KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Twenty-one hopeful politicians trekked to Maple Woods Community College on Wednesday, July 18, to take part in the Northland Coalition Legislative Forum.
Candidates attending were running for state spots in Platte, Clay and Ray counties, as well as jobs in the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives.
Each candidate got one minute to talk about themselves and then then two minutes to answer a randomly selected question.
Vicky Ward, manager of prevention services at Tri-County Mental Health Services, spoke prior to the start of the legislative portion. She spoke of the importance of building ‘fences’ so children don’t fall down into the valley that could lead to addictions, illness, abuse, homelessness or early death.
“Digging fence post after fence post,” she said. “One post doesn’t solve the problem, but rather it’s a rather crucial piece in an entire fence.”
She noted that 1 in 5 Northland students have drank alcohol, 1 in 10 use marijuana, 1 in 34 use prescription drugs to get high and 1 in 7 students between ninth and 12th grade feel hopeless about the future, while 1 in 7 have also considered suicide.
The crowd featured Clay County prosecutor Daniel White and Platte County prosecutor Eric Zahnd, while Dr. Gwendolyn Cooke, from the Platte County R-3 board of education was also present.
The questions focused on drugs, smoking, mental health and prevention. Each of the candidates’ questions are provided after the answer, along with a brief bio on each that would represent Platte County if they win in the Aug. 7 primaries and then the November general election.
Question 1: At a time when popular culture is glamorizing and normalizing drug use, and pro-drug lobbyist organizations are spending millions to further legitimize the drug culture, what actions will you take to invest in prevention efforts that protect the health and safety of our youth?
Kristi Nichols, Rep., U.S. Senate candidate, ran for the seat in 2016. She received more than 134,000 votes and did so on a budget of less than $5,000. She is from Independence, Mo. and has been a resident of Missouri for 44 years. Her campaign’s business card shows her posing with President Donald Trump.
A: “I’d be very focused on mentoring programs. I think that they still work today. We have a lot of breakdown in families, which contributes to emotional upheaval of children growing up. If you have a mentoring program where people come to churches or community organizations and can be mentored by someone that has life experience, that is interested in that child developing and becoming the most productive citizen they can be, I think it produces amazing results.
“We have to let our young people know we are interested in them and we value them. They are our future leaders. We have to nurture them and fill in those places that may be a void in their lives. Another thing I would do is bring in people that have strong testimonies that have come out of alcoholism, that have came out of drug abuse and use and given them an opportunity to talk to young people and give their testimonies. It is possible for people that are addicts to come out and become productive citizens. We need to get to the root of the cause. There is generally emotional instability that comes up why people turn to drugs or alcohol. This is glamorous. All of my friends are doing it and then it becomes an addiction. People have broken families and have a lot of upheaval are more prone to become drug addicts. That is why I would build a mentoring program and also strong testimonies, so people know there is hope.”
Henry Robert Martin, Dem., U.S. House of Representative candidate, District 6. A former U.S. Army veteran, he is a teacher in the Kansas City area and has been campaigning throughout the many counties that represent the district that spans across northern Missouri.
A: “I’m a mathematician by trade. I can’t tell you we are going to fix anything without looking at the data. One of the data points mentioned is the fact of a 48 percent decline in funding and then there is an increase in use. That is what we call an inverse relationship in mathematics. As one goes down, ones goes up and vice versa. The first thing that needs to happen is we need to restore funding that has been taken. The second step that needs to happen is we need to invest in research-based programs that have been proven to work. Rehabilitation programs that have been proven to work. If a student does end up in the legal system because of their choice or choices, allow prosecutors and judges a little more flexibility in other diversional programs to keep students on the straight and narrow. We have neglected far too long we have a lot of mental health issues across the country. I’m a child from a home that struggled with mental health. People don’t jump onto the bandwagon of drugs without a reason. We have to look at the whole person and not just what we see on the outside.”
Question 2: Knowing the harm that state policies pose for Americans, especially our youth, what steps could be taken to ensure that federal law, including those related to the manufacturing of marijuana, are consistently enforced?
Craig O’Dear, Ind., U.S. Senate candidate, is a local attorney in Kansas City. He went to Missouri-Rolla on a football scholarship and then went to Vanderbilt for law school. He noted he was once a young, conservative Republican when he first started practicing law in 1982. The Kansas City Star referred to him as a friend of former Gov. Eric Greitens, but he also contributed to Hillary Rodham Clinton’s campaign in 2016.
