Missouri NAACP arranged voters to speak with candidates

As Election Day nears, candidates answer questions from voters.As Election Day nears, candidates answer questions from voters.
Rep. Ed Robb, who is running for re-election in Missouri's 24th state House district, speaks to a crowd at an NAACP candidate forum Tuesday at Second Baptist Church in Columbia. Several candidates running for local and state offices addressed a variety of issues from affirmative action to school vouchers. Check out The Maneater's coverage of the Nov. 4 elections in our Voter's Guide, inserted in the middle of the paper.

Local legislative candidates spoke with voters on issues of race and education at a forum held by the Missouri NAACP on Tuesday night.

Six Democrats, three Republicans and one Libertarian running for eight different positions were present for the forum. A volunteer speaking on behalf of Missouri Secretary of State Robin Carnahan and a volunteer speaking on behalf of Judy Baker, the Democrat running for the 9th Congressional District, were featured in the forum.

Audience members presented the candidates questions on topics ranging from racial profiling to environmental issues.

The forum was held at Second Baptist Church in Columbia.

Mary Ratliff, the president of Missouri National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said the organization would be offering rides to the polls on Election Day and will be meeting at 9 a.m. at the church, which is located at 407 E. Broadway.

Although moderator Virginia Law addressed each candidate one race at a time, all frequently visited the issue of education throughout the event.

Ed Robb, the Republican incumbent running in the 24th House District, said it is the state's role to provide students with a quality education, and drew criticism from Democrats at the event when he said he would support a scholarship that allows students in failing schools to attend private school.

"We need to offer the parents another option," Robb said.

His Democratic opponent, Chris Kelly, was not present at the forum.

Kelly Schultz, the Democratic candidate for the 21st House District, which includes Mexico, Mo., said she opposes school vouchers.

"The state has to have a quality education for every student," Schultz said. "Not just the one with a voucher."

Mary Still, the Democratic candidate for 25th House District, said she was opposed to Robb's idea.

"That's money we need for public schools," Still said.

When later asked again about the topic of vouchers, Still said vouchers were taking public money and giving it to private schools. She argued those schools would reject students, leaving public schools with the less-qualified students.

"I firmly believe our public schools are the great equalizer in this society," Still said.

There was also disagreement between the candidates for the 19th Senate District, but not between Democratic incumbent Chuck Graham and Republican challenger Kurt Schaefer, who have been in a heated race that has included attack ads from both sides.

Law asked the candidates about their views on affirmative action, which Schaefer and Graham both said they supported. However, the Libertarian candidate in the race, Chris Dwyer, did not say he supported it, which drew negative reactions from the crowd.

"We all know about Barack Obama," Dwyer said. "I don't think he's gong to need affirmative action where he's at."

Kelvin Simmons, a former director of the state Department of Economic Development and the first black person to head the organization, volunteered to appear in the forum on behalf of Baker.

"We still have to have some level of assistance," Simmons said when discussing the topic of affirmative action. "This country has come a long way, but we still have a long way to go."

The candidates were also asked about their views on the use of Tasers by local law enforcement.

Schultz, who said she is a gun owner, said the devices have been used "in lieu of mace."

"We have not seen them used as an alternative to a gun," she said.

Also in attendance was Stephen Webber, the Democratic candidate running unopposed for the 23rd House District, and the candidates running for Boone County Administrator, Democrat Cathy Richards and Republican John Sullivan.

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