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TUESDAYS WITH MICHAEL, Pt. 1: Seeking True Believers among local candidates

Voting for those who walk the walk -- or dare buck The Boone County Machine

COLUMBIA, 11/5/12 (Op Ed) -- Party labels don't matter. The real distinction is true believers versus phonies.

Big R Republicans and Big D Democrats versus their little r and little d brethren. The small letter folks collude with one another to slop at the government trough. They don't represent the People, but special interests, often their own.
 
If you want someone who means what they say and says what they mean, vote for a True Believer with a Big Letter in back of their name. Even if you don't agree with their politics, you know what you're going to get.
 
Here's my list of True Believers for local office in contested races.
 
State Representative, District 44
Ken Jacob, True Believer
Fiery and experienced, Ken Jacob has a long history of walking the walk. Like many advocates, he has had to use a loud, pushy voice to be heard, and so has been criticized as arrogant and difficult. But by all indications, he returns to the fray humbled and eager to serve.
 
His opponent, Caleb Rowden, also strikes me as a True Believer. But he's not quite ready for prime time. Mr. Jacob, for instance, won an important prime time test: the former Senator was impeccable and clean shaven at every event I attended. Mr. Rowden, on the other hand, was heavy on the scruff. I'm cool with that, but my 75-year-old mother-in-law -- not so much. Dressing well and looking clean-cut appeals to almost everyone, and a politician must appeal to the largest number of voters (which certainly rules moi out!)


State Representative, District 46
Stephen Webber, True Believer
Incumbent Rep. Webber comported himself remarkably well at all campaign events I attended. He has been a consistent and thoughtful voice for the needs of the People. His opponent, Fred Berry, was a little shrill for my taste, and I don't know enough about him to judge his political sincerity. I'm voting in this district, and will vote for Mr. Webber.

 
State Representative, District 47
Mitch Richards, True Believer
In the face of big bucks political machines, few populist candidates make it as far as quickly as Mr. Richards has, starting out in Columbia's First Ward City Council race on much the same principles he used in this campaign: Power to the People via the US Constitution.

Richards sees the document as paramount to the well-being of everyone, not just a select few who can afford to defend their Constitutional rights at the altar of power. Such a concept!
 
He did more campaigning and advocating in low income and minority neighborhoods than I've seen many a Democrat do (he's a Republican with some Libertarian leanings), and has emerged as an intellectual defender of basic liberties. It's a position that's both Retro and Chic, like urban agriculture and manufacturing jobs.

Richards' opponent, John Wright, has taken an opposite, more traditional approach that has certainly proven itself in politics -- throw money at it, nearly half-million dollars in Wright's case. Theirs has been a classic contest between populist and elitist politics, in many ways a continuation of Wright's campaign against fellow Democrat Nancy Copenhaver during the primary.
 
This animated satire probably sums it up best: http://goanimate.com/videos/0ehI29dIakV4

Bribery Controversy

Speaking of Mrs. Copenhaver, Richards blundered with a tape recording -- done without permission -- of her allegation State Senate candidate and current State Rep. Mary Still offered Copenhaver a bribe -- presumably funded by Mr. Wright -- to leave the primary race.
 
Copenhaver earlier discussed the allegation with the Columbia Heart Beat. She volunteered nothing; we contacted her to confirm -- or deny -- months of rumors.
 
By blowing the whistle under intimidating circumstances (e.g. Mr. Wright threatened, then retracted, libel litigation), Mrs. Copenhaver is a hero for truth and by extension, liberty.
 
She should be treated as such, not tape recorded without permission or poo-pooed, as she was by Columbia Daily Tribune publisher Hank Waters, who wrote the whole sordid business off to a big misunderstanding. (Must have been one helluva misunderstanding.)
 
 
State Representative, District 19
Mary Still vs. Kurt Schaefer
Between incumbent Sen. Schaefer's legislative support of his law firm's corporate hog farm clients, and Rep. Still's alleged shenanigans with Nancy Copenhaver, I'm abstaining. Maybe I'll write in Mickey Mouse.


