The nine-term congresswoman spent about half of her time in Missouri over the past months campaigning, although not always necessarily for herself, but for other candidates; and the other half in her official capacity as a member of Congress -- acting as a keynote speaker for community groups, visiting with farmers and talking issues with constituents. It hasn't left much time for anything else, she said, considering she has been trying to visit each of the nearly 30 counties in the district at least twice over the past seven weeks.
That doesn't sit well with Democrat Jack Rushin, her opponent in Tuesday's election. Rushin, a chiropractor from Poplar Bluff who originally hails from Jackson, said the people in the eighth district have consequently missed out on a chance to hear from the candidates with the absence of a debate.
Emerson participated in four debates against challengers for the U.S. House seat in 2010. Candidates included Democrat Tommy Sowers, Larry Bill, an independent, and Libertarian Rick Vandeven, who is running for the seat again this year.
Rushin said his campaign began inquiring with Emerson's staff in late August about scheduling a debate, but responses contained uncertainties about the incumbent's ability to participate due to limits of her time. Rushin later received word from Emerson's campaign that there was no interest in participating in a debate.
"We are disappointed," Rushin said in a phone interview Friday. "I think there are some real fundamental things that have been done through her career that I don't think the electorate is aware of on a real detailed basis."
Rushin claims Emerson and now vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan "were on the front row during the Bush years, and they voted for practically every spending bill that the administration wanted," and supported borrowing money to pay for wars instead of taking it from tax appropriations.
The Republican has an upper hand in the fundraising department, bringing in more than $1.4 million in contributions this election cycle, according to the most recent campaign finance report filed with the Federal Election Commission on Oct. 25. Contributions to Rushin's campaign were just more than $21,000; his total receipts were $24,217.
Rushin said he realizes Emerson is a "strong candidate" and that the funding of his campaign has limited his ability to spread his message -- one that focuses partly on bringing back manufacturing jobs to the district lost over the past decades. But he said no matter Tuesday's outcome, he will not give up on trying to build support for an alternative to Emerson's representation of the district.
Vandeven made several campaign stops throughout the 8th District in October. As a Libertarian, he believes in a strict limit of governmental influence in society. For instance, he believes government should not be in the business of fighting drugs.
"Most Americans have figured out that the left/right paradigm is false," said Vandeven in a speech transcript he posted on a semissourian.com blog, "that the central government is outdated and unnecessary. This belief is reflected in the fact that most Americans don't vote, and in the way that we are living our lives in an increasingly decentralized fashion."
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