(ADAM VOGLER) [Order this photo]
More than two-thirds of an 86-member committee that will select a candidate to run in a special election to represent Missouri's 8th Congressional District listened to potential nominees answer questions on topics ranging from their position on a federal farm bill to how the Republican party can be united and supported during a nearly three-hour session at the Concourse Building.
* Wendell Bailey, a former congressman.
* Dan Brown, a state senator.
* Jason Crowell, a former state senator.
* Peter Kinder, Missouri's lieutenant governor.
* Bob Parker, a former candidate for the district.
* Todd Richardson, a current state representative.
* Jason Smith, who is Speaker Pro Tem in the Missouri House.
* Lloyd Smith, former executive director of the Missouri Republican Party.
* Sarah Steelman, a former state senator and former state treasurer.
* Clint Tracy, presiding commissioner of Cape Girardeau County
* John Tyrrell, a Mountain Grove, Mo., attorney
* Wayne Wallingford, a state senator.
Brown, who was selected to speak first, did not attend last week's forum in Salem, Mo., because of a family illness, he told the committee.
Pedro Sotelo, a Kansas City businessman and military veteran, dropped out of the contest Thursday and did not participate. Scott Lipke, an associate circuit judge, did not participate because of special rules that apply to judges.
The field drew names to determine the speaking order. Earlier this week, the committee and members of the SEMO Pachyderms Club, which hosted the event, came up with six questions for the forum. One that brought answers that made candidates stand out, according to committee members, was related to the farm bill -- a federal program that provides crop insurance and subsidies for farmers.
A problem for some candidates, said Holly Lintner, committee vice-chairwoman, is that not all the candidates seemed to understand a farm bill's importance to the region as well as others.
"I think that's huge, because this district relies so strongly on agriculture. It's really essential that they understand what can be available to the farmers and that it could be tweaked to be a better program."
Crowell and several other candidates called for some government subsidies -- food stamps -- to be separated from the farm bill, which brought much agreement from the 200-plus member audience.
"Every agricultural bill is now a food stamp bill," Crowell said. "We're being held hostage on agricultural issues for food stamps."
Jason Smith criticized Congress' most recent handling of the reauthorization of the farm bill before he knew the question was coming. He spoke about it while answering a previous question from the moderator.
"We really need to address a lot of the issues with USDA and EPA that are affecting the farmers within the farm bill, and first start out by getting all the environmentalists out of the EPA, and out of the corps, and also by getting all the animal rights' activists out of the USDA. That's a great way to start with the farm bill," he said.
Also asked of candidates was how they would support and unite the party.
"I think to build the Republican Party we need to build on what we are already doing. We need to find good candidates, we need to support them, and we need to equip them with the kind of things that they need," said Lloyd Smith, who has been leading the GOP in the state since 2009 as the executive director of the Missouri Republican Party. Smith announced his resignation from that position Tuesday so he can spend more time focusing on his bid for the 8th district, he said.
Parker answered that the party is "fractured."
"People haven't followed the Constitution like they should," Parker said.
Candidates were asked about their positions on funding for FEMA and Army Corps of Engineers given the district's vulnerability to disasters and the "current funding crisis."
On the corps' budget, Kinder said the corps need to be able to handle their duties, but also need accountability in their budget. He wants to see more listening to those affected by the corps' actions, he said.
Thursday was the last of two officially sanctioned forums for GOP candidates. The committee will meet in February in Van Buren, Mo., to select a candidate.
A Democratic committee is going through its process of selecting a candidate to run in the 8th District to replace Jo Ann Emerson, who will resign from Congress soon to become president and CEO of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association.
429 N. Broadview St., Cape Girardeau, MO