Patrice Billings, a former SWAT sniper and retired chief pilot who served in the St. Louis County Police Department Metro Air Support Unit, is running for State Senate in Missouri’s 2nd Senate District in the 2018 general election.
Billings has a distinguished career of public service, was awarded a Purple Heart, and has been recognized as the first female police officer in the country to become a helicopter pilot for a law enforcement agency. She is currently a jewelry designer and a co-owner of Butterfly & Moon in historic St. Charles.
Billings has seen firsthand the issues affecting disenfranchised Missourians through her involvement with national and local nonprofit organizations such as Zonta International, Safe Connections and the St. Charles Equality Coalition. She is an advocate for women, children, and seniors.
The Women’s Journal recently had an opportunity to interview her.
WJ: What prompted you to run for office?
PB: For years I was a public servant and saw first-hand the end consequences of poor public policies related to domestic violence, gun legislation, and the opioid epidemic. I have seen access to women’s health care erode in our state over the last 10 years. And I have seen the balance of power shift in our state legislature to the far right, representing special interests and big corporations at the expense of private citizens.
As a small business owner, I am concerned about the rising costs of health insurance, and the efforts to overturn tax credits for restoration of historic districts like St. Charles, MO, where my business is located. I am concerned about the overcrowding of schools in cities like Wentzville, and the lack of long-range planning for the congested roads and old bridges that need repairing.
I realized we no longer can stay silent, and we must collectively work together to stand up for what is right.
WJ: What will you do for the people in your district and the state that the incumbent is not doing?
PB: My goal as the next State Senator from Western St. Charles is to listen to the people. There are many people who have given up hope of being heard and their needs are not being met. I will be accessible to these residents, and I will listen to them with an open mind and an open heart. I have heard directly from someone in District 2, that Mr. Onder would not even meet with her, to hear how the opioid epidemic is affecting her family, and the importance of a statewide drug registry to slow down the flow of prescription drugs to addicts. I think it is unconscionable to avoid a constituent because they will challenge you on your viewpoints. I will also represent the LGBT community and the many families who have LGBT family members…..I can guarantee you that my opponent is not thinking about them when he demonstrates discriminatory beliefs and proposed legislation.
WJ: You support healthcare reform, Medicaid expansion, and reproductive choice. The Missouri General Assembly seems to be consistently against all of these. Once in office, do you think you will face a lot of opposition to these reforms? If so, what are your strategies for dealing with it?
PB: My strategies for dealing with political opposition for any of my positions is to build coalitions between legislators and the citizens whom they represent. If legislators can hear from more of their constituents, they might listen. We can work together across the aisle to bring about positive changes. Sometimes, just blocking harmful legislation will be the best we can accomplish. According to State Sen Jill Schupp that tactic should never be under-estimated. Being a strong advocate for women’s access to better healthcare options means being clear, providing real-life stories and creating a better understanding of these issues. Sometimes its ignorance that prevents positive changes, sometimes, its fear. I will confront both ignorance, and fear.
WJ: Again, harking back to the General Assembly’s conservativism – how successful do you think you will be in passing LGBTQ anti-discrimination legislation?
PB: As a member of the LGBTQ community myself, I am a living testament that stereotypes are not accurate or truthful. Sometimes those who would discriminate against us, are people who do not think they know anyone who is in that community. Well, now they will know someone. I’m not afraid to speak the truth for any marginalized community.
WJ: You propose automatic voter registration upon turning 18 and also making it easier for people to vote. Some people claim that this would give easily-swayed “low information voters” too much influence. How do you answer this?
PB: In America, we believe that every citizen has the privilege and the right to vote. Educational background has not, and should not, ever deter someone from voting their conscience and according to their heart. It doesn’t take a Master’s Degree to see what’s happening in our state.
WJ: You discuss ensuring that families in rural areas have access to the same social programs and opportunities as families in urban areas. It seems to me (correct me if I’m wrong) that the majority of the current state Senate and House of Representatives consists of representatives from rural areas – but the majority of money for these programs still goes to urban areas. What are your plans/strategies to address this imbalance?
PB: A rural area can be revitalized by the Farmers Bill of Rights, which would help the small towns across Missouri as these towns are built around family farms, which are on the rapid decline. By supporting Family-owned farms, farmers would have access to fair and open markets and the right to control local land. We would indirectly support these rural areas so that more jobs are created, schools begin to flourish again, and hospitals can restore their ob-gyn departments. Right now, a woman could die on the floor of her home from pregnancy complications, because there is no nearby hospital that is equipped to treat her.
WJ: Summing up your hopes for Missouri….?
PB: I have the vision to move this state forward and attract workers and tourism to our state, courage to face the bullies who operate from a platform of ignorance and fear, and the commitment to stay the course, finding workable solutions, and reversing some of the setbacks for human and civil rights.