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story.lead_photo.caption Julie Smith/News Tribune Locke Thompson, Republican candidate for Prosecuting Attorney in Cole County.

A crisis with illegal drugs, in particular methamphetamines and opioids, is one of the biggest issues facing the Cole County prosecutor's office, said a Republican challenger in the race.

Locke Thompson, who is opposing incumbent Mark Richardson in the Aug. 7 Republican primary, said the prevalence of illegal drugs is a chief concern for him

"Overdose is now the leading cause of death in individuals under 50, and Missouri's opioid addiction rate is significantly higher than the national average," Thompson said. "As the capital of the state, this prosecutor's office must do more to address the drug crisis, and a big part of that is successfully utilizing treatment court programs like Drug Court, Veterans' Court and Mental Health Court for individuals caught in the cycle of addiction."

Thompson said many youth in the community struggle with addiction and more must be more done to identify the individuals who can benefit from treatment court programs and help them once again become productive members of society.

"Simply throwing an addict in jail without addressing any underlying addiction or mental health issues is nothing but a waste of taxpayer dollars, and makes the individual more likely to abuse drugs again upon release," he said. "At the same time, we must crack down on the individuals who deal and distribute these drugs within our community. It's only by taking these steps together that we can adequately address the issue of drug addiction and overdose in our community."

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This race is Thompson's first time running for office, but he's always been interested in politics and identified himself as a strong, conservative Republican. But, he said, being a prosecutor is more about justly upholding and enforcing the law than it is about personal political perspectives.

"I am seeking this seat because I've had the opportunity to work around the state on a number of difficult criminal and sexually violent predator cases," he said. "I've seen how different jurisdictions work — some good, some bad — and I have been lucky to learn from and work with some of the best prosecutors in Missouri."

Thompson left his post in the special prosecutions unit of the Missouri Attorney General's Office to campaign full time for the position.

"I'm truly looking forward to bringing my experience home to Cole County," he said. "This is where I grew up, and I look forward to the opportunity to give back to the community and work with our law enforcement agencies to make Cole County safe, fair, and free."

As of May 1, the only contribution listed for Thompson's campaign committee, Friends for Locke Thompson, was $7,000 from Thompson.

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