Following a candidate forum the News Tribune held last week at Blair Oaks Middle School in Wardsville, the newspaper sent additional questions to the candidates, some submitted by readers, that had not been asked during the forum.
Here are the responses from the Republican candidates for the Missouri House of Representatives District 59 seat, to some of those questions.
The district covers a portion of eastern Jefferson City, most of rural Cole County and a portion of northern Miller County.
In the order they are listed on the ballot, the GOP candidates are Karen Leydens, of Jefferson City; Rudy Veit, of Wardsville; Randy Dinwiddie, of Olean; Kendra Lane, of Jefferson City; and Rik Combs, of Lohman.
Lane did not submit a response to these questions by press time.
The winner of the Aug. 7 primary will face Democrat Linda Greeson, of Eldon, in the Nov. 6 general election. Greeson has no opponent in the primary and, therefore, has not been included in this story.
The candidates' responses are posted in the order they appear on the Aug. 7 ballot.
Answers may have been edited for length and clarity.
From readers: Nearly 20 years ago, a legal settlement was reached between 46 state attorneys general and major tobacco companies to partially reimburse the states for Medicaid costs incurred while treating smoking-related health conditions caused by their products. After that time, a couple of "Little Tobacco" companies came into being. Every state except Missouri enacted amending legislation to require them to reimburse the states' Medicaid costs. Missouri was sued over the 'loophole' in 2003 and lost. The state is at risk for a lawsuit for each of the subsequent years to a total of more than $1 billion in payments forfeited. For several years, bills have been filed to close this loophole, but it has never been brought to a floor vote. Would you support or oppose state legislation to close the loophole which allows non-participating manufacturers to sell cheap cigarettes and places the state at risk for additional lawsuits?
Leydens: This issue was on the ballot in 2016 as Constitutional Amendment 3, and the people of Missouri rejected it by double-digit margins. I would be hesitant to do anything that might overturn the will of the people so recently expressed at the ballot box, absent unusual circumstances.
Veit: While I have not fact-checked the data, assuming it is true, I do not believe we can justify forfeiting $1 billion from our budget. The additional revenue received from closing this loophole would be well-used in the areas of preventative care and overall wellness, which helps to bring down costs across the board. Simply saying "no thanks" to these funds while cutting services to rural Missouri and those most in need is not responsible governing. Strong rural hospitals and health care facilities provide both quality care to our citizens and a boost to local economies through job creation and development.
Dinwiddie: I would support closing the loophole. I also feel that at some point cigarette sales must be stopped. People who smoke are addicted, and the smoke is killing them. Cigarette prices should be raised to $10 per pack, and part of that money should go to support centers to help with addictions, to get smokers to stop smoking, in my opinion.
Combs: The loophole needs closing. All industries should receive equal footing with state government, and no segment of the private sector should receive preferential treatment. State government, as well as federal government, should never play any role in business by picking "winners and losers." At minimum, the measure should at least receive a floor vote.
From readers: Will you accept money from the National Rifle Association? Explain.
Leydens: There are numerous citizens in the 59th District who belong to the National Rifle Association (NRA) and believe in the right to self-defense. They have a First Amendment right to freely associate and engage in political activism, including making donations to candidates of their choice. I have not received any contribution from the NRA, but I am proud to have the support of so many of their members in our community.
Veit: Yes, I would. The National Rifle Association performs a vital role in protecting the Second Amendment and the rights it affords all Americans. Their work in the areas of gun safety and education are commendable. Simply accepting a campaign contribution does not mean that I will agree to their every request, and any measure brought before me will be considered carefully. As a hunter, gun owner, and conceal and carry permit holder, I believe strongly in the constitutional right to bear arms and protect our homes and family.
Dinwiddie: No. I do not support any special-interest group, and do not believe in accepting any money from lobbyists or special interest groups. (Money from lobbyists) has turned our Capitol into a zoo of people who should be leading a state, into a group of people scrambling to collect as much cash and goodies for themselves, at the expense of hard-working Missourians. I am a member of the NRA. But that does not mean that everything they are selling I am buying. I support owning guns to protect yourself I do not support the scare tactics used by the NRA.
