Columbia library hosts forum for local candidates

The forum featured candidates for three different local races.

Seven candidates representing three local races met with voters at the Columbia Public Library to answer questions before Election Day arrives in less than three weeks.

The forum, hosted by the local chapter of the League of Women Voters, included candidates from the 24th state representative district, the 19th senatorial district and Boone County administrator races.

County administrator candidates, Democrat Cathy Richards and Republican John Sullivan, began the event.

Both candidates agreed the most important question asked of them pertained to doctor-patient relationships.

Richards said the intimacy of the relationship is up to the discretion of the doctor.

"Their job is to make sure that what they talk about with their patients is in their best interests," she said.

This is a personal issue for Sullivan, who said he has worked with the mentally ill. He described himself as a compassionate person who cares for those he has treated.

The two will debate again next week.

Chris Kelly, the Democratic challenger for the 24th District House seat, and Republican incumbent Ed Robb, spoke next, facing a variety of questions.

When asked if the House needs to reform term limits, both Kelly and Robb laughed for the only time that evening.

"Well, they're obviously not working well, because Chris Kelly is running again," Robb.

Kelly used his response to return the attack.

"Me going back to the legislature is good for everyone in the 24th District, except for one person," Kelly said.

The question of eminent domain engendered the most debate between Kelly and Robb.

Kelly said he would sponsor a constitutional amendment making eminent domain illegal in the state.

"What happens in every single instance is our friend Joe Plumber loses his plumbing shop to the big shopping center," Kelly said.

Robb said eminent domain is a complicated issue, but that it is something he plans to work on.

"We did not go far enough," Robb said. "We did not provide enough protection for private owners."

The final portion of the forum consisted of three candidates running for 19th District Senate seat: Democratic incumbent Chuck Graham, Republican candidate Kurt Schaefer and Libertarian candidate Christopher Dwyer.

The primary issue facing those three was education funding.

Schaefer, citing $45 million spent to build an arena at MU, said spending priorities should adjust to accommodate the needs of academic programs over athletics.

"When you're in tight budget situations, you have to look at what's appropriate for the school," Schaefer said.

Graham disagreed with Schaefer, saying athletic programs are a necessity.

"Childhood obesity is one of the biggest issues facing this country," Graham said. "I'm not in favor of getting rid of physical activities and sports."

Graham said he also believes decisions about educational funding should be more local.

"That's also something to be dealt with at the school board, not at Jefferson City," Graham said.

The League of Women Voters will host another candidate forum next Thursday, featuring the candidates running for the 21st and 25th state House districts.

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