Missouri voters will deal with several much-discussed statewide ballot measures in November, and candidates offered views on many of them and on other issues at a forum Tuesday evening.
The Lee's Summit Chamber of Commerce sponsored the forum, which included the candidates for Senate District 8 – incumbent Mike Cierpiot and second-time opponent Hillary Shields – and House districts 30, 31, 34 and 35.
Senate District 8 includes most of Blue Springs and Lee's Summit and a slice of rural eastern Independence.
House District 30, which includes parts of southern Independence and western Blue Springs and the Lakewood area of Lee's Summit, has three first-time candidates in Republican Jon Patterson, Democrat Ryana Parks-Shaw and Libertarian Brad Eichstadt. In House District 31 is most of Blue Springs south of Interstate 70, Republican incumbent Dan Stacy is opposed by Democrat Travis Hagewood.
District 34 Republican incumbent Rebecca Roeber is opposed by Democrat Jim Ripley, and Democrat Keri Ingle and Republican Tom Lovell are the candidates in District 35.
Shields, Hagewood and Parks-Shaw all favored the “Clean Missouri Act” (Constitutional Amendment 1), with Hagewood calling it a chance to “re-balance the scales for the people.”
We won't make any progress unless we curtail the influence of lobbyists,” Shields said, adding the proposed reforms, like other ballot measures, grew from voters being tired of politicians in office not listening to them.
“People are having to take it into their own hands,” she said.
Stacy and Patterson said a new process for redrawing districts could lead to diluted votes, and Patterson and Cierpiot said the Missouri Ethics Commissions website makes many things transparent already. Stacy called the whole thing a misnomer and would have bad consequences.
“It's the most dirty bill that ever existed,” he said. “It's absolutely a Trojan horse.”
When asked about how to provide affordable health care without excluding pre-existing conditions, Cierpiot said much of that is dependant on federal lawmakers, but covering pre-existing conditions is where the pool of medical funds should go. Shields said if the feds can't step up, then the state should, and Medicaid expansion would go a long way.
Parks-Shaw and Hagewood said the state should absolutely expand Medicaid, and Patterson said he is “very open” to looking at it and that health care “is more than just about numbers for me.” Stacy said doubling down on a failed policy (Obamacare) won't work.
Eichstadt, Hagewood and Parks-Shaw said they are in favor of medical marijuana, though Eichstadt said he opposes Amendment 3, where marijuana tax revenues would fund a state research institute.
Stacy said he's opposed to all three medical marijuana ballot issues, citing concerns about being a gateway to opioids. Patterson offered Colorado as a cautionary tale against recreational marijuana, and has said he would support strict and careful decision-making from that state on medical marijuana. Cierpiot said he would vote for medical marijuana, but through the legislature is the best avenue for that.
“Adding to the constitution is a horrible idea,” he said.
Both Shields and Cierpiot said they support the proposed 10-cent gas tax increase over the course of four years for highway funding.
“This is one of the basic responsibilities where we're failing,” Shields said of highway funding.
Cierpiot said this is the third time voters will have had a chance to approve a tax for road funds, but this time it has the governor's support.
“This will go a long ways to fixing the problems we have,” he said. “In another four or five years we might have to revisit it again.”
Regarding possible gun-control measures, Shields, Hagewood, Parks-Shaw and Eichstadt said they want common-sense background and red flag measures that wouldn't hinder law-abiding citizens. Cierpiot and Patterson said that better addressing mental issues, including in youngsters, could be the biggest key, given that many mass shooters have been found to have mental issues.
Stacy said he wants to keep Missouri moving in the right direction and avoid going to back to “tax-and-spend days” that included high unemployment.
Hagewood said he decided to run initially because of his opposition to Right-to-Work, but then his concerns with other issues. Responding to Stacy's assertion, he said his vision is not to raise taxes.
“But I care about people,” he said. “You can profit on our wants, but leave our needs alone.”
Parks-Shaw said she draws on her background in health care and her husband's law enforcement career.
“I'm a concerned parent and a concerned mother,” I want to be a true voice for the community.”
Patterson said voters want to elect “smart, hard-working candidates who want to what’s right.”
“We just have different ideas on that,” he said. “Is what we’re doing here expanding opportunities for our kids, taking care of seniors and providing opportunities for workers.”
Eichstadt said he wants to offer a voters a choice, particularly a candidate who would be free to work across party lines.
Shields said the election is about voting for career politicians, special interests, lobbyists and big money or regular people.
If you want a fresh voice, I hope I can earn your vote,” she said.
“We're not perfect,” Cierpiot said, “and we make mistakes, but we're trying to move the state forward in a competitive way.” He added that there is much more cooperation between parties in Jefferson City than there is Washington, and Governor Mike Parson is on board with increasing job readiness education across the state.
“It's easy to promise things,” Cierpiot said in closing, “but it's much harder to pay for them.”