Secretary of state certifies Jackson man as 8th District candidate

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- A U.S. congressional candidate and five state representative hopefuls think the time is right for an independent voice in politics.

The six candidates will appear on the Nov. 2 ballot certified Tuesday by Secretary of State Robin Carnahan.

Independent U.S. congressional candidate Larry Bill, of Jackson, enters a crowded ballot of contenders for the 8th District congressional seat. Incumbent Republican Jo Ann Emerson of Cape Girardeau is also facing challenges from Democrats and Libertarians.

Bill, an Air Force veteran and businessman in Cape Girardeau, collected 6,694 valid signatures, according to the secretary of state's office, about a thousand more than was required.

He said he is running as an independent because he is unhappy with the way Republicans ran Congress during their time in the majority. And, he added, the current Democratic congress has "taken the ball another 30 yards in the wrong direction.

"[This] way, I won't be obligated to either party, and have to toe the party line whether I agree with it or not."

Bill identifies with the tea party movement and has appeared at several of the movement's events in Southeast Missouri.

"I think I'll probably pull from both parties," Bill said. "I'm sure there are several disaffected Democrats who are unhappy with Obama and the Democratic Congress, and they're not going to want to vote for a Republican and I'll be an option for them."

Bill said he's enthused by the response he's gotten in the 8th District, raising the required signatures while spending less than $5,000 on his campaign, which he said has been running since last September.

Uphill battle

If history is any indication, independent candidates in Missouri face an uphill battle.

In the last general election, in the fall of 2008, the seven candidates running, including two on the presidential ballot, garnered 1 percent of the total votes cast.

The two districts where independents showed strength in 2008 state representative races, collecting at least 23.3 percent of the vote, did not post candidates for the 2010 election.

The only district with an independent candidate in 2008 to certify an independent candidate in 2010 is the 69th District of St. Louis, historically a stronghold of Democrats.

"I don't think the probability of me winning is very high," Bill said. "But I think people are going to listen to the negative campaigning by the Republican against the Democrat, and the Democrat against the Republican and instead of picking the lesser of the two evils, they'll pick the third alternative.

"And I think in a year like this, that's going to have a lot of sway on the voters."

Frustrated by system

Independent candidates for state representative are Yolanda Austin in the 69th District, Charles Smith II in the 90th District, Randy Dinwiddie in the 115th District, Steven L. Reed in the 138th District and Michael Chipman in the 143rd District.

Like Bill, frustration with the current two-party system also drove Dinwiddie into his race at the Lake of the Ozarks.

"I've been a Republican all my life, but I'm just ashamed and appalled at the activities of both of these parties," said Dinwiddie, a small-business owner. "The only thing the agendas of these two parties has done is put us $14 trillion in debt."

Dinwiddie said returning manufacturing jobs to the United States and Missouri is the only way to turn the economy around. At the same time, he said it's also incumbent upon American citizens to buy American products.

Bill said he thinks a new era in politics has arrived with the connective power of the Internet and the 24-hour news cycle arming people with more information on the activities of their elected representatives.

"People are getting more activated and motivated to step out and stop what they see as inappropriate," Bill said.

To appear as an independent on the November ballot, candidates had to gather valid signatures on petitions from registered voters equal to at least 2 percent of the total number of votes cast in the last election in their district.

Their certification was part of the finalization of the Aug. 3 primary election results.

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