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Urban and Rural: One State Representative’s Journey to the Statehouse

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Rep. Chuck Basye never thought he would have the title of Missouri state representative next to his name.

“The closest I [ever] got was I considered running for school board years ago, but the job that I had just didn’t allow that,” Basye said. “This was just all a timing situation. I was looking for something else to do.”

Basye represents Missouri’s 47th House district which includes parts of Boone, Cooper, Randolph, and Howard counties. It is one of the few House districts in the state that includes both urban and rural parts.

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The fields on the Basye property that produce such vegetables as asparagus, tomatoes, squash, and peppers

Before becoming a House member, Basye served in the United States Marine Corps from 1976-1980 and achieved the ranking of Lance Corporal.

He worked as a radio operator and as a result of that, “advancement was hard to attain,” he said laughing.

Basye said the two things the Marine Corps taught him were work ethic and respect for his fellow citizens.

After working as an air traffic controller for nearly 25 years in Columbia, Basye continued his work for the agency as the Freedom of Information Act coordinator for the FAA Central Division located in Kansas City.

That meant spending a lot of time away from his family.

His wife Rhonda, 59, says that was extremely tough on her.

“It was hard,” she said. “Trying to work full-time, maintain the house, take care of the farm and the dogs. It’s like being alone.”

Basye says it was even tougher for him.

“It was like you’re living two different lives,” Basye said. “I didn’t socialize a whole lot over there outside of work.”

Basye’s wife has worked for Columbia Public Schools for 25 years. She first worked as a playground supervisor and the rest of that time, she’s been a regional kitchen manager overseeing eight schools by ordering and distributing their food.

She says the most rewarding part of her job is seeing kids grow up.

“I’ve seen a lot of the kids come through kindergarten and graduate,” she said. “It’s very rewarding to see that.”

The Basyes have been married for 32 years after meeting through a mutual friend in St. Charles and she said the attraction to him was almost instant.

“We met up again and then started dating right away,” she said. 

They had their first child in 1983 in St. Charles and they had another boy after that in 1984.

Basye is also the stepfather to his wife’s child from another marriage.

But the Basye family goes back even farther in Missouri.

Rep. Basye is a sixth-generation farmer in central Missouri. Henry Basye was the first to settle in Missouri in the mid-19th century and soon after that, Michael Basye bought a property in Rocheport that is still in use today.

Chuck’s brother Randy, 58, owns the property and uses it to build tables and flooring as well as hunt deer.

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Basye talks with his brother Randy inside the large barn on Friday, Feb. 27

Basye says he’s gotten to know some representatives very well since his arrival in the House. Those includes Reps. Caleb Jones and Caleb Rowden of Columbia, Rep. Tim Remole of northern Missouri, and Rep. Dave Muntzel of Boonville. He says he got to know those certain representatives because of their proximity to his district and even some donated to his campaign.

Basye singled out four newly-elected Democrats he got to know on the freshman tour across the state: Reps. Joe Adams, Alan Green, and Deb Lavender of St. Louis County and Rep. Lauren Arthur of Kansas City. Basye stressed that when it comes to politics, they won’t agree on many things, but getting to know them on the tour was very beneficial.

Basye’s race against then-Democratic Rep. John Wright campaign was one of the most watched in the state. Basye lost Boone County, but he won Howard, Cooper, and Randolph counties, giving him enough votes to defeat Wright.

One of the biggest issues in the campaign was Wright’s crusade against corruption and money in politics. Missouri is the only state in the nation with no caps on campaign contribution limits or lobbyist gifts.

Basye said that is a problem.

“When you can take your own money and pretty much finance your campaign, it kind of puts other people at a disadvantage,” Basye said.

A bill passed by the Senate imposes a 2-year cooling off period before lawmakers can become lobbyists, but the bill does not apply to any current lawmaker.

Basye says this is wrong.

“If it is good enough for people staring in 2017, it ought to be good enough for everybody that’s in the legislature right now,” Basye said.

Basye also talked about Missouri possibly becoming the latest right-to-work state.

Currently, unions may require their members to pay union dues even if the employee doesn’t want to.

Basye says he brings a unique perspective to the issue because he spent over 20 years in the National Association of Air Traffic Specialists union.

“They would take our dues money, roll it into a PAC [Political Action Committee], and then they would contribute that to a campaign or a candidate that I had very little agreement with,” Basye said.

Basye’s wife isn’t as politically active, but she still cares about certain issues.

One such issue where she has changed her mind is the 2nd Amendment.

She said her mind changed when her husband worked in Kansas City.

“I didn’t grow up with guns in the household,” she said. “I was home alone and [the gun was for] me, to protect me.”

Rep. Basye is a strong 2nd Amendment supporter and they both say they’re now both in agreement on the issue.

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Randy is an avid deer hunter and his house is filled with mounted deer heads

Both shared their experiences from the campaign trail and Mrs. Basye said she didn’t knock on doors like her husband did, but she did other things to help him win his race.

“[I] did a lot of parades, a lot of going to events, that type of thing and just being with him,” she said.

Basye has been in office for more than two months and Mrs. Basye said the experience of watching her husband work in the Missouri Capitol is amazing.

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Rep. Basye said the truck was used in parades when he was campaigning. Everybody would load into the back of the truck and wave to the crowds

“It really hasn’t sunk in yet, I don’t think,” she said. “We took our grandkids down and visited a couple of weeks ago. We’re still just kind of in awe about the whole situation.”

Basye says he intends to run for his second term in 2016, but won’t commit to anything beyond that.

“Things are changing with our family life,” he said. “[Rhonda] is going to be eligible to retire here pretty soon, so we might opt to do something different.”

In the meantime, the Basyes have six grandchildren, five of them girls. Basye said he is learning to adapt to having girls around.

“I didn’t have any sisters growing up and didn’t have any daughters, now I have five granddaughters,” Basye said. “When the first granddaughter was born, it was very interesting.” 

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