Democrat Kathy Ellis is mounting a serious challenge to incumbent Republican Rep. Jason Smith in Missouri's 8th Congressional district. Ellis is a sixth-generation Jefferson County, Missouri resident with an impressive career that includes working as a psychotherapist, a Certified Reciprocal Advanced Alcohol and Drug Counselor, a Clinical Social Worker and Director of a Women's halfway house. If elected on Nov. 6th, Ellis will become Missouri's first openly LGBTQ U. S. Congressperson in history.


#Boom recently interviewed Ellis as part of our "OUT on the Trail" series profiling Missouri and Illinois’ LGBTQ+ candidates in 2018.


Tell us about your district; where is it, what does it include?


My district is the 8th Congressional District which consists of 30 counties starting in southern Jefferson County through all counties south including the Boot-heel then following the Arkansas/Missouri state line to stop at the western border of Ozark County, everything in the middle up to Rolla and then east to Desoto, Hillsboro, and back to Festus. It is the 11th poorest district in the country with a life expectancy in Pemiscot County being less than in Honduras.  In 16 counties in the southeast region, 1/4 of children are food insecure.  Meth and opioid addiction are rampant in our district.


What was the catalyst for you getting into this race?


The November 2016 election of Donald Trump was the catalyst for my attendance at the Women's March on Washington in January 2017.  Being at the event was life-changing.  People's greatest fears were written on their signs and one sign in particular moved me.  It was the sign of young woman who had a surgical mask on while moving slowly through the crowd. The sign said "I have a terminal illness.  What will happen to me if they take away my healthcare?"  I will never forget her.  I began to speak with friends and colleagues about running in our district, and it became a reality. I realized that even though I had been a clinical social worker for all of my career, I needed to be involved in something greater.


If elected, you would be the first openly LGBTQ member of Congress representing Missouri. State Sen. Jolie Justus famously said, "If you don't have a seat at the table - you're probably on the menu." What are your thoughts on having out representation in Washington and how do you plan to use that platform?


I have heard from so many LGBTQ people in the district who are so glad that I am running.  They often cannot be "out" in their own communities because of the potential backlash from close-minded individuals.  They want me to represent their interests and protect their rights.  I would like to be a member of the LGBTQ Caucus in the House of Representatives and will do whatever is in my power to protect the rights that we have and make sure that they are not further eroded.


Besides the Federal Equality Act, what legislation do you think is a priority in terms of ensuring the equal rights of LGBTQ people?


I think that passing the Federal Equality Act will be helpful, but we need to examine it for any loopholes that could further compromise rights or not be extensive enough to protect everyone adequately.  We must always be watchful of what the Supreme Court and lower courts are doing.  The sham of the so-called "Religious Liberty" legislation should be carefully monitored in all levels of government.


A lot of our readers find coming out stories to be particularly empowering. Would you mind sharing yours?


There was nothing too dramatic about coming out.  It was just a natural progression from my involvement in the women's movement in the mid-seventies and my time spent with students from all over the world at Washington University during my graduate school years.


Nothing will happen to stop the attacks in Washington, DC on equality/the environment/income disparity, etc. until and unless Democrats take back one or both houses of Congress. How are you feeling about the odds right now?


I think that we have a good shot at taking back the 8th.  We have canvassing going on daily in at least four places in the district, have phone banks and virtual phone banks going, and many are writing postcards.  This is a grassroots campaign that is powered by our volunteers and it is picking up steam.  I have a great professional staff that has worked on previous campaigns that were successful.  We have traveled over 47,000 miles as of this week in the district and still have many, many more miles to go.  I have done hundreds of meet and greets and town halls to hear what people in my district need.


There are some in the Democratic caucus who are ready to introduce articles of impeachment against President Trump today with what has already been discovered. Others say wait for the Mueller investigation to decide. And still others want to just focus on 2020 for fear of a backlash (which Republicans saw after impeaching Clinton). I realize it's early - but what's your general thinking on the matter.


Regarding impeachment.  If I am elected, it is my duty to determine from the evidence presented whether to bring charges against the President.  Until such time, I have to have an open mind.  I would be prefer not to jump to conclusions but to consider whether we would be better off by keeping Trump rather than having Pence in the White House.  Pence is a devious, ambitious zealot whose own issues propel him into his hatred of LGBTQ individuals.  We don't need his crusade to wipe out all of our freedoms and protections.


We'll likely know the fate of Brett Kavanaugh by the time this is published but I'm interested in your thoughts on the #MeToo movement in general and what's happening with it around the country.


As a clinical social worker and trauma/addictions counselor for over 30 years, I am very glad that the movement has taken place.  I have listened to hundreds of men and women over the years who are ashamed to tell their story.  It has been my challenge to help them become empowered to overcome this devastating abuse and take control of their lives. While working with them, I also am aware of the characteristics of their abusers/predators.  It is my hope that the FBI investigation into the Kavanaugh nomination will bring out the necessary information to determine his guilt or innocence.



When speaking to voters in your district, what are the top issues they want to talk to you about?


The issues of concern for my district are access to affordable healthcare (Medicare for All is preferred), protecting our public education so that rural areas are given the same quality of education as urban and suburban and that teachers are adequately compensated with pensions intact, and rebuilding the infrastructure to promote good paying jobs and training to those who want to work.  We also need to have Broadband access to all rural areas.


Any final thoughts?

I am very grateful to those individuals in my district who have supported our campaign.  This has been a wild ride but I wouldn't trade it for anything.  I have met such great people that I will not forget, no matter what the outcome of the election is.


"OUT on the Trail" is an ongoing series of profiles on out LGBTQ candidates in 2018. Check out our interviews with Kathy EllisTom HanneganMitch WeberIan MackeyPatrice BillingsGreg Razer , Ryan DillonMaggie TrevorGreg HarrisKelly Cassidy and Lamont Robinson



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