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3 seek Democrat nomination for 6th District Senate seat

3 seek Democrat nomination for 6th District Senate seat

June 17th, 2018 by Bob Watson in Local News

Three Mid-Missouri Democrats want to be their party's candidate for the 6th District state Senate seat now held by Mike Kehoe, R-Jefferson City.

After eight years in office, term limits prohibit Kehoe from running for another four-year term.

State Rep. Mike Bernskoetter, R-Jefferson City, is the only Republican who filed to succeed Kehoe in representing the seven-county district.

Libertarian Steven Wilson, Jefferson City, also will be on the Nov. 6 general election ballot because, like Bernskoetter, he faces no opposition in the Aug. 7 primary election.

The district includes Cole, Moniteau, Morgan, Miller, Maries, Osage and Gasconade counties.

Since Bernskoetter and Wilson have no primary election opponents, this story looks at the three Democrats who are seeking voters' support.

In the order their names appear on the ballot, the Democrat candidates are Bryan Struebig, of Eldon; Nicole Thompson, of Jefferson City; and Mollie Kristen Freebairn, of Jefferson City.

Bryan Struebig is a lifelong Missouri resident who graduated from Camdenton R-3 High School in 1997 and moved to Miller County in 2011 — making him a resident of the district for seven years.

"I am a small business owner of two different businesses," he said. "I am a third-generation floor layer and I have a small tax and accounting business in Eldon.

"When I am not doing that, I work the family farm in Hartville," which is in Wright County in southern Missouri.

Struebig currently chairs the Miller County Democrat Committee, serves as a representative for the 6th Senate District at the Missouri Democratic Party State Committee and serves on the State Democratic Party's executive committee.

For more information, visit Struebig's website, www.bryanstruebig.com (or bryanformo.com), or his campaign Facebook page.

Nicole Thompson has been a district resident for 10 years.

"I am an occupational safety and health specialist," she said. "I recently started my own company where I provide workplace safety and health consultation and training to businesses."

She earned a bachelor's degree in occupational safety and health from the University of Central Missouri, Warrensburg, and a master's degree in business administration from Western Governors University.

Thompson worked nine years for the Missouri Department of Labor and Industrial Relations, first as an OSHA consultant and then as a program manager in the Division of Workers' Compensation.

"My background as a workplace safety and health specialist has provided me with a lot of experience in reading and interpreting regulatory language," Thompson said.

Her website is www.NicoleThompsonforMissouri.com.

Mollie Freebairn has lived in the district for 25 years and unsuccessfully challenged Kehoe four years ago.

She's an energy and environmental scientist and a longtime Natural Resources Department employee who now serves as executive director at Show Me Solar.

"I have worked to advocate for renewable energy and launch the solar industry in Missouri," Freebairn said.

Visit her campaign Facebook page for more details.

According to the most recent reports filed with the Missouri Ethics Commission (www.mec.mo.gov):

Struebig had received $880 and had $472.50 on-hand at the end of March. He had received one contribution of at least $100 — from Gail Hughes, of California, $100.

Thompson had received $1,300 and had $1,024.92 on-hand at the end of March. She had received contributions of at least $100 from Tommy Thompson, of Warrensburg, $250; Vanessa Simmons, of Pleasant Hill, $150; and Gail Hughes, of California, $100.

Freebairn has not yet filed a report for the 2018 campaign.

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Questions and Answers

For this story, we asked all three candidates to answer the same questions. Their answers have been edited only for clarity.

BRYAN STRUEBIG

Why are you seeking this seat?

"My entire adult life, I have seen the state government cut funding for services to Missourians in an effort to cut government spending. This year I saw the state Legislature do everything in (its) power to lower wages of working families through the state, while continuing to give tax breaks to large out of state corporations. This hurts Missourians, especially rural Missourians, who are still suffering from the effects of the recession of the 1980s. When many families in my district have to tell their children to move away after high school and not come back because of a lack of economic opportunity, communities die. I am running to save our rural communities and our way of life in rural Missouri."

What is the most important issue in this election?

"Stopping state government overreach, restoring local control, fully funding our state government, and stopping the War on Working Families."

How might the state pay for much-needed infrastructure improvements?

"Roads will probably have to be funded by increased gas tax. We could also look at repealing the Corporate Franchise Tax (cut) that has caused a $200 million budget shortfall. We could also look at sports betting as new source of revenue, along with recreational marijuana. These two taxes would only affect the users of these products as opposed to Missourians as a whole."

Missouri ranks about 40th in health care. How can we improve health care for Missourians?

"As a tax accountant, I have the ability to see how many clients would have qualified for Medicaid expansion in Missouri, had the Legislature undertaken (that) expansion in accordance with the ACA (Affordable Care Act). Most of the clients I service would have qualified. They all work, many for 50-plus hours a week, but do not earn enough to qualify for a subsidy under ACA. They are stuck in a doughnut hole. Had we not just added to the budget shortfall in the last legislative session, we could look at Medicaid expansion. I think a public option to opt into Medicaid on a cost-basis is a viable option. It would lower the amount of uninsured and put a bite on for-profit insurance companies that are recording record profits. At the end of the day, it will come down to the federal government to reign in the large insurance companies and create a national public option that is not for profit."

