City chamber hosts candidate forum before elections

Photo by Nicolas Telep

The Kirksville Area Chamber of Commerce hosted a candidate forum last week, giving local and state candidates a chance to share their views and discuss topics important to voters less than a month before voters go to the polls Nov. 6.

The forum gave candidates in the races for circuit clerk, Adair County presiding commissioner, associate 2nd Circuit judge, state representative for the 3rd District and state senator for the 18th District an opportunity to answer questions about experience, expertise, priorities and their plans for the future.

Running for circuit clerk are Republican Angie Sullivan and 28-year incumbent Democrat Linda Decker. Both candidates answered questions about their experience and why voters should choose them on the November ballot.

“I filed for re-election as I have the proven knowledge, skills and experience of service in my 28 years as the circuit clerk,” Decker said. “I have provided Adair County and anyone and everyone needing access to our court system with honest and ethical service.”

Sullivan said she has an attention to detail and a can-do attitude. She said she is a quick learner and has experience in the court system. Sullivan said her involvement in the community and church also add to her understanding and ability to succeed in the position.

Republican Mark Shahan and Democrat Rick Steele are running for Adair County presiding commissioner. The two candidates answered questions about their plans for the county budget and what challenges they would like to address if elected.

Steele, who currently serves on Kirksville city council, said he thinks the budget is one of the county’s biggest challenges that he would like to address. He said he would like to increase the budget with grants and improve the county’s infrastructure.

Shahan also spoke about the county budget and his plans for improvement. He said he would look at how the county budget is spent and how to get more grants to improve the roads and bridges in Adair County.

Independent Ben Gray and Democrat Kristie Swaim are running for associate 2nd Circuit judge. The candidates were asked about their sentencing philosophy and how they could ensure smooth and fair processing in court.

Gray is not a judge, but he has been practicing law for 15 years throughout the state. He said he thinks he could implement a smoother process to get people through quicker and would impose fair and reasonable sentences.

Swaim has been serving as the associate circuit judge for the past 15 years.

“I want to be re-elected because I’m a steady judicial leader who cares deeply about the office, my pledge to support our constitutions and my promise to be faithful and impartial,” Swaim said. “I already know how hard this job is and how to get it done.”

She said she already understands how long days in court are and always works to ensure a smooth process. Swaim said she believes sentencing is bound by state law and anything else is judicial activism.

Running for state representative in the 3rd District are Democrat Joni Perry and Republican Danny Busick. Republican Nate Walker currently holds the seat but will not be seeking re-election. The two candidates were asked about priorities for Kirksville and Adair County, Amendment 1, the state of K-12 education and health care.

Busick addressed the issues of economic development, declining population and the need for a larger water supply in the area. He said he opposes Amendment 1 and thinks public K-12 education should be fully funded by the state and handled by local school boards. He also said insurance companies should cover pre-existing conditions, but he does not think a government solution can solve high health care costs.

Perry said she would like to see improvements to infrastructure, area revenue, and funding for higher and K-12 education. She said she is open to hearing citizen input and perspectives to better represent the constituency. She said she thinks Amendment 1 is a step in the right direction for campaign finance reform and education has not been fully funded as it should be. She also said health care is an issue she would like to address by participating in the Medicaid expansion program, which is already paid for by Missouri voters, and listening to people in the area, other state legislators and experts in the field.

Republican Cindy O’Laughlin and Democrat Crystal Stephens are running for the state senate seat in the 18th District. The candidates answered questions about priorities specific to Kirksville and Adair County, current campaign finance laws, Proposition D and higher education funding.

Stephens said she would like to see improvements to the local infrastructure, more trade schools, and more communication and connection accessibility to allow for growth. Stephens said she supports significant change to campaign finance laws to restrict dark money from coming into Missouri politics, and she fully supports Amendment 1. She said she does not support Proposition D because she said it needs to be modified to be less broad. She thinks higher education funding is a high priority because it is an investment in the future.

O’Laughlin said funding the Greenwood Autism Clinic is one of her priorities if elected, as is broadband access, entitlement reform and education reform. She said she thinks the solution to campaign finance reform is electing ethical people instead of government intervention. She said she supports infrastructure funding but does not support Proposition D because Northeast Missouri does not see enough return from the taxes taken out. O’Laughlin said she thinks higher education funding is important, but higher education institutions and universities should look at how they are spending money to reduce costs while still providing quality education for Missouri students. She recognized Truman State University and A.T. Still University for their spending models and ability to provide recognized fine education.

Midterms elections are Nov. 6. Absentee voting through mail or in person is available at the county clerk’s office for voters who will be unavailable on Election Day.