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For the Libertarian candidates for the District 4 U.S. representative seat up for grabs in the November election, individual liberties and constitutional rights are of the utmost importance.

Robert Smith, L-Nevada, and Steven Koonse, L-Leeton, are the two Libertarian candidates running for the congressional seat in the Aug. 4 primary election. The winner will face one of the two Republican candidates — Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler, R-Harrisonville, or Neal Gist, R-Lake of the Ozarks — and Lindsey Simmons, D-Hallsville, in the November election.

Smith was born on a Naval air station in Pensacola, Florida, to a Marine father and Navy mother, both of whom are Missouri natives. Smith owns a small produce farm and helps to connect farmers with buyers.

Koonse was raised on a farm near Pilot Grove and has a military background as well, having served five tours in Vietnam and retired as an Army master sergeant. Koonse has worked as an accountant, auditor and financial examiner.

"I know and understand the struggles of raising a family, starting a business and sharing our everyday hardships," Smith said. "Starting a small business has exposed me to the bureaucracy and red tape created by our government that squashes mom and pop businesses. I study the Constitution and know that our government has overstepped its enumerated powers and worse, they favor large corporations and special interests."

Koonse points to his experience in farming and as a loan analyst with the Farm Credit Administration as indicative of his effectiveness. He said this would help make him receptive to the needs of farmers and his 24 years of active military experience would enable him to understand any issues that may arise regarding the military presence in the district.

Koonse said he sees the unemployment caused by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic as a main focus, among other things.

"Our infrastructure needs an upgrade to include the electrical grid and accessibility to rural internet," Koonse said. "The upgrades will create jobs."

Koonse said he would like to work to eliminate trade barriers with all countries — especially with China — to ensure the goods produced in the 4th District are freely traded with all nations. He also pledged to work with the executive branch on issues of war and to work to ensure money appropriated by Congress will be thought out and with clear purpose.

Smith said a variety of national issues are important to him: the national debt, fiscal responsibility, ending chronic waste of tax dollars, limiting the federal government and restoring state powers, among other things. He said he is a proponent for ending the war on cannabis and hemp and would seek to stop unconstitutional "red flag" laws and no-knock search warrants. The belief behind all these points, he said, was bringing the United States back into the scope of operating under the Constitution.

"The Constitution is the supreme law of the land," Smith said.

Smith said he plans to adhere to the enumerated powers of Congress and hold himself accountable, if elected.

"I am not afraid to stand against unconstitutional laws," Smith said. "It's not enough to just vote no on unconstitutional legislation, but it's important to be able to propose legislation that is constitutional that will fix the mess made in D.C. I will do just that."

Smith also said he plans to hold himself to a self-imposed limit of three terms and forgo the medical and retirement benefits afforded to members of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Koonse said at the core of his political views, he believes each person has a right to live life in any way they choose, as long as they are respectful of the equal rights of others.

Koonse said his age of 72 and varied experiences help to set him apart from his opponent.

"I will easily recognize the bad things of history that are repeating themselves, and will assert my voice to prevent their occurrence," Koonse said.

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