In less than a month, Missouri will hold primary elections.
Jefferson City voters on Aug. 7 will select Democratic and Republican candidates who will clash in November to see who fills the Missouri House of Representatives District 60 seat vacated when state Rep. Jay Barnes completed his second term in office.
Republican voters will choose one of three candidates for the district serving much of Jefferson City — Jane Beetem, Dave Griffith or Pat Rowe Kerr.
And Democrats will choose between two candidates — Kevin Nelson, a nurse and business owner, and Sara Michael, a family law attorney with Carver & Michael LLC.
Nelson and Michael answered a series of questions in an article published in the June 17 edition of the News Tribune. For this article, they were asked to be more specific on several questions.
Here are their answers in order of the candidates' appearance on the Aug. 7 ballot. Answers may have been edited for length.
If elected to the House 60th District seat, what would be your primary responsibility to constituents?
Nelson: The primary responsibility of every state representative is to listen to and hear the concerns of constituents in the district and — using that input — introduce and pass legislation that improves the lives of the constituents. My office will be open to all constituents at all times. Once elected, I plan to begin a listening campaign in the form of several town hall meetings. This will give me the opportunity to listen to concerns and answer questions while giving citizens of the district the opportunity to hold me accountable.
Michael: My primary responsibility to the citizens of this district is to serve them to the best of my ability. A significant number of the constituents in my district are employed by the state of Missouri and thus making sure that they are appreciated, compensated fairly, and are able to raise their children and take care of their families. Additionally, ensuring that all of the citizens of this district are treated fairly, and that the laws that are passed support their ability to care for their families with protections to ensure they receive a livable wage and just compensation. If elected, my primary responsibility will simply be my constituents. I will remain fully committed to the hard working families of my district, and will continue to meet with them, listen to them and work for them beyond election day.
What are the two biggest issues you think the state is currently facing? How would you solve those problems you highlight, and how would you pay for the solutions you propose?
Nelson: Asking to nail down the two biggest issues of the entire state at this time is daunting. There are a wide range of issues to tackle from budgets to infrastructure; however, I believe we must bring down health care costs and fight to prevent Missouri from becoming the next right-to-work state. Health care is getting more and more expensive for individuals and for our state budget. One fix to this problem is easier than most may think. Missouri is already paying for Medicaid expansion in the form of federal taxes. We just aren't accepting the money back from the federal government. This one change could drastically change the lives of an estimated 230,000 Missourians. This would also help to keep rural hospitals open and to continue providing health care and jobs in those communities. Expanding Medicaid will provide a real and positive impact on the people of Missouri.
Right to work is a real threat to our Missouri families. We know that wages in right-to-work states are 3.2 percent lower than those in non-right-to-work states and the average worker in those states makes about $1,500 less per year. The cost of living continues to rise, and Missouri workers and families can't afford to have their pay and benefits cut. As a Missouri state representative, I will always vote to protect your right to collectively bargain.
Michael: I believe the most important issues Missouri families face this election are jobs, wages and health care. It is imperative we not only oppose Proposition A this election, but that we also elect legislators committed to fight against any further attempts to implement right-to-work laws intended to keep wages low and protect corporations at the expense of hard-working Missouri families and taxpayers.
The other major issue currently facing Missouri families is health care. The cost of our health care goes up while our coverage and benefits go down. This is an issue that affects each and every citizen of our state, and there is so much more we can do. Studies show Medicaid expansion states have experienced positive results that are both directly and indirectly related to health care, including increased benefits, reduced uninsured rates, expanded access to quality and affordable care, economic growth and significant job creation. As your state representative, I will work to expand Medicaid to provide those same benefits to the citizens of my district, as well as work to ensure continued protection of coverage for preexisting conditions.
I don't believe it is necessary to raise taxes to successfully accomplish these goals and protect Missouri families. Instead, it takes a commitment to putting the needs of Missouri working families first and working for their benefit, instead of the benefit of out-of-state big business that wants to strip our citizens of their ability to speak as one voice. The General Assembly's failure to expand Medicaid was a misplaced attempt to sabotage a federal program that, at the time, was unknown and untested. Time has shown that people are being served and we need to now take it a step further and ensure Missourians get the benefit of those tax dollars they are already paying and direct the use of those funds back to Missourians.