A: “The problem in the U.S. Senate is that it is broken. We need independent leadership to break that wall down. My issue, and I have dealt with it 30 years, going back to being a young lawyer in Kansas City, is drugs and criminalization. Economics teaches us as long as there is demand there is supply. I have a 22-year-old daughter, a 20-year-old son and a 17-year-old boy. Our experience on the war on drugs, if it had any impact on availability of marijuana, I’m unable to detect any of it. We have a relationship with our kids and I believe we have kept them drug free. We have done it by treating alcohol and nicotine as a health issue. If you play with it, it will become an addiction issue and then it can destroy our lives. I think we have choices. We have spent a tremendous amount of resources on the war on drugs and 30 years later, there are more drugs and higher quality drugs. We have got to treat it as a health issue and put resources where they can make a difference.”
Question 3: What specific steps could the federal government take to protect our youth from dangerous and predatory marketing of addictive electronic cigarettes and vaping devices? How would you plan to advance these efforts?
Winston Apple, Dem, U.S. House of Representative candidate, District 6. A one-time songwriter, he turned to teaching in his mid-30s. The Independence, Mo., resident was elected to the Democratic National Committee in June of 2016 and the state committee of the Missouri Democratic Party in November of 2016.
A: “Part of the answer is in the question. You restrict the advertising for addictive substances. We elect a Congress, instead of a Congress that cuts funding for research like the CDC (Center for Disease Control). You fund programs that could make a huge difference. Public service ads, you don’t see many of those, that points out the danger of addiction. I got elected to the Democratic National Committee two years ago and one of our primary duties is encouraging the platform pledge. The Democratic party platform is supportive of key issues. Eighty to 90 percent and 2/3 of independents and over half of Republicans … this isn’t a radical left-wing solution. They go back to Franklin Roosevelt and his economic bill of rights. Guarantee a job for every worker, this is a quote from our platform, a guaranteed job for every worker that pays enough to raise a family and live in dignity, with a sense of purpose. We also have in our platform a call for public options for health care, to make health care truly affordable for every American. We have a call that every child, no matter who they are, where they live or how much their family earns, deserves a high-quality education from pre-school through high school and beyond. If we do those, we will have happy families that will have a much easier time convincing their child not to use these drugs and not risk addiction and all the problems that come with a lifetime of addiction.”
Leonard Steinman, Dem., U.S. Senate candidate. The former Navy serviceman has run for office multiple times in the past. The Jefferson City man is one of six hopefuls running against incumbent Claire McCaskill.
A: “Our government was the most corrupt military from 1941 until basically 1981. They gave you two cigarettes in your c-ration. Old Chesterfield Kings. They want to make a man out of you. If you were a Marine you smoked a cigar. Every one of them were coughing. I was in a foxhole, I remember in 1971, and the guy next to me lit a cigarette up right around dusk. I wore his brains for three weeks because you can see the glow of a cigarette for three miles. Children, listen to me. Anything you put in your body that doesn’t belong, take it out. You will get addicted. You get addicted to food … sugar. The reason I ran for office, this is my eighth time, it settles my nerves down so I don’t have to have an adjustment. If you take any kind of substance, physically with a shot or otherwise, you are hurting your body. It is your body. Life live to the fullest you can.”
Dr. Ed Andres, Dem., U.S. House of Representative , District 6. A former surgeon in St. Joseph, he still resides in the town he practiced in for years. The Vietnam veteran is running against incumbent Sam Graves, who Andres slams for not doing his job. “I’m the angry old man that got tired of Sam Graves not being here,” he said.
A: “The current atmosphere in Washington is ant-regulatory so I’m afraid that will not work until we got 218 Democrats in the House of the Representatives where you can put a moratorium on the anti-regulatory atmosphere. Since we can’t regulate, we can’t educate. They have taken money away from the education aspect. That is where you need to spend our money, from high school on down. We need to educate our children that if you put something in, it will become addictive. That is the only answer I have. How are we going to educate? It will take money and that will take taxes and no one likes to hear that word. Good luck. I think we need to continue to work on education as a primary goal from a community and a state. We are not getting adequately funding, certainly, at the national level.”
Question 4: If you are elected, will you support the efforts that have been initiated by the major municipalities in the Northland to protect Missouri citizens from second-hand smoke in workplaces and public places? If so, how?
Ken Wilson, Rep., current State Representative, District 12. The retired law enforcement officer, with Platte County’s Sheriff’s Office and Smithville, first won election in 2012 and won re-election in 2014 and 2016. The Smithville resident is currently the pastor of New Hope Baptist Church
A: “As a former emergency management director we have a phrase we use all the time: Predictable is preventable. That works in so many things. Second-hand smoke is an issue and has been an issue for a long time. You want to ruin an evening out real quick? Ho to a place where smoking is allowed. I don’t smoke, and I don’t intend to, but I don’t go to places that do. That is my choice. We want to ride this choice of freedom to make those choices. We also know what smoking ban does and (they say it) hurts your business. That is not true … it won’t. Worker that are at these businesses, this may be their only place of employment. To tell them they can’t work there is not an option. This is real life stuff. I’m one of 164 (representatives) and I’m not very high on the chart and I don’t have a lot people and I don’t turn very many heads, but I will do what I can in the House of Representatives on this very issue. It is something we need to do because predictable is preventable and we need to understand that.”
