Reproductive rights and farm policy issues were key topics debated by candidates for Missouri’s 47th House of Representatives district at Wednesday night’s League of Women Voters forum.
The forum, held at the Daniel Boone Regional Library, included conversations with candidates from the 44th and 50th districts and discussion of several ballot issues.
The 47th District candidates – Democrat Adrian Plank and John Martin, the only Republican candidate to run at the event – differed sharply on abortion rights.
Martin said he was a “pro-life candidate” and would not introduce a bill to overturn the trigger laws established in Missouri after the Supreme Court struck down Roe’s protections against Wade. He cited the health of the mother as the only exception for the abortion of a fetus.
“I think it’s very important to support women in crisis,” Martin said.
Plank said he would fight for the women of the district. He said he understood the Republican position because he was born into a Christian family. However, he pointed out that forcing policies from a religious position is not an effective way to make policies.
“Every abortion is about the health of the mother,” Plank said. “Christian law … is certainly being pushed into our state capitol.”
A discussion of agricultural practices and a discussion of free market principles also highlighted their differences. The 47th District encompasses agricultural areas such as Harrisburg and Sturgeon.
Plank said when he thinks about helping family farmers, it starts with local control.
“If we want to protect Missouri farmers, we need to diversify our agricultural industry instead of monopolizing our system to foreign corporations,” Plank said.
Martin countered that much of the agriculture and produce in the district is not local, so closing large farms would stifle production. He said that although he understands the family farming industry, the way the industry is now contributes to economic growth.
“When you have Democratic policies that raise your interest rates and land prices go up and all of those things make it harder for people to acquire land,” Martin said. “These are all things that hurt our economy.”
Both have also attempted to tie their opponents to their parties’ national identities.
Martin spoke about his issues with the Biden administration throughout the debate.
Plank responded by saying the Republicans he met did not raise issues within their own party.
“That’s where we have our division, you know, they won’t take responsibility for their own actions,” Plank said.
Cannabis Legalization Proponents Debate Amendment 3 Details
The League also hosted a forum on Amendment 3, which would legalize the recreational use, sale and possession of marijuana.
The initiative would also allow people who have committed certain non-violent marijuana-related offenses to have their criminal records expunged and apply for parole or parole.
Columbia attorney Dan Viets argued in favor of Amendment 3. Bharani Kumar, executive director of criminal justice advocate Crossing Paths PAC, opposed it.
Both said they support the legalization of recreational weed. However, Kumar said he opposes the initiative because he believes it would create a monopoly and hurt the incarcerated population and local producers, whom the bill is meant to help.
Viets said he has been working on legalizing marijuana for 50 years. He said he believes that if Missourians want to legalize cannabis, they shouldn’t rely on the Missouri General Assembly to do it for them because the legislature has resisted legalization in the past. He said it was necessary to enshrine legal marijuana as a constitutional amendment so the Assembly could not repeal it.
“If we want it to be legal, which the vast majority of Americans do, we’re going to have to do it ourselves,” Viets said. “It’s a law, frankly, that can pass.”
The Viets said Amendment 3 will help correct racial injustices. He said Missouri arrests 20,000 people a year on marijuana charges. Black Missourians are 2.6 times more likely to be arrested on marijuana charges than white Missourians despite the groups using the drug at about the same rate, he said.
Kumar said that while he supports the legalization of recreational marijuana, he opposes Amendment 3 because it would help big business instead of individuals.
He said for serious marijuana offenses, expungement would be on a case-by-case basis. This would mean that judges in some counties who do not support legalization could reject appeals while judges in other counties approve them.
Kumar also said he opposes limiting the amount of marijuana individuals can grow: more than three ounces would be a misdemeanor and more than six would be a felony.
Raithel and Mann discuss platforms
The 44th and 50th district forums were one-on-one shows, as only Democrats — Dave Raithel for the 44th and Doug Mann for the 50th — were in attendance.
In the past, the League of Women Voters would not have had a discussion with the individual, but this year decided to change the format.
“She’s just avoiding being responsible,” Raithel said when asked if her incumbent, Republican Cheri Toalson-Reisch, didn’t show up.
Raithel had a Q&A with moderator David Lile about his political goals, campaign website and qualifications for the job.
“I want to go out there and find someone who wants to talk about using ARPA money to fix the roads,” Raithel said, when discussing the policy he would propose to Jefferson City.
Lile asked Raithel about his statement on his website that he is more Republican than Reisch. Raithel explained that he believes in decentralizing government and leaving local decision-making to local authorities like school boards.
Raithel pointed to his background as a veteran, truck driver, farmer, philosopher and musician as qualifications to represent the 44th District.
Doug Mann, the 50th District Democrat, said he was running for office because he had the skills to ward off attacks on education, health care and workers in Missouri.
Mann is a civil rights attorney for the law firm Columbia TGH Litigation LLC, and he began his career teaching high school history and civics. He said his experience teaching at an underfunded Chicago school, where he often had to pay for his own teaching materials, fueled his passion for education policy.
“Missouri Teachers Cross [a lack of funding] right now, and that’s not fair,” Mann said. “Our young people are our future, and we will invest in our education as if our future depends on it, because frankly, it does.”
He said he wants to increase the amount of state funding included in the funding formula that determines how much funding public schools receive. He said an influx of funding would attract more and better teachers and help districts move away from four-day school weeks.
Mann said he would also like to pursue a health policy that would allow nurse practitioners in Missouri to practice to the extent of their training, thereby improving primary care.
James Musgraves, Mann’s Republican opponent, did not respond to the League’s invitation to participate. Mann said it reflected Musgraves’ level of commitment to representing the 50th District.
“Having an open dialogue and discourse with voters is key to representative democracy, and the fact that he was not here tonight and chose to be somewhere else, I think is very indicative of the type representative he would be,” Mann said.
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