Combs: Most definitely. As a card-carrying member of the National Rifle Association, and an A-rated candidate, I would be most honored and gratified to accept money from this organization. Self-defense is a God-given right (superseding even our own constitutional Second Amendment), and the NRA is the front line for gun rights in America. I am 100 percent for self-defense and gun rights, and will never apologize for being so. That being said, I would always vote my conscience and do the will of the people in the 59th District.
From readers: Do you support de-funding Planned Parenthood? Explain.
Leydens: I do not believe that taxpayer money should be used to fund abortion, but instead should be used to promote women's health and child services.
Veit: I am strongly against abortion and do not believe tax dollars should be used to support it. It really boils down to the choice of Planned Parenthood: If they want to provide valuable health services to women in Missouri, then they must accept the fact that we do not want to pay for abortions with tax dollars.
Dinwiddie: I am against irresponsible abortion and taxpayers paying for the services. I am not against the public paying for birth control, and counseling for women in need during their pregnancy, as long as it is not an irresponsible, re-occurring issue for repeat offenders. Children are not accidents. They are not a choice. They are a person. We need to support unique situations to help responsible women who just have a temporary need, to get them through their pregnancy. Or we should keep birth control handy to keep irresponsible births from getting out of control.
Combs: From my many years of military service, including many operations and conflicts, I've seen enough death and destruction to last a lifetime; therefore, I'm firmly pro-life in all matters. Planned Parenthood is the largest provider of abortions in the country at over 300,000 per year, and accepts hundreds of millions in taxpayers' dollars every year under the guise of "women's health." No public funds should ever go for any organization, which many taxpayers object to on religious grounds — I would de-fund Planned Parenthood.
From readers: What are your thoughts about the minimum wage?
Leydens: If we have a strong economy with robust growth, employers will have to compete for labor by paying a wage much higher than the minimum. I support pro-growth government policies like reduced regulations, tax reform and investment in infrastructure.
Veit: In our present climate, with the demand for workers so great, I believe the market will dictate wages substantially higher than our current minimum wage for those who accept the responsibility of a good job and are willing to work for it.
Dinwiddie: Investing in our work staff will insure that Missourians lead by example that working together pays off. The business pays a fair wage and the employee remembers the importance of spending money on the products that they build, or the services that their employer provides, instead of spending money on cheap trinkets from China. The minimum wage is too low. If I were able, I would raise the minimum wage to at least $11 per hour, with the costs of transportation and the time it takes to get to and from work, this is a fair minimum wage.
Combs: If the federal government persists in having a minimum wage, Missouri should mirror that minimum wage and not exceed it. However, I strongly believe in free enterprise and allowing the market to regulate itself. The government has no business setting price or wage controls. The minimum wage was established for entry-level jobs, and never intended as a "living wage." Price and wage controls are socialist in nature, and I can't in good conscience endorse socialist policies. I'm a traditional American, not a socialist.
From readers: If all the recent cuts in state taxes did not provide economic stimulus and were proven to negatively impact services such as public schools, infrastructure, infant mortality rates, and Head Start programs, similar to what has happened in Kansas, could you support restoring some of the those tax revenues?
Leydens: Unlike Kansas, Missouri's most recent tax cut was revenue neutral, which means that the tax cuts for Missouri families were paired with increases in revenue from other sources. Kansas also increased its state budget by $432 million in 2012, the same year it passed its tax package, which created large shortfalls. I will work to prevent runaway spending and maintain a balanced budget.
Veit: This question assumes facts that do not exist and requires some speculation. Public schools, infrastructure, infant mortality rates, and Head Start programs are all critical issues to Missourians that must be funded adequately, but we simply cannot say at this time that recent tax cuts will have a negative impact.
Dinwiddie: We need less taxes and more growth. We, as leaders of the state, must put together attractive ways to draw in job providers that pay a livable wage. We do not need more red tape to keep people stressed on how to come up with more money that they currently do not have. It is time to put leaders into office who will grow our economy and not just sit in an office all day, passing the buck of responsibility to the people who voted them into office. We need leaders with the ability to make a desperate change to make Missouri move in a better direction.
Combs: The challenges in Kansas have been widely reported by tax proponents; however, Kansas has out-performed Missouri economically in recent years. Moreover, while the Kansas state budget shortfall has made news, there is strong evidence most of the shortfall can be traced to federal tax policy changes and not state changes (Americans for Tax Reform). I heartily support cutting taxes at every turn — the state can tax itself into bigger government, but a people cannot tax themselves into a better economy.