first stab at the ballot in 2020, when he lost the race to Rep. Mike Stephens (R-Bolivar) for House District 128. This year, Manring hasn’t heavily pursued creating new campaign signage and apparel, and his supporters mostly reuse Manring4MO signs from the 2020 election. He retired this summer from a 37-year-long career in music education, managed a convention of circus band enthusiasts in Springfield during the summer, and tended to family matters, but he’s generally been focusing more on campaigning since early September.
“It’s been a full plate this spring and summer and, regrettably, I haven’t enjoyed as much of an opportunity to get to know a new group of voters over this election cycle,” he observed. “This will be a much longer investment over the coming election years to work for progress in this district, especially considering Stockton’s recent move to the 127th.”
As the November election draws closer and recent headlines point to troubling issues in Cedar County, Manring said the desire for true local representation in this pocket of rural southwest Missouri is part of what sparked his interest in the Missouri legislature in the first place, and spurred him to participate in the redistricting process by testifying in front of the state commission during the fall of 2021.
“We used to have Cedar County itself as a whole represented in the state legislature and not carved up,” Manring said. “That’s what really got me interested in this in the first go-around — the fact that Cedar County was just these stripes of districts that were all attached to somebody else’s county.”
Cedar County saw redistricting this year, however, and is now represented by only two districts. House District 127 represents Stockton, Umber View Heights, and the southern portion of the county. District 127 also covers the entirety of Barton County and Dade County, as well as portions of northern and eastern Jasper County. The northern section of Cedar county is part of the 125th district, which will also see a runoff between Republican and Libertarian candidates.
Manring said in rural Missouri house districts, Republican candidates typically only face stiff competition during the primary election cycle. When running unopposed in a general election, Republican candidates automatically have their tickets punched for Jefferson City. But Manring said that ticket, in the Missouri GOP, is something that is often challenged if that electee doesn’t stick to the party’s exact status quo in the Capitol.
“My dad was an artilleryman in Patton’s Third Army, and one Patton quote is, ‘If everyone’s thinking the same way, then someone isn't thinking,’” Manring said. “I feel like taking a diversity of opinions — because we have a diversity of people in the state — taking that to the state legislature is really important.”
Some of Manring’s views naturally stray from the supermajority. Regarding abortion rights, Manring’s website states he supports privacy between patient and doctor, and the right for a woman to choose. He also supports the Missouri Non-Discrimination Act, which would allow protections to the LGBTQ community by adding sexual orientation and gender identity to Missouri’s Human Rights Act.
But other issues Manring holds positions on also reach across party lines. He said one major election goal is to continue strengthening Missouri’s education system. He supports public school funding and said he supports investment in higher education and workforce training.
For local matters beyond boarding school abuse, Manring supports the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program — a program Cedar County has yet to implement but will see a public hearing on the matter in the near future with the Commission.
Manring also denounced Senate Bill 391 and said he advocates for local control and county governance to give people “a say on agricultural enterprises,” as environmental concerns play a hand in his mind, especially given the presence of Stockton Lake.
Another major goal is communicating with the public. Manring said representatives used to write commentary pieces and news items on their voting actions and views. He said that’s a practice he’d revive if elected into office.
“My goal would be to try to offer a personal touch as much as I can, and try to stay current and up with everyone’s problems,” Manring said.
Although Manring knows that statistically, the odds of him winning the race for House District 127 are low due to his position as a political minority, Unsicker and Rep. Doug Clemens (D) offered a slice of hope to Cedar County Democrats on Friday, Sept. 30. Hosted by the Cedar County Democrats and welcomed by Manring at a town hall in Stockton, Rep. Unsicker and Rep. Clemens told the crowd of around 10 attendees that 50 percent of rural Missourians identify – albeit quietly–with many Democratic values.
They also said campaigns such as Manring’s do indeed “matter,” even if the outcome is highly disproportionate in votes. The campaigns of Democratic candidates in local races ultimately provide statistical information to the state’s Democrat party, and they also raise awareness on political issues, Unsicker and Clemens said.
Manring won 3,312 votes to Stephens’ 14,748 votes in November 2020. But whether or not the ballot repeats history next month, Manring said that his campaign at least gives locals “a choice” with their vote for representation — an essential component of democracy.