ST. JOSEPH, Mo. — The field for the Missouri Senate races are set and those vying for the 34th district seat include three Republicans aiming for the nomination to run opposite of Martin T. Rucker II in August.
Parkville’s Tony Luetkemeyer will be joined by St. Joseph residents Harry Roberts and Scott Van Meter.
Roberts is banking on his experience in public office to help boost him into the seat that will be vacated by Rob Schaaf, whose spot is open after he reached his term limit.
Roberts is the current presiding commissioner of Buchanan County, a job he started on Jan. 1, 2015. The one-time insurance salesman kicked off this campaign with the help of former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft, who has endorsed Roberts for the spot, with ceremonies in both Platte and Buchanan counties.
Roberts will take part in Lincoln Day events in both counties on April 14, in Parkville from 1 to 4 p.m. and from 5 to 8 p.m. in St. Joseph.
“This may well be the most important race for the folks in Platte and Buchanan counties and I think it is important we have a candidate with a solid track record represent us in Jefferson City,” Roberts said.
Roberts has overseen of a lot of changes in Buchanan County, perhaps the most notable was getting the county out of debt. When he took over in 2015, the county was $2 million in debt and on Dec. 18, 2017, Roberts signed a check that paid off the remainder of the debt.
The county is also repairing the levee at the Missouri River, which has been in need of repair since the flood of 1993. Phase two of the project will begin shortly.
“It is important to me to keep my word,” he said. “I’m proud of that record.”
Roberts said he attacks the county budget from a businessman’s perspective, something that wasn’t done to the same extent prior to his arrival.
“When I first got into the county, it was ‘this is always how we’ve done it’ and we totally changed that,” Roberts said. “Well, let’s look and maybe there is a better way we can do it.”
Being fiscally responsible with the citizen’s money is one thing that Roberts has taken pride with in his current job. He noted getting the budget in order will be a priority of his if he is elected, especially given the issues regarding many of the state’s thoroughfares that are in need of repairs.
Roberts started his campaign on Aug. 6, 2017, a year and a day before the election, by knocking on doors and he is still on the campaign trail on nights and weekends when he isn’t doing his commissioner duties.
“The response has been overwhelming and supportive,” he said. “People have been very excited. I believe governments can be run better. We need to limit government so we can limit spending and do everything we can to keep taxes low.”
Roberts, 52, grew up in St. Joseph and attended Northwest Missouri State University in Maryville, Mo. He and his wife, Cindy, have two sons — Barron, 27, and Cole, 21, who is on the golf team at Missouri Western.
Roberts stated he has fond memories of going to his grandparent’s farm in rural Platte City and still has friends and associates in Platte County, marveling at the growth over the past 30 years.
Some of the platform items Roberts discussed were government regulations, agriculture, developing a better workforce, keeping taxes low, ethics reform and education funding at the state level.
“Government has a tremendous amount of regulations and I think regulations help slow growth in our economy. When you slow growth that contributes to other problems, so on a norm, I’d like to see less regulations.”
“That is the thing, the 34th district, is really a diversified district. We have agriculture. We got manufacturing. We are at the heart of the animal health corridor, which there is a lot of growth. People don’t realize St. Joseph, in the 34th district, is the third largest exporter in the state behind only St. Louis and Kansas City. We have to have a good understanding of the makeup of the economy to represent the 34th district properly. I’m a member of Farm Bureau; I’m very much a pro-agriculture guy and I will definitely try to look out for agriculture when I’m down in Jefferson City. There is a lot of different entities not around this part that like to attack and make it difficult for farmers to produce that type of food products. We need to protect the future of farmers.”
“I think we will get a big boost on jobs. Platte is a big growth county and obviously with the airport construction going there will be a lot of construction jobs. Everyone talks about big business, but all businesses start out small. In Missouri we have a tremendous amount of small businesses. We need to encourage small business development not just by companies coming in, but to encourage small business development, period.”
“We don’t have a tax problem, we have a spending problem. We were able to eradicate debt without raising taxes. What we have to do is get back and set our priorities and focus where we spend so our taxpayers get a value. We got focus or we will continue to get the same old results. We don’t have to do the same old practice. We don’t have to raise the taxes. We need to get our house in order in the state of Missouri. We need to control our spending and lowering taxes should be the ultimate goal.”
“I think the last amendment to the constitution, voted in Nov. 2016, was on campaign finance reform. What it did unfortunately was, it created a big boost toward dark money. The thing getting overlooked is the transparency. People deserve to know where the support for a ballot or a candidate is coming from. You can look at my contributions. They have came from the district and people need to look at those and see where the candidates contributions have come from.”
“Obviously education is extremely important. I don’t think education is just going to be left up to either party. How we go about the funding, that is where the debate goes on. I think the smarter we, the more successful our state will be. I think the most important thing is the results. We need to get results and drill down. If we are going to look at education we need to see where the dollars will be best spent. We need facts and not just opinions.”