3rd Congressional District candidates differ on scope of campaign issues

The candidates for Missouri's 3rd Congressional District have different priorities.

Longtime Republican incumbent Blaine Luetkemeyer has put national issues at the forefront of campaign messaging while Democrat challenger Bethany Mann is focused on what she sees as Missouri's deficiencies.

After winning primary elections in August, the candidates are campaigning ahead of the Nov. 8 general election. U.S. representatives serve two-year terms with an annual salary of approximately $174,000.

Luetkemeyer did not respond to multiple requests for an interview about his re-election campaign and positions on issues.

The St. Elizabeth Republican, first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2009, lists job creation, the federal budget and national energy independence as the top issues on his campaign website. There are also dedicated pages for agriculture, health care, his pro-life and pro-Second Amendment positions, national security and border security.

It's a more nationally focused scope of issues than Mann, who has put education, infrastructure and political unity at the forefront of her campaign but also lists health care, voting rights and the environment as critical issues.

They're all issues Missouri is falling behind on, Mann said, and she's interested in rallying Missourians behind them and leading efforts to solve "some big problems."

If re-elected, Luetkemeyer would use his 30 years of small-business experience to fuel job growth, prevent tax increases, cut regulations and support the opening of new markets for Missouri goods, according to his website.

Per his written policy positions, Luetkemeyer supports a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution and wants to "rein in out of control government spending" so national debt isn't passed on to future generations.

The incumbent has put a heavier focus on energy independence this campaign cycle as well, supporting plans to harness the country's own oil, coal, nuclear, biofuel, solar and wind resources to generate energy, as opposed to purchasing fuel resources from other countries.

"We must drill for oil in Alaska, on federal lands, and off of our shores," his campaign website states. "We cannot afford to leave these resources untapped."

As an agricultural scientist and Brentwood mother, Mann said she has a passion for improving STEM education in the state and investing in infrastructure -- issues she said have wide support among voters across party lines.

A career implementing technology for industries and then regulating them has exposed Mann to a variety of manufacturers and producers in the state, she said, from animal rendering facilities creating dog food to Oreo assembly lines.

"My background really is in problem-solving," she said. "I've worked with people with lots of diverse backgrounds and educational backgrounds, anywhere from regular plant operators to plant managers and research scientists with high degrees. I really believe in the power of listening and learning from each other, and then coming together to fix a solution."

Mann said she hopes to bridge political divisions if elected to Congress, modeling her approach off the likes of Harry Truman, the only president to come from Missouri.

Truman carried out historic investments in America's infrastructure through Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal, she said, lending support for the agriculture industry and bolstering social programs. And he held large financial institutions accountable for bad policies, she said.

"I like that style," Mann said. "I don't tend to be super duper partisan. I look to bring resources that support families in Missouri."

She supports expanding child care access, which includes increased funding for child care in low-income areas and the number of tax credits offered to child care workers and facilities. Those solutions can help increase daycare staffing by subsidizing required employee training, she said.

Mann also supports universal Pre-K, increasing teacher pay to a competitive wage and investing in classroom technology so teachers and students are better equipped to meet future demands.

"Our students deserve to have a high quality education with equal access and fully funded, and equitable-funded, public schools," she said.

Part of the discussion around improving education includes expanding broadband internet technology, Mann said. Access to high-speed internet is becoming more critical as technology plays a bigger role in education, health care, workforce development and farming, she said.

Mann said the COVID-19 pandemic exposed the extent to which Missouri has failed to keep up with technological advancements, like high-speed internet access.

Mann said she's also interested in supporting workers rights, such as fair and equal bargaining rights for farmers and workers.

More products should be made in the U.S., Mann said, and manufacturers who responsibly manage their carbon footprint should receive tax incentives. Manufacturers should pay workers higher wages and a "fair share" of taxes, she added.

Mann said the lack of progress in those areas is driving people out of the state, which is concerning because it means young adults and families don't see a future living and working in Missouri.

Disillusioned voters are becoming more common, she said, and that requires leaders to employ a better diplomatic approach to overcome divisions and make progress.

An open mind and willingness to engage others with a range of political perspectives is how Mann said she would approach it.

"You have families that are really struggling and we need to find some help," she said. "It's not going to do any good to point fingers at each other. We should work together for common solutions."

  photo  Blaine Luetkemeyer  
  photo Bethany Mann