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8th District hopeful says free trade agreements need to be revisited
Congressional candidate Tommy Sowers took on U.S. Rep. Jo Ann Emerson's record on trade and economics Thursday evening before a friendly Cape Girardeau crowd, accusing the Republican incumbent of supporting "policy after policy" that has cost the district jobs.
Sowers also reiterated his support for the health care overhaul bill passed last month.
"I think it is going to be a good thing for the Eighth Congressional District," Sowers said.
In response to a question about the effect of free trade agreements on the district, Sowers, a Democrat, said both the North American Free Trade Agreement, passed in 1993, and the Central American Free Trade Agreement, passed in 2005, "need to be looked at again."
Emerson, he said, cast the deciding vote on the Central American agreement, known as CAFTA. In a vote cast while Republicans controlled Congress, Emerson joined in the majority on a 217-215 vote. A single changed vote would have defeated the bill, and 25 Republicans voted against it.
The result of trade agreements, Sowers said, is "more people are employed by the government now than in manufacturing in America, and there is something wrong with that."
Sowers is a former U.S. Army major on leave from his instructor's post at the Missouri University of Science and Technology in his hometown of Rolla, Mo. He is the lone Democrat seeking Emerson's job in the 28-county district that stretches from near Branson, Mo., to the Mississippi River.
Emerson, in addition to Sowers, must fend off a challenge in the Republican primary from Texas County farmer Bob Parker, who is trying to turn his appeal to tea party activists into votes.
In addition, Larry Bill of Jackson, also a tea party activist, is running as an independent candidate and Rick Vandeven of Chaffee filed on the Libertarian Party ticket.
About 50 people attended Sowers' talk to the Cape Girardeau County Democratic Women's Club at Dexter Bar-B-Que, where he repeatedly referred to his experience in special forces to explain his strategy for defeating Emerson.
Sowers said Emerson, of Cape Girardeau, has usually held a 25-1 advantage in campaign funds over Democratic opponents. Sowers will not be in the same position. He raised more than $380,000 in 2009, and reports are due late this month on the first-quarter results.
"I am an exceptionally good shot, but if you give anybody 25 shots to my one, they are going to beat me," he said.
With more than 2,000 individual contributors, he said, "it matters because it gives us the fuel and the ammo."
Emerson, with the advantage of an incumbent working in Washington for 14 years, shouldn't have any difficulty raising money, Sowers said. "She can drive her truck to K Street, drop the hatch and twist some arms," Sowers said.
236 S. Broadview St., Cape Girardeau, MO