Stump speeches gave way to open discussion of legislative issues and party politics at a Democratic candidate forum Friday evening in Boonville.
State and national Democratic candidates for the Nov. 6 general election discussed issues including health care access, political ethicacy and environmental issues with about 40 people during a forum hosted by the Cooper County Democrats in Turner Hall.
Renee Hoagenson, the democrat for Missouri’s 4th Congressional District, capped off the event, which also included Michela Skelton, for 50th District state representative; Adrian Plank, for 47th District state representative; and Jeff Faubion, for 48th District state representative.
Hoagenson is a Columbia resident and MU graduate with a BA in English who worked in radio, television and print journalism before founding Columbia Marketplace Magazine in 2003 and Jefferson City Marketplace Magazine the next year. She currently operates Showcase Sedalia, which she founded in 2011.
Hoagenson said this is the most important election cycle in modern political history, in which rural Democrats the nation over are fighting to make up ground in Republican strongholds like mid-Missouri.
Hoagenson said she wants to make money in politics work for the common Missourian by promoting increased affordable health care access, lobbying reform and directing more agricultural subsidies to small farm operations.
Hoagenson said she stood against the state’s proposed right to work legislation, which was supported by her Republican incumbent opponent, Vicky Hartzler, before Missourians overwhelming rejected it in the August primary election. Fourth District voters opposed the proposed legislation by about 60 percent.
Hoagenson stood against President Donald Trump’s trade tariffs, affecting soybeans and other industries. She said a greater effort should be made to subsidize small family farms, rather than large-scale operations, during times of scarcity or drought.
"We need to be helping the family farmer, we need to be enhancing them,” Hoagenson said. “If we are going to have farm subsidies, we need to feed it down into those family farms and not just give it to the top 10 percent of farmers.”
Skelton said she was raised in a Air Force family and wants to bring a strong sense of service to the Missouri House.
She is a young mother with a long resume, having earned a bachelor’s degree in political science and a master’s in public administration and policy analysis from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, before obtaining a law degree from Washington University in St. Louis.
She entered the political sphere as a non-partisan attorney for the Missouri Senate, drafting bills for both parties.
Skelton said working in the research office offered her legislative experience, but also unveiled the underbelly of the political system, which she hopes to help correct as a representative.
Most of the bills she helped create were developed with special interest lobbyists, who drafted legislation for senators who simply “carried it over the line” and into law, she said.
"Sometimes, if you want something done right, you just have to do it yourself,” Skelton said. “So, here I am."
Skelton said she would like to ban bribery through gifts, saying she watched many legislators return from dinners with lobbyists too drunk to properly represent their constituents. "You can't do the serious work of the state drunk, you just can't,” she said. “We can do better.”
Skelton is also focused on controlling the cost of health care, improving teacher pay and funding road repair — things that affect the daily lives of residents. She favored increasing taxes on the wealthy and local control of agricultural issues in rural communities, like the introduction of concentrated animal feeding operations, aka CAFOs.
Before ending her forum presentation, Skelton encouraged attendants to vote yes on medical marijuana Amendment 2, no on Amendment 3 and yes on Proposition B.
Faubion was born and raised in Howard County and owned a construction and remodeling business for almost 40 years. He decided to enter politics after his parents’ retirement fund was depleted by health care and assisted living expenses and medicaid cuts put his friend’s physical therapy for a broken ankle out of fiscal reach.
He agreed with an audience member that conservatives have failed their infirmed or impoverished constituents by not supporting increased health care access. Serious campaign reform is required to rid Missouri politics of special interest influences that oppose medicaid expansion, he said.
Faubion encouraged voters to support Democratic candidates who have raised less money from special business interests than their Republican opponents. "We need to get people with less money elected, which is (mostly) the Democrat," he said.
Plank is a union carpenter who was born in Huntsville as the son of a conservative power plant employee. He would make a valuable addition to the House, Plank said, because he understands the experience of middle-class and impoverished Missourians after growing up in a working family that struggled financially.
Plank said he supports increasing funding for home health services and closing tax loopholes for the wealthy. He hopes Clean Missouri will pass in November to limit the influence of the rich so he can focus on other issues, like promoting clean energy.
Plank said he would promote working class interests in the House and try to give impoverished people a better chance to seek prosperity, rather than further interests of the wealthy.
“You can't pull yourself up by your bootstraps if your bootstraps have been taken from you,” he said.