Mo. House candidates prepare for primary elections

Jul 31, 2012

Primary candidates vying for a house seat in Columbia’s 44th and 47th districts are getting ready for primary elections now just a week away.

The Republican winner of the primary election in the 44th will go up against unopposed Democrat Ken Jacob, a former state senator. Republican primary candidates in the 44th district, which consists of Columbia’s Third Ward and most of northeast Boone County, include retired UPS driver Mike Becker, farmer Chris Dwyer, former state senator Dennis Smith, and former musician Caleb Rowden. At a forum hosted by the League of Women Voters on July 12, which was attended by every primary candidate of the 44th and 47th districts, Becker was the only one who did not favor tax increases of any kind.

“I do not support any tax increase, and that’s what it is. Too many people will get hurt that can’t afford it, and the rich will find a way to dodge those taxes,” said Becker.

During the forum, 44th district contender Dennis Smith said that if elected his first order of business would be helping the farming community through this year’s drought.

“A lot of rural towns and a lot of rural areas are negatively affected by what’s going on with the weather right now. So I think one of the things we’re going to need to do quickly is evaluate what those conditions are and what we can do to support and assist,” said Smith.

Chris Dwyer, another Republican competing for the 44th district seat, says that his greatest strength is his faith in the people of Missouri to cherish freedom and liberty without government interruption.

“I believe wholeheartedly that the people of this state know what’s best for them. That they know what’s, they know how to lead their lives. They know, better than the government, better than any third party, what is best for them,” said Dwyer.

Caleb Rowden, whose candidacy marks his first time running for public office, highlighted health care as a key issue, saying universal health care is not the answer.

“Like anything else, I think competition works. I think when health care providers are competing against each other quality goes up because it has to, cost goes down because it has to, and if they aren’t able to provide that service efficiently, then they go out of business, and that’s the way it should be,” said Rowden.

The Democratic winner of the 47th will go head-to-head against Republican Mitch Richards, who is also uncontested in the primary. Democratic primary candidates in the 47th district, which consists of parts of Boone, Cooper, Howard, and Randolph counties, include small business owner John Wright and former state representative Nancy Copenhaver. During the forum on July 12th, both candidates seemed to agree with one another on almost every issue, with Wright saying he was honored to be running against an accomplished woman such as Copenhaver. They did, however, disagree on specific priorities for education reform in Missouri. Wright says the focus should be on early education.

“We now know with the benefit of research that we can predict to a fairly high degree of accuracy, high school graduation rates based on reading levels in kindergarten and first grade. So we need to make sure we invest at the critical age level of three and four so that our kids enter kindergarten prepared to succeed rather than set up to fail,” said Wright.

Copenhaver, on the other hand, feels more emphasis should be put on higher education.

“We’ve got to do more to support higher education so that our students don’t leave college with huge amounts of debt, so that everybody has access to higher education. And it doesn’t have to just be a four year university education. We need to enhance our community colleges as well as our retraining,” said Copenhaver.

Based on the forum that took place at the Columbia Public Library it’s clear that the new health care law, decreased voter turnout among minorities, and highway 70’s aging infrastructure are some of the major issues at the forefront of the campaign. Mid-Missouri voters can decide at the voting booth on August 7.