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Tea party forum fields candidates from state to local level
There was talk of smaller government, lower taxes and more than a few jabs were directed at President Barack Obama. Political hopefuls called out for new blood while incumbents touted the value of experience. The name of Ronald Reagan was conjured up more than once and most pledged their eternal support for legislation that was pro-God, pro-gun and pro-life.
And at the end of the night, an irate woman described by one event organizer as a "Democratic operative" had to be escorted to her car by police after confronting Republican congressional candidates Todd Akin and John Brunner.
Minor confrontation aside, Cape Girardeau County Tea Party chairman Brian Bollmann deemed Monday's 2012 Missouri candidate forum largely a success, though he said he was a bit let down by the five candidates who had agreed to come but didn't show.
"I wasn't really irritated, I was slightly disappointed," Bollmann said. "But overall I was very pleased with how the event turned out."
In all, the roughly 150 who attended the event at the Cape Girardeau Career and Technology Center heard from 18 candidates and stand-ins for five others, from major statewide contenders such as Akin and Brunner and secretary of state candidate Shane Schoeller to third-party candidates such as former representative Cynthia Davis, who is running for lieutenant governor under the Constitution Party banner.
"Now we're ready to have some fun!" said Davis of O'Fallon, Mo., who served four terms in the Missouri House after serving on the O'Fallon City Council.
The event featured candidates who hope to get the chance to unseat Democratic U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, including Akin, Brunner and fellow Republican Hector Maldonado.
Brunner, a former St. Louis business executive, quoted Reagan about the definitions of economic recession and depression, adding a bit to make a point: "The definition of recovery is when Claire McCaskill loses her job."
Former Missouri treasurer Sarah Steelman, who also wants a shot at McCaskill, wasn't at the event Tuesday -- and hadn't agreed to be there -- but one of her representatives was there, fresh off a Steelman endorsement from former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin. Congressional candidate Jerry Beck had told organizers he planned to attend but did not show.
While U.S. Rep. Jo Ann Emerson was not in attendance, two opponents were -- Republican Bob Parker and Libertarian Rick Vandeven, each who failed in attempts two years ago. Parker continued to tout himself as a true conservative who is more suited to represent the district.
Vandeven began his speech by yelling "Wake up!" into the microphone before announcing he was not running for Congress but against it. He described the Democratic and Republican organizations as "two archaic and wobbly parties." Governments born of them, he said, would do what they've always done -- "grow government exponentially at the cost of freedom."
Three candidates for governor sent representatives -- Republicans Bill Randles and Fred Sauer and Libertarian Jim Higgins. All are running, with varying degrees of optimism, to unseat popular Democrat incumbent Gov. Jay Nixon.
Greg Tlapek of Cape Girardeau, president of the Missouri Libertarian Party for more than a decade, stood in for Higgins. He defended the need for more than a two-party system. He acknowledged that Libertarians may not win many races but noted Republicans may not either.
"A lot of our candidates could win," Tlapek said. "But they won't. And that's true of most of yours, too."
Then he added this: "Jay Nixon is going to be governor again ..." That's when the buzzer went off, indicating his four minutes were up.
Local candidates, including Republican candidates Wayne Wallingford and Ellen Brandom, were there, each continuing to try to convince voters that they deserve the Missouri Senate's 27th District. Candidates for the Missouri House's 146th District -- incumbent Donna Lichtenegger and challengers Gerald Adams and Van Hitt -- had four minutes apiece. Cape Girardeau County Commission candidates Moe Sandfort and Charlie Herbst also spoke. But incumbent Jay Purcell sent an email to organizers before the forum that he would be unable to attend after being stung several times by yellow jackets while performing his duties as parks superintendent.
At least one speaker suggested that four minutes was not enough to get to know a candidate, and Bollmann agreed.
"It's hard to get a sense of a candidate in a 45-minute speech, because sometimes they don't say anything," Bollmann said. "This was just an attempt to get a flavor of everybody who wanted to come. It was exactly what I expected it to be. It wasn't an analysis of their positions -- just a small chance to get to know them."
1080 S. Silver Springs, Cape Girardeau, MO