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Republicans weigh in on House District 60 race

Republicans weigh in on House District 60 race

June 17th, 2018 by Joe Gamm in Local News

The Republican candidate for the Missouri House of Representatives District 60 seat will be chosen from three contenders with familiar names.

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Voters will decide between Jane Beetem, a 35-year resident of Jefferson City; Dave Griffith, a 32-year resident; and Pat Rowe Kerr, a 40-year resident.

Although this is her first time running for elected office, Beetem has assisted her husband, Cole County Circuit Judge Jon Beetem, in his campaigns. She has been a member of the Cole County Republican Club for 12 years.

Griffith, a veteran, is retired, but previously worked in the home mortgage and insurance businesses and in communications. He spend two stints with KRCG. He served as a twice-elected 5th Ward city councilman. He then moved on to be the executive director of the American Red Cross of Central and Northern Missouri. Griffith and his wife have two children.

Kerr is the founder and former chief executive officer of Associated Court Reporters Inc., the former state of Missouri veterans ombudsman and a retired state employee. She has not held an elected office but has worked within the judiciary, Senate Appropriations and the Department of Mental Health. She has worked with numerous elected officials and volunteered for a number of Republican candidates. She is familiar with the state budget, having worked with both chambers of the Missouri General Assembly on legislation.

If one wins the seat, he or she will follow a candidate who helped usher in a wave of Republican leadership.

The candidates are seeking the seat vacated when state Rep. Jay Barnes completed his second term. Barnes 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 the 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.

The winner in the Aug. 7 primary will face Sara Michael or Kevin Nelson as the Democratic nominee.

Being elected will take hard work, Kerr said.

She worked at and owned what became the largest court-reporting firm in Central Missouri. It had offices in three locations, using contractors and employees.

"One of the things I talk about is less government intervention," she said. "As a small-business woman, I know what it's like to sign the front and back of checks."

She's married to the Rev. John Kerr. Between them, they have four children.

The Beetems have two adult children who live nearby, Jane Beetem said.

Beetem said she has been involved in low-profile activities around the city. She helped plant fruit trees and perennials outside the Boys & Girls Club. She started a garden at the Samaritan Center, and she wrote about 20 National Register propositions for properties in Jefferson City. All have been successful.

People think that's her thing, Beetem said. But for 12 years she represented Missouri on the Midwest Radioactive Materials Transportation Committee, which worked to get a fee from companies that transported radioactive materials across the state. That fee paid for emergency response training in case of incidents involving radioactive materials.

In speaking with folks in law enforcement, she's found a lot of rural people reach out to local sheriff's offices when they need to contact somebody from government. To them, it's normally the highest level of government they deal with. If elected, she wants people to know they can reach out to her.

"(It's a matter of) just helping people get their issue in front of the right person," Beetem said. "I want people to know they have someone they can reach out to."

Sometimes the right job is thrust upon you, Griffith said. He had been on the board for the local Red Cross when his predecessor resigned. The board chair asked Griffith to apply.

"Sometimes the best jobs you find are the ones you're not looking for," he said.

Griffith was director for about six years. During that time, he was deployed multiple times — to Superstorm Sandy, three hurricanes and two Missouri floods.

"There are certain events that happen — disasters that happen — that are bigger than any organization can handle," Griffith said. "Responses take multiple agencies working in collaboration. I hope to take that sense of collaboration with me."

Helping people is a theme all of the candidates touched on.

Kerr said what she wants to do when she works to help veterans is to take on their problems as her own.

There are many different avenues to look at in how legislators should resolve problems, she said.

"Have we looked at all of them. I don't care if it's about education or about tax cuts," Kerr said. "I think a fresh set of eyes (is valuable)."

According to records on the Missouri Ethics Commission website, as of April 15, Beetem's campaign committee, Beetem for State Rep, had $5,935 in its war chest. Although it had not received contributions in the first quarter of 2018, in 2017, the committee received individual contributions valued at more than $100 from Beetem, $157; Annell Bailey, Gary Bemboom, $200; Building Concensus PAC, $1,000; Renee Bungart, $150; $250; Jeanette Dulle, $200; Tracy Estes, $150; Rex Hardman, $500; Darryl Hubble, $250; Jefferson Bank PAC, $500; PW PAC, $250; Ed Storey, $2,000; and Ann Warren, $317.

