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Columbia Missourian

At NAACP forum, candidates talk education, affirmative action

By Molly Harbarger
October 28, 2008 | 10:58 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — The Columbia NAACP held its candidate forum Tuesday night for the community to hear and see candidates talk about issues raised by Columbia residents.

Three Republicans, seven Democrats and one Libertarian met with a predominantly black audience at the Second Baptist Church to address issues such as public education and racial profiling.

Mary Ratliff, president of Columbia's NAACP, said the forums are for community members who aren't well-informed on the issues affecting them.

Pat Booth is one of those community members who didn't know the forum was going on but stopped to listen. She said she liked what was discussed at the forum.

"I was very interested in everyone that spoke," she said.

Ratliff also said seeing the candidates' body language is important.

The Rev. Martin Hardin said he likes watching the candidates talk in person so he can "read the candidate to see if you believe what they say they believe."

Hardin said he was mainly concerned with issues concerning jobs and the economy. He argues that money spent on the war in Iraq should go towards helping American people on issues like the Environmental Protection Agency requiring St. Louis and Kansas City to replace old sewer systems in 15 to 17 years, an issue Kurt Schaefer, state senate Republican candidate for the 19th District, spoke about.

All the Democratic state senate candidates spoke in favor of "giving teeth" to Missouri's racial profiling law, which gathers data on how race effects vehicle stops by law enforcement agencies. Ed Robb, current 24th District state representative up for re-election, said he would look into the issue and support strengthening the law. Schaefer said he didn't support fining departments that profiled, but argued there should be a way to start dialogue to fix the problem.

All the candidates except state Senate Libertarian candidate for the 19th District, Chris Dwyer, supported the continuation of affirmative action. The audience voiced their disagreement with Dwyer, though Hardin said later that he "likes that (Dwyer) says what he means."

Chuck Graham, Democratic 19th district state Senate candidate, said he wants to see more diversity in leadership positions in state government, which was met with approval from many members of the audience.

"Leadership is very important," Hardin said.

Ratliff and Hardin both said the forum went well. They agreed the candidates answered the questions of the community satisfactorily.