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story.lead_photo.caption Rik Combs, Karen Leydens, Rudy Veit and Randy Dinwiddie participate Wednesday in the News Tribune forum at Blair Oaks Middle School for candidates in the contested Republican primary election for the Missouri House of Representatives District 59. Photo by Mark Wilson / News Tribune.

Four of the five Republican candidates for the Missouri House 59th District race spent nearly 90 minutes Wednesday evening answering questions about their positions and political philosophies, during a candidates' forum at Blair Oaks Middle School.

Watch the forum replay

Access the archived forum broadcast on the News Tribune YouTube channel here via this link.

The four candidates appearing in the forum were Rik Combs, of Lohman; Karen Leydens, of Jefferson City; Rudy Veit, of Wardsville; and Randy Dinwiddie, of Olean. Dinwiddie arrived late and missed the first three questions, but participated in the rest of the program.

The fifth Republican, Kendra Lane, of Jefferson City — who is an attorney — had said earlier that she would attend, but told the News Tribune on Wednesday that a trial she's involved with in another county was taking longer than expected, and she didn't attend the forum.

The News Tribune sponsored the event, which is available for viewing on the News Tribune's YouTube channel, and Managing Editor Gary Castor posed the questions.

Linda Greeson, D-Eldon, didn't participate Wednesday because she's unopposed in the Aug. 7 Democratic Primary.

Combs grew up on a Florida cattle farm, then spent around 20 years in the U.S. Air Force. He returned to Florida and was CEO of a consulting firm for three years, but he and his wife, Jill, who is a veterinarian, decided to move to Mid-Missouri almost 10 years ago.

"My political philosophy on government and politics is pretty straight forward," he said. "It's free enterprise, liberty and limited government."

Leydens grew up in Mid-Missouri, has worked in real estate for 18 years and has lived in the area for more than 47 years.

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"I'm a constitutional conservative," she said, "and I'm the only candidate in this race endorsed by Right to Life."

All four candidates said they were pro-life and pro-Second Amendment rights.

Veit grew up on a farm near St. Thomas, graduated from Blair Oaks High School in 1971, then earned his bachelor's and law degrees at the University of Missouri. Since 1978, he's worked as a lawyer.

"I want to take those skills that I've learned and the ability to practice those skills that public education has given me," he said, "and continue helping people."

Dinwiddie, a small business owner in the marketing, advertising and insurance fields, is from Oregon but has lived most of his life in Missouri — mainly in the Lake of the Ozarks area.

He said he's a "constitutional conservative. I believe in the Republican Party, but I don't believe in the way it's been going."

State vs. local control

Combs and Leydens said they would not support state actions to interfere with local decisions made by county and city governments.

Veit said local control "has to be done in moderation," because "businesses have to be able to operate consistently across the state" without dealing with numerous different local regulations.

Roads and bridges

Combs, Leydens and Veit agreed the state should be doing more to maintain roads and bridges — but differed on paying for that work.

Leydens said some increased revenues could come from "raising some of the fees," including "raising prices of the driver's licenses and the license plates," and reviewing the state budget to see if more money could be available.

Veit said those ideas "just won't get the job done."

Instead, he added, "We're going to have to raise the gas tax, and toll roads are possible," even in rural areas.

Combs noted Missouri voters haven't passed a fuels tax increase in the last decade.

"I've seen a steady decline in the roads," he said, "and the roads are degenerating.

"We absolutely have to do something," but he's opposed to toll roads, because his experience is that "they're a nightmare."

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Broadband access

All four agreed broadband technology is important and needed in rural areas as well as in cities.

Veit and Dinwiddie said the state should be involved in providing those services — although Dinwiddie added that should be "if that's what the community wanted."

Combs said providing broadband services isn't a state function.

"The private sector could handle that far better if somebody could make a profit on it," he said. "They'd typically run it better than the government."

Leydens agreed free enterprise likely would do a better job, but added: "I'm here to represent the people — and I will do what the people want, and stand by the will of the people."

State employee pay

All agreed Missouri government employees aren't paid as well as they should be.

Dinwiddie said bringing more businesses to the state would raise revenues and provide the state with more money for those salaries.

Combs said state workers' pay would improve with a more diversified economy.

Leydens said state government is currently top heavy, and fewer managers would make more money available for other employees.

Veit said Mid-Missouri lawmakers need to show the rest of the Legislature that increasing pay and losing fewer employees to other jobs would improve the state's overall economy.


All agreed people don't like taxes.

Combs said governments need to be more efficient with the money they receive — rather than raising taxes — and he would prefer to eliminate property and income taxes, but said the people would have to vote on those issues.

Leydens agreed people have to approve tax increases and said the first thing government officials should do is look for ways to trim the current budget.

Veit agreed governments can be wasteful, so they should constantly be looking for ways to cut waste, but people still have to pay for their education, roads and services.

Dinwiddie said attracting more businesses to the state would increase revenues without raising taxes above what we pay now.

Gun rights

All four believe in a person's right to own firearms, and all favored background checks and a minimum age for people wishing to buy guns.

They disagreed with any proposed regulations on assault weapons.

Access the archived forum broadcast on the News Tribune YouTube channel here via this link.

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