As of April 16, Griffith's campaign committee, David Griffith for State Representative, had raised $22,919. During the first quarter of 2018, the committee received contributions of more than $100 from Vincent Becker, $300; Fred Bodenhamer, $250; Central to Good Government PAC, $250; Hal Dulle, $200; Carlos Graham, $250; Josh Korte, $150; John Lucio, $1,250; Roy Michael, $500; Robin Michitsch, $500; James Mihalevich, $400; Richard Peerson, $575; Pharmacist PAC of Missouri, $250; Robert Ryder, $600; Raymond Schmidt, $500; Eric Struemph, $250; James Tritz, $500; Larry Vincent, $450; and Leroy Wilbers Jr., $500.

As of April 27, Kerr's campaign committee, Friends to Elect Pat Rowe Kerr, had campaign finance reports totalling $17,536. During the first quarter of 2018, the committee had received contributions of more than $100 (aggregated) from Kerr's husband, $2,165; Matt Bullock, $1,350; Rachel Bullock, $150; the Central to Good Government PAC, $250; Joe DeLong, $150; Amy Freeman, $165; Donald Hentges, $165; Deirdre Hirner, $250; Jean Leon, $500; Katherine Numerick, $1,185; Bob Robuck, $250; Ed Storey, $800; Gloria Vogt, $400; and Shane Vansteenburch, $985.

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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.

JANE BEETEM

Why are you seeking the seat?

"Both my grandmother and great-grandmother helped establish programs in my home town that still benefit that community. With a family legacy of community service, I figured if they could do so much in their time, I'd better step up my game. A number of people have asked why I want to put myself through that, when they hear I'm running for state representative. My family has a saying that is used so often we refer to it as 'Rule 1:' No good deed goes unpunished. We hear that phrase a lot, but to me it means that you just keep working to accomplish good things for the community, and not let the 'punishment' get you down."

What is the most important issue in this election?

"Families work hard for their money, and government should spend tax revenue wisely, making it go as far as possible. The state needs to set priorities, just like families do, and fill those needs first. I'm always looking for ways to save money, and I'll bring that same view to state government."

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

"Transportation is funded largely through the gas tax, but not all vehicles these days run on gas. As more fleets and individual cars run on electricity or compressed natural gas, a new approach to transportation funding is needed. Many water and sewer systems are now near 100 years old, and are being patched and re-patched. They were designed long before current standards were set, so sewer waste and storm water runoff are often combined, overwhelming existing systems."

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

"When given a choice between 'sticks and carrots,' most people respond better to rewards than punishment. Many health insurers give rewards for not smoking, losing weight, etc. If this approach were applied to government-funded health insurance, people would have an incentive for getting preventive health care. Treating a health issue before it becomes life-threatening is not only cheaper, but more likely to be beneficial and result in a better quality of life. Such an approach would encourage people not to use the emergency room like a primary care provider — to see a doctor regularly instead of waiting for an emergency to occur."

Missouri has the lowest tobacco tax in the nation. It is about a tenth of the national average. Should the state increase the tobacco tax?

"I grew up on a tobacco farm, but have never smoked. Increasing the tax may be a way to deter people from smoking, but I doubt that there has been an increase in spending on lung disease that equals the amount of tax collected. So-called 'sin taxes' are not really about generating revenue, but directing behavior. Hopefully by now many people have decided to quit smoking on their own, based on the health benefits."

Are there any other issues that are important to you?

"I believe in Common Sense Government, doing things like not passing laws that everyone knows violate the Missouri Constitution, just so the state can waste a lot of money arguing over the issue later in court. As a state employee for 25 years, I can relate to what state employees go through, such as constantly being asked to do more with less. If elected, support for state employees would be one of my top priorities. Education should not just teach for test results, but make sure that all children have a good grasp of the basics. Our gifted children need to be encouraged not to coast through school, but to reach their full potential."

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DAVE GRIFFITH

Why are you seeking this seat?

