Across age groups, communities and genders, the No. 1 issue surfacing among voters in the 19th District state Senate race is health care.
At the Hartsburg Pumpkin Festival last weekend, as kids lined up for face painting, patrons indulged in funnel cakes and apple pie and families searched for the perfect pumpkin, some mid-Missourians talked about the issues important to them in the Senate election.
Taking a break on a haystack, voter Debbie Reinsch of Ashlandsaid her biggest concern is affordable health care. Her husband owns a machinery shop, and she knows how difficult it is for small businesses to provide health coverage.
“Small businesses just can’t make it because of insurance,” she said.
Larry Weber of Columbia said he supports Republican Mike Ditmore’s platform for tort reform. “I like that he’s moving to tort reform and moving toward more affordable health care. Something needs to be done,” he said.
Ditmore is running against Democrat Chuck Graham for the District state Senate seat.
At the Twilight Festival downtown last month, Columbia resident Christy Welliver said she believes the cost of prescription drugs is not directly related to tort reform. She blamed the cost of health care on drug advertisements and said she supports Graham.
“When you look at the comparison of prescription drugs in the U.S. and Canada, people think it has to do with caps, but it doesn’t,” Welliver said. “Canada doesn’t have advertising.”
Education was another issue important to those at the Hartsburg festival.
Most said they believe Missouri’s foundation formula, a system that determines funding for public schools, has not funded districts equally and rural schools are losing out as a result.
“Things are so polarized,” said Rose-Marie Muzika of Ashland. “There are too many opportunities for tax inequalities in funding education.”
Beverly Chapman, who lives near Moberly, said her main interest is school funding. She agreed that too much money is going to bigger schools.
“I don’t know how to fix it because we’re in such a mess now,” Chapman said. “(Money) needs to go to small schools, too.”
At a Friday candidate forum sponsored by Associated Students of the University of Missouri, students said their biggest concern is the rising cost of college tuition. For the first time in MU history, student tuition, not state funding, is paying the majority of the school’s costs.
MU senior and ASUM Board of Directors member Shawn Borich said rural areas will face a crisis if tuition costs aren’t stabilized. He said most rural nurses and teachers come from rural backgrounds, and if they can’t afford to attend school, there will be a nurses’ and teachers’ shortage in the future.
“As state appropriations have dropped and tuition’s gone up, we’ve created an access crisis in the state of Missouri where low-income families are being blocked out of higher education,” Borich said.