Boone County Commissioner, Southern District
Karen Miller vs. James Pounds
Though I've lost count, Commissioner Miller -- like most Boone County elected officials who decide to just stay -- is on her 5th or 6th term in office. I'm no fan of the life-time appointment these folks get because a political machine is behind it.
 
It's a machine that serves the County's wealthiest, best-connected folks, with everything from property tax breaks to voter manipulation (when Machine operatives steal opposition yard signs, for instance). Our founders thought better of elected service: go to the halls of power, represent the People for a few years, then return home. Don't make it a lifetime career. The same argument could be used against Senator Jacob and Judge Chris Kelly. It is what it is -- I just don't like it.

That said, while Commissioner Miller doesn't get my vote for True Believer -- she's never struck me as a fan of Average Jane and Joe -- she has gotten better. The tempests that shook County Hall on her watch -- mostly between her and fellow Commissioner Skip Elkin -- have calmed. She's become the senior stateswoman, and seems less influenced by the Machine. She hasn't just gone along with the Blight Decree, for instance, and the way the development crowd is trying to ram Blight down Boone County's throat via Columbia City Hall.

Her opponent, James Pounds, seems like a thoughtful man -- he writes this publication with wise insights. But Pounds hasn't campaigned much, so I don't know enough about him to comment further. If I vote for Pounds, it will be purely in protest of Commissioner Miller's overlong stay.
 

Boone County Commissioner, Northern District
Janet Thompson vs. Don Bormann
True Believers, Both

From reading about them and attending voter forums, I've concluded Janet Thompson and Don Bormann will walk the walk of their campaign talk. I lean toward Thompson, though I can't vote in the Northern District race. She has a better command of issues, positions, and ideals than Mr. Bormann.

Thompson and Bormann are vying to fill some large shoes: one of my favorite local elected officials, Skip Elkin, who managed to navigate The Boone County Political Machine while keeping his head high and his ideals intact. I wish his voice had been louder, and without The Machine droning in the background, it might have been.
 
With a louder Elkin, we would have a better-funded Central Missouri Humane Society -- over his protests, Boone County contributes a pittance to that critical service. But he's always outnumbered, 2-1.

With a louder Elkin, we wouldn't be revisiting a mental health tax, either.

Mr. Elkin (and I) favored it back in 2006, over the County's sales-tax funded office space expansion. Voters may recall mental health care was thrown over for office space. Mr. Elkin openly worried the sales tax burden was becoming too great, and refused to support the expansion. Financial burdens on voters have only increased since.


Boone County Public Administrator
Kathy Richards vs. John Sullivan
I don't know enough about either candidate to make judgments. But I am discomforted by the Machine's support of Mrs. Richards and her paid political operative husband, Michael, who emailed strident condemnations of Boone County assessor Tom Schauwecker to his 2008 opponent Barbara Bishop, ostensibly seeking her political consulting business.
 
"Barbara: If you don't pound home that Tom Schauwecker is arrogant and obnoxious and couldn't care less about the voters of Boone County -- you won't win this election," Mr. Richards wrote. "Your campaign should be obnoxious vs. nice; arrogant vs. competent. I'd have a photo of Dena Ray on your site, along with his f-ing quote and her endorsement of you. New campaign tactic: Women should be embarrassed to vote for Schauwecker."
 
Maybe it shouldn't reflect on his wife, and as any Heart Beat reader knows, I'm no fan of Mr. Schauwecker. But Mr. Richards' condemnations left a bad taste. Disloyalty to The Machine, which Mr. Schauwecker is part of, is disloyalty, regardless.
 
Mr. Richards' remarks also reflect the Boone Political Machine's win-at-any-cost mentality. I'll be glad when voters finally wake up and get rid of it. It's a bad deal for us, and it harms our reputation around the state. Many of our leaders are arrogant, and don't play well in the sandbox, folks in other communities say.
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