General Assembly candidates speak to health care, voter ID at NAACP forum

Tuesday, July 24, 2012 | 11:49 p.m. CDT; updated 11:45 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 31, 2012

COLUMBIA — Fewer than half the candidates running for state House or Senate seats attended a forum hosted by the Columbia chapter of the NAACP.

Only four of the 13 candidates vying for local seats in the General Assembly participated Tuesday evening:

  • Two Democrats running for the 47th House District, Nancy Copenhaver and John Wright. Wright and Copenhaver are running against each other in the Democratic primary.
  • Two candidates for the 44th House District, Republican Caleb Rowden and Democrat Ken Jacob. Rowden has three opponents in the Republican primary, all of whom did not attend the forum. Jacob is unopposed for the Democratic nomination.

The four candidates answered questions provided by the crowd and fielded by members of the NAACP.

Creationism in public schools

All four said they did not think it would be constitutional. The candidates also said it is important to maintain the separation of church and state, but that the subject might be able to be taught if it were presented a certain way, such as in a religious studies class.

The federal health care law

Each of the candidates said they supported the idea of affordable health care. While Rowden said he would need to look at the effects the health care law would have on the state’s budget, the three Democrats said they supported the law and that the benefits would offset the costs.

Voter photo ID

The three Democrats said they opposed the law because it would negatively affect the poor, elderly and minorities. They added that it can be financially difficult for these groups of people to attain the required forms of ID, a lack of which would prevent them from voting.

Rowden said he would probably vote for a bill supporting the measure if “the numbers (of voter fraud cases) in front of me warrant it.”

Charter schools

Copenhaver and Jacob said they do not like charter schools as a form of education and that they take state funds away from public schools.

Wright said it is a local issue and that since some school districts, charter or public, do better than others, he was open to the possibility of “alternative solutions in areas that need it.”

Rowden said accountability is needed when discussing public money and “we don’t need to throw the public school system under the bus for the benefit of charter schools.”

Democratic Rep. Mary Still, who is running for the 19th Senate District seat, introduced herself to the crowd but left soon after without further participation.

The following candidates did not attend Tuesday's forum:

  • Incumbent Sen. Kurt Schaefer (R) for the 19th Senate District
  • Republicans Mike Becker, Chris Dwyer and Dennis Smith for the 44th House District
  • Incumbent Rep. Chris Kelly (D) for the 45th House District
  • Incumbent Rep. Stephen Webber (D) and Fred Berry (R) for the 46th House District
  • Mitch Richards (R) for the 47th District

Mary Ratliff, president of both the local and statewide chapters of the NAACP, said all of the candidates were invited. Ratliff also said that some not in attendance said they would not be coming but did not provide reasons for their absence.

“I feel like people who don’t care enough to come, then we don’t care enough to get out and give them our votes,” Ratliff said. “It’s as simple as that.”

The Missouri primary is Aug. 7. The general election is Nov. 6.

Supervising editor is Hannah Cushman.

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