One of the most important issues on District 19 State Senate Democratic candidate Stephen Webber’s platform is strengthening funding for the University of Missouri, and K --12 education as well. He says this is important since education is a major employer in the district.
“But it's also more than that; it's also who we are, in terms of our cultural values, and how we identify ourself; we're an education community, and so it's important in all facets of this area,” Webber said.
Caleb Rowden, the Republican candidate for District 19, also says he plans to protect the university in the Senate. But Webber says their positions shouldn’t be equated – pointing to a two-year-old budget committee vote where they disagreed.
Webber said he wanted a five percent increase for higher education including Mizzou, and Rowden voted against the raise.
“Our words may be similar over the next couple weeks, but our actions for the last few years have been very, very different,” Webber said.
Webber’s focus on MU extends into his job creation plan. He says the University of Missouri’s research reactor is an opportunity to bring new jobs to Columbia. Webber wants to secure more funding for the reactor, which harvests isotopes that can be used in cancer treatment.
Webber said the reactor gives Columbia an edge in competing with other communities for job creation.
Another thing Webber says sets him apart is the way his campaign is funded. His most recent campaign finance report, filed at the beginning of September, had a donor list over eight times longer than Rowden’s, and consisted mainly of smaller donations.
“Both sides can run a lot of TV ads, both sides can have a lot of mail, and do a lot of radio, but years of talking to voters, and years – and beyond that really decades of interacting with people here in Boone County is not something that can be accomplished in a couple of weeks, or be accomplished through paid advertising. And so I think that’ll be an advantage for us,” Webber said.
Webber’s broad base of support ties into his push for campaign finance reform, something he says is more important now than ever.
“Money in politics has just skyrocketed and these races are now more expensive than they’ve ever been in Missouri. So as a policy, I think it’s a bad policy. I think we should limit donations,” Webber said.
Webber co-sponsored a bill in January that featured campaign finance restrictions, but it failed to gain traction on the House floor.
Webber also supports expanding Medicaid coverage, a notion he believes is taking unfair criticism. It hasn’t found traction despite efforts from Democrats to get it passed in recent years.
Expanding Medicaid would bring health care coverage to 300,000 more people, Webber said.
“We can bring a billion dollars into one of the biggest economic sectors of our state, the health care sector, and we can save $70 million in state taxpayer dollars, which I propose that we reinvest in higher education,” Webber said. “That seems like a no-brainer to me.”
Webber said the next few weeks before November are important, but added years of work by both candidates will go into what choice voters will make.