Missouri has the lowest tobacco tax in the nation. It is about 1/10 the national average. Should the state increase the tobacco tax? Why or why not?

"We could raise tobacco tax, but why? Will it lead to lower amounts of smokers but higher amounts of vapers? Should we depend on smokers to fund our budget shortfalls? As we raise the price of tobacco, (fewer) people will smoke. This is a good thing, but the Legislature will set their budget expectations on bringing in a sustained amount from the tobacco tax. The math here just doesn't add up. If we are to increase a tax to fund the state government, shouldn't that increase be sustainable?"

Lawmakers in recent years have cut income and corporate taxes. Why do you think that was/was not a good idea?

"For many years, we have been working under the assumption that tax cuts lead to job creation. As long as the stated goal of every corporation under the rules of finance is to increase shareholder wealth, there is no incentive to reinvest in employees. Tax cuts don't create jobs — increased demand for a product or service creates jobs. Nothing else. As a small business owner, I would not hire someone if I received a tax cut. I would only hire someone if the workload was too great for me to do by myself and I could still make a profit equal to or greater than what I was making before hiring someone. These tax cuts have led, and will continue to lead, to higher property taxes and sales taxes. The only entities that are benefiting are corporations and their shareholders, particularly those located outside of Missouri. The burden of these tax cuts will continue to fall onto the retired and working folks of Missouri."

What other issues are important to you? Why?

"Out-of-state and out-of-country owned agriculture is a big concern of mine. This last year we saw House Bill 1973, HB 1614, and HB 2206 come to the floor in the state Legislature. HB 1973 weakened the ability of DNR (Department of Natural Resources) to regulate CAFO (Confined Animal Feeding Operations) waste application. If your well water was contaminated by E-coli from the spread of waste on a field from a CAFO, you would have no legal recourse, as this bill would have made the spread-manure a 'non-point source' I live at the Lake of the Ozarks where our beaches are closed to swimmers because of E-coli from geese on the beaches. We don't drink that water, but we do drink from our wells. If it isn't safe to swim in, it isn't safe to drink. HB 1614 would have taken away local control from our county commissioners and local health departments to determine if they want a CAFO in their area. HB 2206 and HB 2161 would have prohibited foreign ownership of Missouri farmland in the future. Much of northern Missouri farmland is now Chinese-owned. Do you think a foreign government cares if the land and your property value are destroyed by their carelessness? Missouri farmers care about their land because their children and grandchildren play in those streams and fields. One day, they will inherit those lands and live there. Foreign-owned companies that own that land will not."

NICOLE THOMPSON

Why are you seeking this seat?

"My state government experience taught me a lot about how the bills that are passed actually get implemented within the administration and the judiciary. An example I saw was the outcome of the 2005 workers' compensation amendments that were intended to limit employer payments for workplace accidents, but inadvertently increased coworkers' liability and cost employers more for workplace illnesses because they were poorly worded. I want to push for a more open, honest, and responsive process. I want to make sure that the bills that are passed are clearly worded, and do exactly what they say they are going to do."

What is the most important issue in this election?

"There are a lot of issues that people are concerned with right now, from health care and education to infrastructure and economic opportunity. What I see as the biggest hurdle is that I don't think we can make progress toward any of our common goals until we can re-establish the public trust in our government. This is what my open, honest and responsive government for Missouri campaign is all about."

How might the state pay for much-needed infrastructure improvements?

"We need to stop the corporate tax cuts that are depleting our state revenue. Infrastructure is the foundation to a strong economy. We will not be able to attract new business to the state without working on infrastructure improvement."

Missouri ranks about 40th in health care. How can we improve health care for Missourians?

"By not expanding Medicaid, Missouri is leaving federal money on the table. Medicaid expansion is the first step that needs to be taken to help keep our rural hospitals and health centers open. We then need to look into areas that can help stabilize the insurance market and bring down health care costs. For example, giving physical therapists in the state primary care provider status can be a way to speed up care and reduce the number of required clinic visits. We are going to need to work on a lot of different innovative solutions to solve this crisis."

Missouri has the lowest tobacco tax in the nation. It is about 1/10 the national average. Should the state increase the tobacco tax? Why or why not?

"I would like to see the tobacco tax increased in Missouri; however I, like other voters in the state, have been concerned with the seeming hidden agendas of past bills that have been proposed. I would want to ensure that any future tax bill achieves its goals of decreasing smoking rates while not overburdening convenience store owners with a one-time significant increase and does not make any important educational or health programs reliant on what we all expect to be a declining source of revenue."

