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story.lead_photo.caption From right, Democrats Sara Michael and Kevin Nelson give their thoughts during a Candidate Forum at City Hall on Thursday, July 19, 2018.

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Two Democrats, who are trying to overturn a state House of Representatives seat that has gone Republican for years, faced off during a candidate forum Thursday evening.

Kevin Nelson and Sara Michael are running for the District 60 seat held by Jay Barnes, R-Jefferson City.

Term limits prevent Barnes from running for a third four-year term.

On Aug. 7, voters will decide which of the candidates will face off with a Republican challenger during November's general election.

The News Tribune sponsored the forum, and Managing Editor Gary Castor and City Editor Rebecca Martin posed the questions.

Nelson is a nurse and business owner. He is also a U.S. Army veteran.

Michael is an attorney who owns her own firm. She is also a mother of two.

Guns and background checks

The two agreed they support background checks for gun purchases, increasing the age to buy guns, and a ban on bump stocks and high-capacity magazines.

They differed on questions about automatic and semi-automatic weapons and questions about arming educators. Nelson said "no" to the public being able to buy the weapons because they belong elsewhere.

"I'm well aware of assault weapons and the damage they can do to the human body," he said. "The place for those weapons is not on the street, but in war zones." He added educators go into their line of work because they want to do everything they can to educate children.

They shouldn't be armed, he said.

Michael said she supports the Second Amendment, but with reason.

There should be limits to who can buy guns — people on no-fly lists should not be allowed, she said. Neither should people who are convicted of domestic assaults.

"I do believe teachers have committed their lives to our students," Michael said. "But I don't believe we should ask them to arm themselves."

Decisions should be made by local school districts. If they want, they should be able to arm a school resource officer or some other well-trained personnel, she said.

Lobbying concerns

Lobbying reforms are necessary, the two said. They both said they support Clean Missouri programs.

Michael said she doesn't agree with the Supreme Court ruling that dark money can be given to nonprofits that can use it to influence elections without the donor having to be identified.

It seems unreasonable that individuals are limited to how much they can give, while a political action committee is unlimited, she said.

"Influence should not come from lobbyists," Nelson said. "Influences should come from your constituents."

Government intervention

Michael, who practices family law, said a specific place where government gets too involved in divorce cases in which children are involved.

"Government tries to tell us how to litigate or resolve when two parents have had a problem and can't live in the same house anymore," she said. "Every situation and circumstance is absolutely independent from each other. The Legislature thinks it can take one paint brush and paint it over the situation where children are involved."

Where government should get more involved in lives is in Medicaid expansion, Nelson said.

Obstacles to job creation

The biggest obstacles in the state are other issues Missouri faces, Michael said — living wages, decaying highways and limited broadband access.

"If we want some of these larger businesses to come into our district and our state, we have to have a workforce that is ready to go," Nelson said.

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