ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. – Dermatologist and small-business owner Dr. George Hruza is scared the United States is becoming what his family risked their lives to flee, so he’s running for office to make sure that doesn’t happen.
Hruza is a Republican running to represent Missouri’s 24th state Senate District in St. Louis County against Democrat Tracy McCreery.
The son of an Auschwitz survivor, Hruza was born under communist rule in Czechoslovakia. When he was 10 years old, his family escaped the oppressive regime, despite being under threat of persecution if they were caught, and ended up in Sweden.
The family lived in Sweden until they were granted entry into the United States in 1970 when Hruza was 14 – that’s when he got his first taste of the American dream.
After becoming a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1975, Hruza used the opportunities he was afforded in America to become an immensely successful dermatologist. He built and still operates his own practice, taught at Saint Louis University and Washington University, earned his MBA and became president of the American Academy of Dermatology.
After all of the professional success, many wonder, why voluntarily go into the tumultuous world of politics?
“It comes back to the country I grew up in and then moving to the United States – I’m living the American dream,” Hruza told The Heartlander. “I have felt increasingly in the past year-and-a-half that the dream that I’ve been living may be getting pulled out from under our future generations. Individual liberty, responsibility and opportunity is my mantra, and we seem to be going away from that.
“People going through this dependency state now really hurts that individual initiative. It’s very seductive. ‘Sure, send me money. I need it, I deserve it.’ That is very damaging, and if it gets out of control you end up with the kind of world that I grew up in.”
Hruza says he has knocked on thousands of doors himself – along with thousands more by his volunteers – because he believes the most effective way of representing his district is to hear directly from the people he’s running to represent.
“The most important part of the campaign is identifying what people really think about what’s going on, rather than what we just keep reading in the media all the time,” he said.
Among the concerns raised by voters, Hruza says, crime and public safety is near the very top for almost everyone.
“We have real challenges with public safety,” he said. “It’s not only in the city of St. Louis, it’s now in my district as well. Crime is spiking. The police are just out-manned. There is also this loss of respect for police, and I would blame the media for a lot of that.”
Hruza noted the dangers of “defund the police” rhetoric that Democrats have fostered over the past few years, and which national media outlets dutifully echoed. He believes that messaging is the cause of police departments being stripped of funds and resources all over the U.S., including in Kansas City where the mayor and city council tried to defund KCPD by $42 million last year.
The Republican also believes police departments’ ability to enforce the law and maintain a safe community is hampered by lackluster prosecutors who don’t seem too focused on putting those charged with crimes behind bars.
Hruza recently spoke with an area police chief who said it often doesn’t even matter what crime people are charged with, the odds of them being prosecuted are astonishingly low. In one case, the police chief said one individual has now been arrested 17 times by the police department on charges ranging from property crime to aggravated assault.
The police chief said there have been no attempts to prosecute, and the individual has not spent one night in jail.
“If the police arrest them, you have to make sure that they get tried and convicted and they have consequences, because the vast majority of crimes are committed by repeat offenders,” Hruza said. “If there is very little risk of actually ending up in prison, then that just makes them bolder and they commit more crimes.
“We’ve got to hold the prosecutors accountable for actually enforcing the law, which is what they’ve sworn to do. Some of them are not doing that, and when that happens, I think it’s appropriate for the state to step in. We want to make sure that from the state level, we provide all the support that they need, whether it’s recruitment, financial resources, etc. We’ve got to support them.”
Another prominent concern voters shared with Hruza is the nation’s economy, and roiling inflation that has plagued both families and businesses over the past year.
“The economy is at the top of mind for everyone,” he said. “The overall inflation is just decimating budgets. When you have to pay $4 or $5 for a dozen eggs, which were $1.50 a year ago, that percolates through the whole economy and puts a lot of stress on people.”
Hruza recognizes there is little that can be done at the state level to slow national inflation, but noted there are other remedies that can at least lessen inflation’s burden on American citizens.
“I’m a big believer in minimizing taxes, especially income taxes,” he said. “We just had the biggest income tax cut signed into law, and I’d say don’t stop there. I’d like to follow a state like Tennessee, which has seemed to figure out a way to completely eliminate the state income tax, and its economy is booming.”
As a small business owner himself, Hruza also mentioned the varying levels of regulation imposed by the past three presidents and how President Trump undid many of President Obama’s regulations, leading to a much easier path for Hruza to care for his patients. However, President Biden has reinstated many of those Obama-era regulations, which makes maintaining a successful practice much more difficult, he said.
When asked what freedoms some Americans take for granted, “there’s so many,” Hruza answered with a nervous chuckle. “Individual liberty, freedom of speech, freedom of expression, freedom of assembly – those are all so foundational and you don’t get those in a communist country.
“There, you get pegged into a specific role, you don’t deviate from the role, and you better not say anything that doesn’t match what the government believes is the correct thing.”
Being chastised or punished for simply saying the wrong thing has become reality in America as well, Hruza says, arguing that cancel culture and intolerance to differing ideas can quickly lead to a decimation of the First Amendment.
“The problem with cancel culture is, although there may be some good meaning behind it, that leads to people being afraid of expressing themselves because they might say the wrong word and all of a sudden, they’re in trouble.”
Hruza’s mother knows this all too well, experiencing an evolved form of cancel culture while the family still lived under communist rule.
When Russia was invading Czechoslovakia, his mother – working as a professor at Prague’s historic Charles University – listened to news on a Hungarian radio station and noticed the information was much different than what state-sponsored media was reporting. She shared her concerns about the varying news coverage with her friend, who then turned around and reported Hruza’s mother to communist superiors.
“After the friend told her superiors, my mother promptly lost her job at Charles University. That is cancel culture – if you hold a view or make a statement that is different from what other people believe, rather than just discussing it openly, you get canceled.
“By the way, the person that reported my mother – she ultimately became the minister of health. That is how you advance in that world.”
Hruza encourages voters to check out his website ahead of the Nov. 8 election, and stresses the importance of casting a ballot because voting, as he very well knows, is not a freedom afforded in many parts of the world.