Following a candidate forum the News Tribune held last week at Jefferson City Hall, the newspaper sent additional questions to the candidates, some reader-submitted, that had not been asked during the forum.
Here are the responses from the Democratic candidates for the Missouri Senate's 6th District seat. The district covers seven counties: Cole, Moniteau, Morgan, Miller, Maries, Osage and Gasconade.
In the order they are listed on the ballot, the candidates are Bryan Struebig, of Eldon; Nicole Thompson, of Jefferson City; and Mollie Freebairn, of Jefferson City.
The winner of the Aug. 7 primary will face Republican Mike Bernskoetter and Libertarian Steven Wilson, both of Jefferson City, in the Nov. 6 general election. Bernskoetter and Wilson have no opponents in the primary and, therefore, have 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?
Struebig: I would support legislation to close this loophole. For far too long, the state Legislature has shirked its responsibilities in order to please the lobbyist that give to their campaigns.
Thompson: I support closing the tobacco loophole.
Freebairn: Like every other state, our elected leaders have failed to promote the public welfare in not passing this measure years ago. It's almost as if some opposing legislators have been complicit with the cheap cigarette manufacturers to prevent closing the loophole. This settlement is needed to assist smokers to transition to healthy lifestyles. Access to healthy diet and exercise which can be difficult in food deserts — fresh fruit, vegetables, nuts, grains, meat, dairy, also clean air, uncontaminated water. Education to prepare delicious healthy foods, good health care, are all essential to longevity and a good quality of life.
From readers: Will you accept money from the National Rifle Association? Explain.
Struebig: I will not accept money from the NRA. I believe that group has been bought out by gun manufacturers and has lost sight of its original mission. I am a proud gun owner, and I am proud to have received the Mom's Demand Action candidate of distinction. Furthermore I support universal background checks and the implementation of an Honor card system to facilitate private seller sales. I do not support raising the age limit on the purchase of rifles and shotguns.
Thompson: I will not accept money from the NRA. Organizations like the NRA spend substantial amounts of money to influence our elections without revealing their donors. I would support further investigation of how such organizations influence our government and additional legislation to make money in politics more transparent.
Freebairn: Like most Americans, I support the Second Amendment and not the NRA, whose influence across the U.S. is leaving a trail of senseless violence, loss of life and endless sorrow. The NRA's demand for no controls is a divisive agenda pitting Americans against each other, when our true best interests are the same — a better quality of life! We all want a healthy economy with good jobs, education, transportation, health care and a secure retirement. The NRA's agenda is disrupting society with an escalating cycle of violence. We need new leaders who will uphold the will of the people!
From readers: Do you support de-funding Planned Parenthood? Explain.
Struebig: I do not support de-funding Planned Parenthood. The restrictions we have put on women's health care have resulted in Missouri ranking 42nd in the U.S. for maternal mortality, according to the CDC. In fact, infant mortality in rural Missouri is on par with countries like war-torn Libya. Planned Parenthood helped my family through several miscarriages when we could not afford health insurance. They helped the mother of my child get healthy enough to give birth to our son, who is now 12. I am proud to have received the endorsement of Planned Parenthood.
Thompson: I do not support de-funding Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood is one of the leading providers of affordable family health care.
Freebairn: I do not support de-funding Planned Parenthood, which would be a grave disservice to the public health and well-being of young women, children, couples and families. Our continued support of healthy family planning for young couples, fresh out of school, just starting out in life (is needed). Many young people just launching their first jobs, businesses and careers cannot yet afford to begin having families. It is one of the most harmful forms of government overreach to deny reproductive health care, information, contraception and abortion services, forcing young couples to begin having families before they are able to provide for them.
From readers: What are your thoughts about the minimum wage?
Struebig: I think minimum wage has been lagging in the U.S. for far too long. I also think it is an issue of local control. St. Louis and Kansas City both passed an increase to the minimum wage only to have the state legislature take it away. This is a gross overreach of government. If a company's business model depends on taxpayers subsidizing their business profits through unlivable wages, that company should rethink their business model. They are essentially stealing money from taxpayers.
Thompson: I believe that local jurisdictions should have the right to increase their minimum wage without state interference. I also believe that anyone working 40 hours a week should be provided a living wage, and I would support investigating the need for a statewide increase.
Freebairn: Republicans are proving their determination not to raise the incomes of the working poor, and shrink the middle class. Not only in their own districts but with a ban against raising the minimum wage across Missouri. With Wall Street at record highs, unemployment at record lows, wages are flat-lining, benefits nose-diving. The cost of living is steadily increasing, with many people having to work two jobs to make ends meet. The passage of Prop A, elimination of the state merit system of the lowest paid state workers will further destabilize the state pension system and crash the state economy.
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 those tax revenues?
Struebig: I am opposed to the most recent tax cut that was signed into law, as well as the phase-out of the corporate franchise tax. The burden of these tax cuts will be shouldered by individuals in the form of higher sales taxes and property taxes. Tax cuts do not create jobs; increased demand for goods and services creates jobs and business opportunities. Tax cuts for corporations only increase shareholder wealth. Voters will have to decide to reinstitute those taxes due to the Hancock Amendment.
Thompson: I believe that restoring the corporate tax rate will likely be necessary to provide adequate funding for infrastructure and education in Missouri. I believe that businesses base their location decisions more on the availability of such resources than on the state's tax rate.
Freebairn: If history serves as any guide, this outcome is a virtual certainty. State taxes have been trending downward since the passage of the Hancock Amendment in 1980. If cutting taxes was that solution to revitalizing the economy, Missouri would be a leading state in education (and) infrastructure, among other indicators where we are lagging behind. We are 50th in state employee salaries — which (state Sen. Mike) Kehoe concluded the only way to raise some workers' pay is to fire others, sponsoring SB 1007 to eliminate the merit system. State Treasurer Eric Schmitt continues pushing for changes to state pensions.