[Note: this story has been modified since its original posting to correct errors.]
Continuing with its weekly invitation to Democratic state representative candidates to join in debate, the Muleskinners Democratic club hosted candidates for the 24th District seat Friday.
Travis Ballenger and Greg Casey were given time to introduce themselves to the audience as well as respond to questions posed by the moderator and people in attendance.
Casey opened with his motto, “Government is the art of the possible” and spoke of Missouri’s potential for economic improvement. He blamed the state’s economic slump on what he called an “inadequacy of state revenues” and Missouri’s place as 43rd in expenditures per capita. Casey, 62, taught political science at MU, including American government, state politics and judicial process. He expressed distress with the university’s recent loss of funding and the burden being placed on student tuition to supplement the state’s contributions.
Ballenger, meanwhile, stated the need for more business people in Jefferson City.
“The business of Missouri is business,” he said, alluding to former President Calvin Coolidge’s popular quote. “And it’s time that we ran the finances of state government more like a business and less like a political football.”
An MU graduate with a bachelor’s degree in finance and banking, Ballenger, 33, owns furniture stores in Columbia, Springfield and Jefferson City. He expressed his desire to pull Missouri out of its “economic black hole.”
One of the main points of contention between candidates was their stance on the death penalty.
Applause broke out when Casey responded in opposition to the death penalty, while Ballenger’s answer in favor of the policy was met with less enthusiasm. The candidates were asked whether they would support or co-sponsor legislation similar to Senate Bill 726, which created a committee to study — and place a moratorium on — the death penalty.
“I feel that if a member of my family were to be killed, I would want to at least have that option,” Ballenger said. “When we talk about crime and things like that, we always seem to be talking about the people that commit the crime. I would like to talk more about the victims of crime.”
Casey said he would support a moratorium on the death penalty and go even further to support the abolition of the death penalty.
The candidates also varied in their responses when an audience member asked them to describe their views on choice and partial-birth abortions.
Both Ballenger and Casey defined themselves as “pro-choice” but to different degrees. Ballenger referred to legislating a woman’s right to choose as “chipping away at the rights of a woman,” but opposed the matter of partial-birth abortions.
Casey supported a woman’s right to choose in both instances. “I think this whole issue area should always remain a medical issue, to be dealt with by physicians and patients,” Casey said.
Ballenger and Casey are vying for the district seat held by Rep. Chuck Graham, who is ineligible due to term limits.