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Two running for state senate seat

Two men have announced their intention to run for the Missouri Senate seat soon to be vacated by Karla Eslinger. In December 2023, Eslinger announced her appointment to Missouri’s Education Commission, meaning the position of representing the 33rd district will be open in August’s primary election. Candidate filing does not begin until late February, but two Republicans have already announced their campaigns. 
 
West Plains native Travis Smith, and current State Representative in the 155th district, announced his campaign on January 18. Representative Brad Hudson of the 138th district announced his intention to run in September before Eslinger announced her intention to step down. Both candidates gave interviews to Howell County News. 
 
Travis Smith
Rep. Travis Smith currently represents Douglas, Ozark, Stone, and Taney Counties (District 155). Elected to his first two-year term in November 2020, Smith’s career prior to politics includes small business ownership, economic development, and high school track coaching. 
 
“I truly believe life should go – you start a family, make a career, and then you serve. You give back for every blessing you’ve received. I got into politics because it’s the highest level of service,” Smith said in a January 21 interview. 
 
Born in West Plains, Smith now resides in Twin Bridges with his wife, Karen, and they are parents to four children and grandparents to Dwayne.
 
Smith was named Freshman Legislator of the Year by the Missouri Chamber of Commerce. He holds a BA in English from the University of Missouri and an MBA from William Woods University. He also served as a board member on numerous local organizations including the West Plains Chamber of Commerce, the Howell County Development Committee, Library Board and Ozarks Healthcare. 
 
Smith told Howell County News that he’s running for the Senate seat because of the divisiveness he sees in that chamber. 
 
“What concerns me about the Senate is the way your representatives are pointing fingers now. There’s a group of Republications that will kill progress because it’s ‘my way or no way.’ That’s not the way to do business,” Smith said. 
 
“My number one thing has been broadband. COVID taught us that eighty percent of Americans can do work from home -- if you have high speed internet…You lose millions of dollars of investment dropping calls like we do out here…It is the role of government to fulfill that. Just like when electricity came to every house in the Ozarks, and broadline is a utility now. We have to have good broadband.” Representing some of the poorest parts of the state, Smith spoke about development and getting help to constituents who need a safety net.
 
“What do we do to improve people’s lives? People who want to work for it?” Smith said. “When you hit that safety net, you should not want to stay there very long…Ozark County and Douglas County have very little money at all…No one likes to pay taxes, but just like we donate to a church, we feel a moral need to take care of each other. I never want taxes to be wasted.”
 
Smith reports that he is endorsed by the Missouri Cattlemen’s Association, the National Rifle Association, the Missouri Chamber of Commerce, and the Missouri Farm Bureau. 
“I’ve never been into self-promotion,” he said. “Last time when I was running [for the Missouri House], I had to work hard to make contacts. This time, it’s surprising how many people were reaching out and saying, ‘we need you to do this.’ I’m so grateful to have people believe in me, people who knew me when from when I was a little kid.”
 
Brad Hudson
Rep. Brad Hudson stopped by the news office on Friday for an interview. He reports he has been hitting the campaign trail hard since September. Hudson currently represents Stone and Christian Counties (District 138) in the Missouri House of Representatives. He was elected to his first two-year term in November 2018.
 
Hudson reports he is one of two “active senior pastors.” Hudson is the pastor to the congregation at Blessing Heights Worship Center. He also served as the Stone County Assessor after being first elected to the position in 2008 and re-elected in 2012 and 2016.
 
“One of the messages that I would deliver to the congregations,” Hudson said Friday, “ is I believe that God’s people should get involved in government, in the political process…The time came to practice what I literally preached.”
 
“I’ve handled high profile legislation, but  some of the most rewarding work is not just the legislation that I’ve carried that’s gotten national attention. It’s the things I’ve been able to do for the people back home,” Hudson said. 
 
“I grew up on a farm, grew up fixing fence,” he said. “I even raised pigs, until I figured out pigs are more fun to eat than raise, but during my time growing up on the farm, I learned a good work ethic, 110% all day every, and that’s the way I approach work in legislation… [The] faith that I cultivated is the driving force behind everything I do.”
 
Hudson says he is running for Senate because he sees too much compromise in that chamber at the expense of impactful legislation.
 
“Through my work on the SAFE Act and other legislation, I have seen that there is a problem in the Senate with compromise…There are things you should not compromise on and protecting kids is one of them. In the senate I will have a bigger microphone and be able impact legislation in a way that I haven’t been able to do as a House member.”
 
If elected, Hudson would be representing Douglas, Ozark, Howell counties among others, counties that have the highest poverty levels in the state, whereas Stone County’s economy is powered by tourism to Table Rock Lake and Branson. Hudson says he feels confident in representing the poverty demographic. 
 
“As I’ve traveled the district, I find that people are less concerned with geography than with integrity…People want someone who will do what he says he will and be honest with them and has a voting record to back it up…I was not one that went to Jeff City and raised taxes. I’ve been on record fighting against tax increases.”
 
“I am a constitutional conservative Republican, and that is something, in an election year, that’s popular to say, but I have a voting record to back that up.”
 
Hudson was not ready to name any official endorsements but commented, “Conservative groups are getting behind the candidate that has a voting record to back that up and also has a pattern of priorities that match.”
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