Candidates for the Missouri House of Representatives' 60th District seat both said they are seeking the seat as a service to their neighbors in Jefferson City.
How they serve their communities may differ greatly, though.
Dave Griffith, a Republican, and Sara Michael, a Democrat, faced off Tuesday night during a candidate forum hosted by the newspaper at the Jefferson City Hall.
"I have been raised in a family of service," Griffith said during his introduction. "My dad and mom taught us that service to our fellow man is what God calls us to do every single day."
Griffith said he served as a volunteer during his teens, served his country during the Vietnam War era and served on a number of nonprofit organizations.
Michael said, in her family law practice, she is on the ground every day seeing how government can help and hurt families with its policies.
Michael said she has spent her adult life in the trenches, picking people up when they were at their lowest.
"I'm a fighter," she said. "That's what I am.
"This is something that I'm doing because I'm passionate about it."
Jefferson City News Tribune Managing Editor Gary Castor questioned the candidates during the hour-long forum.
He posed a reader question that asked how each thought they would better represent their constituents than their opponents.
Michael said she is listening to the concerns of voters in the community and would act in ways that are in their best interests and not in those of special interests — as the supermajority has done.
"Instead of putting forth or supporting legislation that serves the few, my goal is to serve the many," Michael said. "And, I think if you talk to the people who live in the 60th, they're with me on that. They truly do want the government to work for them."
Voters want policies that help them in their everyday lives, she said. And her approach would be different than what has been going on in the past few sessions. If there isn't a change to what has been going on in the Legislature — a change in the representation — it will continue.
Griffith said he didn't know Michael well enough to know exactly how he would do things better than her.
"But, I can tell you that supermajority that Sara has referred to a number of times really is representative of what the people of the state of Missouri want," Griffith said. "They want people with integrity. They want people with conviction. They want people that care about what goes on in their daily lives."
Republicans have demonstrated those values in the last few sessions of the General Assembly, Griffith said.
"(Voters) spoke resoundingly that they appreciate that type of government," he said.
Castor said Michael has mentioned that a supermajority in the General Assembly does not like the idea of Medicaid expansion. So, he asked, how might the state address the health care needs of Missouri's under-served population in that climate?
The pessimistic answer, Michael said, is that the state cannot address it.
"Because there is an attitude over there with the supermajority that won't allow you to broach into an alternative approach to what they've been putting forth that is not solving the problem today," she replied.
The first solution is to "even the playing field" by creating bi-partisan communication.
"The idea you hear that those in the supermajority will work across the aisle — they don't have to. And they haven't, based on communication I've received," Michael said.
Medicaid expansion seems like the obvious solution to the problem, and it's not getting addressed, she said.
The current Medicaid system is broken and is not working, Griffith said. He said he worries where money would come from for Medicaid expansion.
"Individual communities can step up and provide some kind of assistance to those that are under served," Griffith said.
An example, he said, is The Samaritan Center in Jefferson City, which uses volunteer doctors, dentists and nurses to provide health care services.
"I just don't see where we're going to get the money to pay for Medicaid expansion. Bipartisan efforts can be done by those that are willing to do them," Griffith said.
Griffith said voters should "do your homework" on Clean Missouri — Amendment 1, which is on the Nov. 6 ballot.
The amendment, if passed, would change the process for redrawing state legislative districts, put limits on campaign contributions, limit gifts from lobbyists, prohibit legislators from serving a lobbyists for a period of time, prohibit some fundraising activities and require some legislative records to be opened to the public.
"We all want a clean Missouri, but is this the right way of going about it?" he asked. "I don't think so."
He said redistricting, for example, would be done by an elected official and would be greatly gerrymandered.
He said the current ethics system holds candidates accountable.
"We have a system in place right now — the Missouri Ethics Commission — that does a good job of monitoring the candidates," Griffith said.
Michael said that the redistricting done in the Clean Missouri amendment is not political — and is done according to demographics.
The amendment covers a number of issues, she said.
"I support it," she said. "If we would just followed the law — and that was always the way — we wouldn't be talking about the need for restrictions or regulations or limits on this because people would be making the right decisions from the very beginning. But, they have not."
Michael and Griffith are competing to fill the position currently held by state Rep. Jay Barnes, R-Jefferson City, who is completing his fourth term. Term limits prevent Barnes from seeking re-election to represent the district, which consists of most of Jefferson City, with the exception of the southeast section.
Missouri House District 60 Candidate Forum
Use the player below to view a replay of the candidate forum, or access the replay via the City of Jefferson's YouTube channel through this link.