Congressional candidate Allen meets constituents, speaks at fundraiser forum

Sunday, April 20, 2008
FRED LYNCH ~ flynch@semissourian.com Joe Allen, right, talked with Jerome Hulehan and Ellen Dillon prior to a fund-raising barbecue Saturday for Allen's Democratic campaign against U.S. Rep. Jo Ann Emerson for the 8th Congressional District.

Democratic congressional candidate Joe Allen knows he faces an uphill battle.

"I'm running against an entrenched Republican incumbent in a red district," he said Saturday at a fundraiser forum. He has also only raised about $13,000, compared to opponent Jo Ann Emerson, who has raised almost $700,000. Emerson, of Cape Girardeau, has served in the 8th District since 1996.

The Saturday forum, sponsored by the SEMO Democratic Rural Caucus, gave him a chance to meet constituents. The event attracted about 30 people, a third of which were scheduled speakers.

The night began with a fundraiser barbecue from 4 to 6 p.m., followed by six speakers, each talking about a different topic. The topics were alternative energy, a state legislative update, animal identification, education, health care and the war in Iraq.

Local candidates also introduced themselves briefly. The candidates included Marvin McMullin and Pat Wissman, who are running for the Cape Girardeau County Commission in the 1st District, Bill Burlison, a candidate for state representative in the 159th District, and Linda Sanders, running against Jason Crowell for state Senate in the 27th District.

Allen, a lawyer from Forsyth, Mo., was last to speak. His topic was the war in Iraq. "This is the issue that made me interested in running for office," he said.

He told the audience he still remembers as a first-year law student hearing the announcement the U.S. had invaded Iraq and thinking to himself, "What are we getting ourselves into?"

The 30-year-old holds a law degree from the Oklahoma City University School of Law. He now practices at a firm and serves as prosecuting attorney for Rockaway Beach, Mo.

"I know I'm young, but I couldn't sit around anymore," he said, citing the rising cost of the war, the "plummeting" of international respect for the U.S. and the U.S.'s credibility, and the problems resulting from the U.S. trying to maintain current troop levels.

Before Allen's talk, Dr. Alan Journet, co-facilitator of the Southeast Missouri Climate Protection Initiative, outlined evidence of global warming and explained fuel alternatives. He warned that "not all alternative fuels are equal," specifically targeting corn ethanol, which he said does not reduce greenhouse emissions enough to be worth it.

Next, Rep. Steve Hodges of East Prairie, Mo., gave a state legislative update. He said the current session has been "relatively slow and very disorganized up to the last two weeks," saying the Republican majority has not done a sufficient job of planning.

He explained he voted against a sales tax that would increase veteran benefits, saying he is the only Democrat in the state to sign a pledge of no new taxes. He then lambasted Gov. Matt Blunt over the well-publicized e-mail controversy, highlighted his desire to increase appropriations for ports and spoke against school vouchers and a new way of alternatively certifying teachers.

Bill Stancer, a local farmer of 35 years, spoke against a regulation for animal identification, saying it imposes too many requirements and forces farmers to comply with the World Trade Organization. "We're not free traders, we're fair traders," he said.

Shirley Hindman, a member of the state board of education, spoke against vouchers and the current form of No Child Left Behind. "What happens when our public school money goes to who knows where?" she said about vouchers. She also said she thinks NCLB requirements are causing teachers to quit, exacerbating a teacher shortage.

The last main speaker before Allen was Ellen Dillon, an instructor at Southeast Missouri State University. She advocated universal health care, saying the number of uninsured people in the state is a third higher than the national average.

lbavolek@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 123

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