Question 5: How can lessons learned from high rates of youth alcohol use, a legal and regulated product, be transferred to a state debate over marijuana liberalization? Specifically, what policy on marijuana do you see as most appropriate for protecting youth from exposure from dangers?
Martin T. Rucker II, Dem., State Senate, District 34. The lone Democrat in the race, Rucker will face the primary winner of Tony Luetkemeyer and Harry Roberts, neither of who attended this function. Rucker is a St. Joseph native who went to play football at Missouri and later five years in the NFL.
A: “I think we can all agree as things become, one, legal and two, socially acceptable, the use rate goes up and these numbers reflect that. (In Colorado), 21 percent have used marijuana in the past 30 days and seven percent in Missouri. It is only right or make sense that if we legalize it, it becomes more and more socially acceptable and the use will rise. It won’t stop at marijuana is my fear. As you continue to use drugs, you don’t get the same high you need. Sooner or later that leads to abusing other drugs. I have never done drugs, I have drunk alcohol, but I have never done drugs. I’m speaking from D.A.R.E. and research. It is something new and dear to me, is the opioids crisis that is very, very prevalent and here. We are the only state that doesn’t have a drug monitoring program. Not everyone deals with trauma the same way. Sooner or later they go down a path they might not have gone down. A week turns into two. Two turns into a month and even a lifetime, sometimes. We aren’t haven’t done anything to help create programs to help folks that get addicted. As far as a policy, highly regulating it and making it sure, if it does become legal, you can’t sell near schools or community centers.”
Question 6: In addition to new legislation requiring each district to adopt a policy to include training and education of suicide awareness and prevention, what are other policies, systems and/or state funding streams you would propose to support to help schools address the growing concern of youth suicide and associated mental health issues?
Matt Sain, Dem., State Representative, District 14 candidate. The St. Louis native is running unopposed in a district that covers Lake Waukomis, Platte Woods, Northmoor, Riverside and parts of Kansas City. He will face the winner of the Republican race, between incumbent Kevin Corlew and Eric Holmes, in November. Sain, 28, is a recent UMKC Law School graduate working in downtown Kansas City.
A: “My sister-in-law is an elementary teacher at Prairie Point and teaches second grade. My wife and I and the family go over there every other week during the school year and hear the stories. She wears so many hats than just teaching. She is a parent to a lot of these kids, nurturing those who don’t get love they deserve. She is a guidance counselor. She wears many hats. My mom is a counselor and lives in St. Louis and is a therapist, so I hear her stories as well. Two different careers. We ask so much of our teachers, we need to look at what we can do in the legislature. First, is school-based counselors and therapists to make it easier for the children and student to seek the help they need so they don’t feel like they have to go different avenues. The second thing … we don’t have the funding for that. That is a big problem. Every single year we cut taxes in Jefferson City and we have to cut something … public education, mental health, health as well. We need to find ways to make sure we are getting public resources to help, so they can help employ these school-based counselors to help begin to reduce suicides.”
Question 7: What can Missouri do to be supportive of evidence-based prevention efforts and to ensure that the financial infrastructure for substance abuse prevention is robust?
Chris Shove, Rep., candidate for Missouri State Representative, District 11. The veteran spent much of his life working in higher education and most recently was a dean at Missouri Western State University. The Dearborn resident owns a farm in Platte County and is one of four Republicans in the primary.
A: “I was in the Army, in Afghanistan, and one of our regular missions was to destroy opioid fields. Afghanistan produces 90 percent of the opium in the world. Also, being in combat in Afghanistan I was injured and came back with a paralyzed left leg. It recovered but I broke my leg in several places and my doctor prescribed opioids, so from that experience I see three things.
Parents, No. 1, are the first line in defense in monitoring your children to see if they are going to stray. If there is some kind of evidence of hanging out with the wrong people. Second, I think it is important, is spiritual development. People that have a strong faith are the most resilient and also recovered from post-traumatic stress. The third thing is cutting-edge policing technology. We it used a lot in Afghanistan to help prevent crime and monitor bad guys and see what they are doing and what they are up to. I recently did a survey of 200 houses in St. Joseph and 51 percent said crime is the No. 1 issue. I think community-based technology policing can really prevent crimes.”