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Democratic candidates for House 60th District seat look forward to the climb

Democratic candidates for House 60th District seat look forward to the climb

June 17th, 2018 by Joe Gamm in Local News

Democratic candidates for the Missouri House of Representatives District 60 seat feel there are a lot of people in Jefferson City who lean their way on many issues.

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Sara Michael, a family law attorney with Carver & Michael LLC who has lived in Jefferson City for the past 22 years, and Kevin Nelson, a nurse and business owner who has been in the city for 12 years, are vying for the seat vacated when state Rep. Jay Barnes reached his term limit.

Barnes, a Republican, served on numerous committees and most recently chaired the House committee that looked into former Gov. Eric Greitens' legal troubles. Barnes first won his seat in 2010, a year in which Republicans shot toward a supermajority. He had campaigned on pursuit of "fair tax" and entered the House in a year when Republicans had more victories than ever before. Barnes received more than 64 percent of votes cast during the last general election, when he defeated his Democratic candidate, Nelson, by nearly 5,000 votes.

The winner in the Aug. 7 primary election will face Jane Beetem, Dave Griffith or Pat Rowe Kerr as the Republican nominee.

Nelson said despite how it seems, a lot of people share his political philosophies in Central Missouri.

"There are more of us than there appear to be on the surface," Nelson said. "When I talk to people, I find the Democrats have a lot to offer."

Michael said people have become divided over the years. She also said she has a passion for people and strong beliefs about the responsibility people have for each other.

"A lot of people don't have the resources (they need)," she said. "The community has to step up sometimes and be the resource."

That is reflected in the generous nature of people who live in Jefferson City, she said. When she was a new attorney, single and looking for a home, she found one in the city.

"I've been really lucky — welcomed with open arms," Michael said.

Nelson owns RN Mobile Drug Testing, which does on-site drug testing for local companies.

"One of the things I feel strongly about is wages for state employees," he said. "Right now, we're at the bottom of the barrel."

As a state, Missouri needs higher wages to attract or retain the best employees, he said. One of his two stepsons is a state employee. Nelson said he can see how it would be hard to get by on the salary Missouri's state workers make.

Michael is the mother of two teenage children she raised on her own. That experience, she said, really informs her ability within her practice to see the difficulties families are going through. It also would inform how she would legislate.

"I've always been willing to take on other people's problems," Michael said, "to try to help."

According to records on the Missouri Ethics Commission website, as of April 8, Michael's campaign committee, Sara Michael for Missouri, had $200 in its war chest. The committee had not received any individual contributions of more than $100.

As of April 14, Nelson's campaign committee, Nelson for Missouri, had raised $2,781. The committee had received contributions of more than $100 from Kathy Dicken, $192; Jonathan Roberts, $1,000; and Ray Schneider, $200.

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Questions and Answers

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

SARA MICHAEL

Why are you seeking this seat?

"I am running for state representative because I have seen firsthand how the laws enacted affect our local families. Having worked with families through their darkest days, the lack of problem-solving and actual solutions coming from the General Assembly has been frustrating. The focus on supporting Missouri families seems to be all words with little-to-no action. It is also important to me that my children are proud of where they come from, and I want them to be able to succeed and flourish in Mid-Missouri."

What is the most important issue in this election?

"The most important issue in this election is the protection and support of Missouri working families. This includes opposing Proposition A and 'right to work' initiatives. The state must provide fair wages for our state employees and sufficient funding for our public schools. It is about those in elected office looking out for our citizens instead of themselves."

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

"I believe that those who use the roads should pay for the roads and bridges, especially those who aren't Missouri citizens. Entities that put the greatest stress on our infrastructure should make the greatest contribution to its maintenance and upkeep. I believe toll roads — and to some extent, fuel taxes — would place the cost most appropriately where it belongs on the vehicles that use and abuse our infrastructure."

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

"Missouri needs to expand Medicaid. States that have expanded Medicaid have not only saved money, but have created jobs. For example, Medicaid expansion in the state of Louisiana saved approximately $317 million and resulted in the creation of 19,000 new jobs. Expanding Medicaid supports our local hospitals that care for the largest number of our uninsured citizens. Also important is the protection of our rural communities and the people and facilities that provide medical care in those communities. It is important that every Missouri citizen has access to good medical care."

Missouri has the lowest tobacco tax in the nation. It is about 1/10 the national average. Should the state increase the tobacco tax?

"I believe that increasing Missouri's tobacco tax is a reasonable solution to address some of the state's current revenue problems. Not only could we increase the general revenue fund, thereby increasing resources for our children, the education system and infrastructure, but also create resources to help offset medical expenses incurred by the state for the treatment of its citizens. Tobacco usage should be seen as a choice and therefore, if the increased tax is a burden to the smoker, it becomes their choice whether to incur the added expense or not. As a state, we need to stop subsidizing big business at the cost of our citizens."

Are there any other issues that are important to you?

"Stopping special interests from attacking our hard-working Missouri families is imperative. This means refusing to support efforts misleadingly called 'right to work' and it means fighting to maintain Missouri as a prevailing wage state. This fight is necessary to grow our community and encourage middle-class wages that support working families. This keeps those families off state-provided assistance. To remove that status would severely undercut and damage Missouri's economy. The right to come together for a common cause is fundamental to our rights as citizens and attempts to divide us must be met with strong and determined opposition."

KEVIN NELSON

Why are you seeking this seat?

"The Missouri motto is 'The welfare of the people shall be the supreme law.' The will of the average person is not being represented. When our Legislature goes against the will of the people in St. Louis and Kansas City, where they voted to increase the minimum wage but then their representatives vote to retroactively deny them of that vote, that is not how a representative form of government is supposed to work. We see a lot of 'Vote no on Prop. A' signs in people's yards. Ever wonder why we don't see a lot of 'Vote yes' signs? Because real people do not want this law. Large corporations do and this is who is being represented. I'm running to return government back to the people."

What is the most important issue in this election?

"Missourians need to be able to earn a living wage and we need to start by increasing the pay of our state employees. We need to have and retain the best workers for Missouri and you can't do that by paying wages that are the lowest in the entire country. I will work to give Missouri state employees a much-needed and deserved raise."

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

"Missouri pays significantly less for cigarette and gas taxes, which could be looked at to help offset the cost of needed repair to our infrastructure that has been left in bad shape by the current super majority. Our current Legislature has also chosen to hand out unwarranted tax breaks to corporations instead of keeping our state infrastructure in good repair. In the future we must make sure our house is in order before cutting our revenues."

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

"It is estimated that if we would expand Medicaid in Missouri we could provide health care to an additional 250,000 Missourians. This would also help rural hospitals to remain profitable and keep nurses, techs and hospital staff employed. Missouri already pays for the expansion through payment of federal taxes. Missouri's infant and maternal mortality rates are higher than the national average. Representatives in the House said 'no' to a study on this issue during the session. I fully support investigating this further and finding the much needed answers to this terrible problem."

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Missouri has the lowest tobacco tax in the nation. It is about 1/10 the national average. Should the state increase the tobacco tax?

"I would look into an increase of these taxes; however, I believe — had we not lowered our revenues to the point they are now — that we would not have to."

Are there any other issues that are important to you?

"I look forward to serving all the people of this district. I believe in an open-door policy and am willing to listen to any and all concerns."

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