Lawmakers in recent years have cut income and corporate taxes. Why do you think that was/was not a good idea?

"I find the under-calculation of how much these tax cuts would cost the state in revenue to be completely unacceptable. I also find the thinking that justifies corporate tax cuts to be flawed. I've seen very little evidence that corporations base their location-decisions on corporate tax rates more than on other factors, such as available infrastructure and a properly educated workforce. Beyond having a clear and straightforward tax policy, Missouri could do much better in improving its economic situation by focusing on quality of life measures for its citizens.

What other issues are important to you? Why?

"Missouri has no worker safety and health protections in place for government employees in our state. You are more likely to be injured in Missouri by working for a state or local government than you are for a private employer. I would like to see this change. I see no reason why our government shouldn't be able to follow the same best practices for management that it expects of private workplaces."

MOLLIE FREEBAIRN

Why are you seeking this seat?

"First and foremost, because I deeply care about all of the issues impacting peoples' quality of life and futures, and have thought long and hard about them. I have a lot of ideas about ways to bring people together to reach constructive solutions to many issues, large and small, drawing from my 30-plus years experience in state and federal government, industry, academia and environmental protection. At the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, I had the vantage point of how all the business and industry, transportation, agriculture, power generation, residential and institutional activities impact the environment and public health. At Washington University Medical School, (I saw) how the far-reaching impacts of environmental toxins harm humans as well as animal life and ecosystems. Most recently, working and advocating to launch the solar industry, all the facets of science and politics, law, technology, incentives, and finance that weigh into Missouri's current predicament of still having less than one percent of the state's power generation coming from solar."

What is the most important issue in this election?

"The middle class is shrinking due to the legislature's lack of support for job creation, education, and health care. This is reflected in the increasing cost of living, while wages and benefits are shrinking. The cost of owning a home is out of reach of many, even renting a decent place is increasingly unaffordable. The cost of getting a college education is sky-rocketing, and debt-ridden college graduates are confronted with years of decades of paying off student loans at higher interest rates than anything but credit card debt. At the same time, pay for teachers is so low many of them must work a second job, pay out of their own pockets for essential needs for their students, or get out of teaching before they go under. These are not all random circumstances that happen to be occurring simultaneously. Middle-class incomes have been stagnating, on the decline for decades, as the result of carefully organized campaigns to divide and conquer the progressive trends that created good middle class wages and benefits, health care, retirement, social security, Medicare."

How might the state pay for much-needed infrastructure improvements?

"Increasing the fuel tax is the straightforward, common-sense solution to both state and federal funding for transportation. This has historically been the source of funding that built our national transportation system in the first place. The basis for the mismanagement and underfunding of our transportation system has been the lobbying effort to privatize our roads. "Their strategic process is designed to shift the burden of paying for our transportation infrastructure from the wealthy to the middle- and lower-income wage earners."

Missouri ranks about 40th in health care. How can we improve health care for Missourians?

"Health care and prescription costs are spiraling out of control. Missouri's super-majority Republican has refused to expand Medicaid for five years in a row, costing us thousands of jobs and hundreds of thousands to have no health care. Thousands of elderly and disabled have been shoved off their life-saving benefits, and have died. Veterans have had to wait months for an appointment, only to be turned down for treatment for PTSD. First, the Legislature needs to immediately expand Medicaid. This calls for a special session since they have failed to get it done in the last four regular sessions. Then Missouri should work with the U.S. Congress and other states to enact a single payer health care system based on Medicare for all."

Missouri has the lowest tobacco tax in the nation. It is about 1/10 the national average. Should the state increase the tobacco tax? Why or why not?

"This is a difficult problem because so many smokers are low-income. The state should use the funds from the existing tobacco tax for programs to help people stop smoking."

Lawmakers in recent years have cut income and corporate taxes. Why do you think that was/was not a good idea?

"This has resulted in the greatest transfer of wealth from all Americans to the top 1 percent. At the same time the tax cut has blown a gigantic hole in the budget. Big banks are now sitting on record profits. CEOs are giving themselves huge bonuses. To pay for it, the poorest and most vulnerable are facing cuts in the SNAP laws requiring parents to work in order to feed their children, the Children's Health Insurance Program. Cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid are next in line."

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What other issues are important to you? Why?

"The scientific consensus is becoming increasingly clear since the Paris Summit, that at 400 (parts per million) CO2 (carbon dioxide), Earth's life-support systems are dangerously out of balance. Virtually every new month and year is the hottest on record. Catastrophic weather events are wreaking havoc across the globe, threatening our national and global security. The increasing frequency and intensity of devastating hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, fires, droughts, typhoons, melting polar ice and rising waters are due to irresponsible government policies like those in Missouri. The solution is to transition to 100 percent renewables. Missouri should produce electricity using its own, most-abundant energy resources — solar, wind, geothermal and energy efficiency. This has the potential to be Missouri's biggest job creator, revitalizing the economy."

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