Mid-Missouri’s state Senate race and three Missouri House of Representatives races are contested in the Nov. 3 general election.

In the Senate race, incumbent Republican Sen. Caleb Rowden faces Democrat Judy Baker.

In the House races, incumbent Republican Rep. Chuck Basye faces Democrat Adrian Plank, incumbent Republican Rep. Cheri Toalson Reisch faces Democrat Jacque Sample, and Republican Rep. Sara Walsh faces Democrat Kari Chesney.

In an effort to help voters make an informed decision, the Missourian sent each candidate a questionnaire asking for their thoughts on several issues relevant to area residents.

Some of those questions were submitted by readers.

Over the next several days, answers to a different question will be published each day.

Answers are provided in the candidate’s words, but each was given a 150-word limit, and edits were made if the replies exceeded this.

Here are their answers to the following question: Does Missouri face issues of racial inequity within the justice system?

If so, how would you address them? If not, what is your message to protesters?

State Senate District 19

Caleb Rowden, R: Yes, racial inequity exists in our country’s justice system, but we must be careful to paint with too broad a brush and vilify the vast majority of law enforcement officers who serve admirably and with a desire to do the right thing for everyone in their community.

In the wake of the murder of George Floyd, I convened a meeting among various law enforcement entities, the NAACP and the American Civil Liberties Union to talk through potential areas of agreement and common ground.

I believe those areas exist, and I am hopeful we will see some of those conversations turn into filed bills in the 2021 legislative session and, ultimately, be signed into law.

I led efforts to implement justice reinvestment — diverting nonviolent offenders away from prison and into treatment and educational programs; removing bureaucratic barriers to work and community reentry; and reducing prison population growth so dramatically that we were able to close two Missouri prisons.

Judy Baker, D: No one can deny the facts: From contacts with police to rates of incarceration (and length of incarceration), Missouri’s criminal justice system is riddled with racial disparities.

I’ve been listening to folks in the Black community in Senate District 19 throughout the campaign.

Black Missourians deserve to live without fear, in communities that are safe.

I support partnerships between communities and police, and improving local oversight.

I would pass sensible police reforms like banning knee holds and chokeholds, like we saw in the death of George Floyd this past summer.

I also support a statewide policy for a duty to intervene when an officer sees something he or she thinks is excessive force.

Finally, we need to repeal SB600 and get our priorities in order. At the end of the day, we shouldn’t be building more prisons, we should be investing in our state social service programs.

State House District 44

Cheri Toalson Reisch, R: There is a difference between peaceful protests and rioting, looting and burning down buildings.

Jacque Sample, D: Yes. Data indicates there is racial inequity within the justice system, specifically with sentencing and imprisonment.

Discussions need to continue to happen between engaged community members and law enforcement officers.

Bail reform MUST HAPPEN.

And, we need to look locally at how our judges are ruling and how the prosecutors are trying cases.

Additionally, it is imperative we work with the public school system to address the school-to-prison pipeline.

To repeat what I said earlier, we must have an increase in availability of mental health and other supportive services in our communities.

State House District 47

Chuck Basye, R: I support efforts to reduce the prison population of nonviolent offenders to other methods of rehabilitation.

I support the rights of people exercising their First Amendment rights.

I do not support rioting, looting and blocking traffic, and I would like to see the individuals who are responsible for participating in these activities to be held responsible.

Adrian Plank, D: Yes, the numbers don’t lie. As a white male, my chances of being pulled over or arrested are significantly lower than a person of color.

Minorities are far more susceptible to arrest, harsher penalties, longer terms in jail and discrimination in the work force.

We must increase funding for law enforcement to implement a more “protect and serve” scenario when interacting with citizens.

Community-based policing can create a lawful and trusting atmosphere.

When we all work together, we all win.

State House District 50

Sara Walsh, R: In conversations with my constituents, I am not hearing examples shared of systemic racism within the justice system.

I am hearing stories of people who had hurtful words said to them or experienced unfair treatment by other people.

Words and actions still hurt years later.

Largely the examples provided occurred outside of the justice system.

Respect for others should always be something we all do our part to encourage.

Public safety and adequate funding of law enforcement remains one of the top issues of importance to the people of my district.

Kari Chesney, D: Yes, we do face racial inequities in our system.

If you don’t believe the thousands of anecdotal stories, just look at the evidence.

More traffic stops for Black individuals.

A much higher proportion of Black folx are locked up than any other race.

We know old policies, like the ‘war on drugs’, were created out of racist beginnings.

My message to protesters is to VOTE.

VOTE for the change you want.

You have candidates who are ready to listen. I believe in community policing.

I believe in retroactively expunging records and releasing anyone in prison for nonviolent marijuana offenses.

I believe in eliminating qualified immunity and barbaric policies, like chokeholds and no-knock warrants. You have options.

Research them and choose your candidates wisely – AND VOTE!

  • Mark Horvit is the state government editor. Call me at 817-726-1621 with story ideas, tips or complaints.

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