Republican Jeff Coleman and Democrat Janice Brill, both of Grain Valley, are vying for the 32nd District seat that has been held by term-limited Jeanie Lauer, who will be joining the Jackson County Legislature in January. The district includes Blue Springs north of Interstate 70 as well as most of Grain Valley and Oak Grove and areas north of those cities.
The Examiner asked the candidates a couple questions, and below are their responses:
Tell us a little bit about yourself and what compelled you to run for office?
Jeff Coleman: I grew up in Oak Grove. I now live in Grain Valley with my wife Debbie and seven kids where I am on the school board and I am a city alderman. I am past president of the Grain Valley Chamber of Commerce and the Economic Development Committee. I own two businesses, a financial services company specializing in retirement planning and income, and also an independent insurance agency working with medicare insurance to estate planning.
Janice Brill: I moved to the 32nd District 12 years ago to be near my twin grandsons. I didn't become a grandmother until I was 60 and didn't want to miss a thing. I am a lifetime-certified English/social studies teacher and taught for 18 years in Norwood. I served two terms as alderman in that town. For 13 years before that I was a beef farmer in the Ozarks. Since retirement I do volunteer work, especially as a CASA (foster children representative) volunteer.
I taught my civics students that elections are about choices and so dislike unopposed elections regardless of the party. I also would like to demonstrate that money is not as necessary as thought in elections, and therefore I am not taking any contributions or endorsements.
What are the three biggest issues or priorities the state faces, and how do you hope/plan to address them?
Coleman: I think the top three issues for our state are:
Infrastructure: We currently have a proposition on the ballot on Nov. 6 which will help take care of this issue. Missouri currently has the seventh-longest roadway system in the United States and has the 46th-lowest gas tax. We have to get something done in order to help us keep our citizens safe and to attract more business to our state.
Workforce development: As the world's jobs continue to change with new technologies, we need to keep up with those changes to keep our Missouri citizens trained so that again, we can attract business to come to Missouri with enough people to fill those company's jobs.
This leads me to the third issue of education. We need to continue to add STEM programs to our public schools K-12, and to our higher education systems. We also need to make sure we offer more education for trades, such as welding, electrical, plumbing, etc.
All of these issues tie together to help move our great state in a direction that will help all of us.
Brill: The biggest issue is expanding Medicaid. It can be done by legislative approval and a signature from the governor. Thirty-three states have expanded and have received federal money for several years. Health care is a major issue, and we need to ensure that our citizens are able to access medical care. I would also oppose any legislation that allowed insurance companies to reject Missourians for pre-existing conditions.
As a retired public school teacher, I know that education is a bedrock issue. We have been playing politics with our children's education for some time now. That needs to end. We need to fully fund the education formula, shift our priorities away from high-stakes testing, improve teacher education and pay and ensure that each student has what is needed for educational success. More former teachers in the legislature would help to put the student first.
We have little or no regulation of the payday loan industry in this state. Its lobby in Jefferson City is powerful and needs to be confronted. These payday loans charge very high interest (400 percent-plus) and ensnare borrowers with hidden fees. Evidence shows that when a payday loan is in an area there is increased crime and blight follows. Most of the money earned by these companies leaves the state since they are large national firms preying on Missourians because our laws are so weak. We need stronger usury laws.
As a representative I would propose legislation to decrease the size of our House of Representatives. We have the third-largest House at 163 members. By contrast, California has 80 members. Precious tax dollars could be saved.
Brill’s campaign has only filed statements of limited activity (less than $500 received or spent) with the Missouri Ethics Commission.
Coleman's campaign, which started in September 2017, has taken in $22,745.55 and spent $15,384.84 through the eight-day-before report.
Top contributors include:
• $2,000: Allen Lefko, Grain Valley; Katherine Dowell, Oak Grove; Owner Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA).
• $1,000: Brett Euritt, Lee's Summit; MO Republican Attorneys for Civil Justice PAC.
• $500: S&B Development; Valley Oaks Investments, LLC; Comcast Corporation & NBC Universal PAC; Missouri Hospital Association PAC; Missouri Cattlemen's Association PAC; Missouri Realtors PAC; Missouri Association of Insurance & Financial Advisors PAC; MBA Truman Region PAC; Home Builders Association of Kansas City PAC; Alliance For Progress PAC.