"I was raised in a Christian home and was taught that service to my fellow man is what God calls us to do each and every day. I have spent my entire life trying to live a life of service, whether as a Green Beret serving our country overseas or helping families rebuild and repair their lives after a devastating hurricane or tornado as the executive director of the Red Cross. I am a humanitarian and a compassionate leader who will always put the people of our community first."

What is the most important issue in this election?

"Jobs, jobs, jobs. The state is the largest employer in Jefferson City. I want to work to get state employees the compensation they deserve. I also want to support our local businesses, big and small, to help grow and thrive so they can create more family supporting jobs."

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

"Missouri has the seventh-largest highway and second-largest waterway system in the United States, both of which the people of Jefferson City have prime access to. Those systems were built by our parents or grandparents. Up to this point we have failed to act and now it is incumbent upon us to act and to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure. The voters will have an opportunity to act this fall on a proposal to increase the gas tax. No matter what the voters decide this fall, any solution to rebuild our infrastructure must ultimately be supported by them."

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

"Health care continues to be a challenge for many Missourians across our state. The ever increasing malpractice insurance costs, due to frivolous lawsuits, are driving the health care costs to record highs. While we have made strides in tort reform, more work needs to be done. There is too much fraud in the current system that drives up costs for everyone and doesn't allow working Missourians the chance to get access to quality health care. I will work to ensure our families and seniors don't have to choose between getting the medicine they need and putting food on their table."

Missouri has the lowest tobacco tax in the nation. It is about a tenth of the national average. Should the state increase the tobacco tax?

"Simply because Missouri has the lowest tax on a particular product is not justification to increase taxes on it. Missourians had two opportunities to increase the tobacco tax in 2016 and both times the voters rejected the proposal. I think any new tax increase should go before the people to let them decide. If taxpayers are presented with a fair and equitable proposal and can trust their tax dollars will be used properly. then I believe they will support it. Otherwise it will once again fail."

Are there any other issues that are important to you?

"Being a former Green Beret and veteran myself, I would have to say that veterans and active duty military are extremely important to me and working on bringing veterans courts statewide will be one of my priorities. We have veterans courts in many metropolitan areas, but not in smaller counties. Veterans who find themselves facing criminal prosecution need an advocate to help them get through issues many times caused as a result of military service on the battlefield."

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PAT ROWE KERR

Why are you seeking this seat?

"Serving the public is one of my highest priorities. For many years, I have worked hard on behalf of service members, veterans and their families across Missouri — creating programs within the state, helping pass legislation that decreased taxes, allowing for increased educational benefits and assisting in promoting jobs. Many of those programs have assisted our senior citizens as well as youth. I believe service as a state representative will allow me to better serve this community. And I know that I can be an effective voice for the people of the 60th District and our conservative values."

What is the most important issue in this election?

"Job creation is without a doubt the most important issue confronting Missouri. As a former small business owner, I know that government often gets in the way of growth. We have to get government out of the way of our economy and make sure Missouri can attract family-supporting jobs."

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

"First and foremost, I need to make it clear that when the 'state' pays for something, it is ultimately taxpayers footing the bill. Our state's roads and bridges are of the utmost importance to Missouri, and improvements are no doubt needed. It looks like taxpayers will likely be voting on whether or not to implement a gas tax increase this year, and I will support whatever decision the voters make."

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

"We have to work to eliminate waste and fraud. As an example, every time someone goes to the emergency room, when an urgent care clinic or a regular doctor's appointment will do, it results in higher costs for everyone else. We need to educate more veterans so they sign up for health care through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Qualifications have changed, and some who tried before and were refused may now be eligible."

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

"The people of Missouri voted against raising the tobacco tax in 2016, and I will not support an increase that my constituents have already clearly rejected."

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Are there any other issues that are important to you?

"Public safety is a top priority. We cannot ask those individuals to continue to do the work they do without providing them with an employee raise incentive. Continuing to address state employee pay is very important along with mental health budgets. Without qualified individuals who work with integrity and transparency for Missouri Citizens, we are only costing taxpayers money. I have looked at a program we could consider instituting on a three-year tier rotation that would ensure increased pay and increased productivity. I have spent years serving as an advocate for Missouri's service members, veterans and their families. And if I am elected, I will continue working to make sure Missouri takes care of those who have given so much in service of our nation."

 

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