Missouri Republican Rep.-elect Vicky Hartzler is a formidable force.
She proved as much in November, when the Sarah Palin and Mitt Romney PAC-endorsed candidate unseated 17-term Congressman Ike Skelton, the powerful chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. Now, having toppled the veteran legislator, she will be taking a spot on the committee he once chaired, her top choice, as well as the Agriculture Committee, her other top pick, when she enters the new Congress.
But the way she presents herself is as a farm girl. She does, after all, live on a farm, where, she told The Daily Caller in a phone interview, she and her husband “raise corn and soybeans, and we have cattle, and finish some hogs.” She also grew up on a farm and spent most summers working it with her parents and sister, except for one sweltering summer when she says she worked at the fruit stand at an apple orchard in what she described as “the hottest summer Missouri ever had.” Another summer, she worked as a camp counselor.
She and her husband are also the owners of Hartzler Equipment Company, which sells farm equipment, like “tractors, and combines, and rakes,” Hartzler said. With three stores and about fifty employees, Hartzler and her husband fall into the category of small business owners, a group that the Tea Party champions.
Hartzler’s background, she says, is typical of her constituents, which she describes as “small towns, small schools, small farms and ranches, small business.”
“We work hard, love our kids, go to church on Sundays and hunt on the weekends,” Hartzler said. “We just want the government to leave us alone.”
As January approaches, Hartzler is getting her priorities in order. She lists creating a “balanced budget” as a top priority of hers, “one that puts us back on the road to fiscal sanity.” Like most Republicans, repealing the health care law and promoting job creation also get top billing.
Hartzler wants more “transparency” in the health care system, “so the consumer has more control over their health care dollars and where they spend them,” she said. “Right now you go to the doctor, you have no idea how much that visit even costs…so you have no idea how to compare it.”
She likens the ideal situation to a “dollar menu.” One fast food place started it, and now just about all of them have one because it has become a requirement to compete. Knowing the price of a doctor’s visit up front would force a similar type of competition, she believes.
Among her new colleagues, Hartzler is particularly “looking forward to working with [Minnestoa Republican Rep.] Michele Bachmann and [Indiana Republican Rep.] Mike Pence, two people that I think are on the right track.”
In the mean time, she has her work cut out for her. It’s a balancing act, she says, “of wanting to try to be with your new employers—constituents—as much as possible, combined with realities of needing to get your office up and running, hire a staff,” and also “make those decisions for your district office.”
Once she gets all that settled, she expects the hardest part in the beginning to be “probably just digesting all of the width and breadth of our federal government system, all the multiple agencies and government programs that are currently in place, and learning the particulars of each of these agencies and programs.”
“At this point,” she says, she’s “learning the issues, not so much the nuts and bolts of federal bureaucracy.”
But learning the “nuts and bolts” is a priority as well, she explained, for multiple reasons.
“It’s very important to do, number one, so you can help link constituents with the services they need,” she said. “But second of all, to see if that program is viable and really needed…as we work toward making government more effective for American people.”