Jacob finds his mojo; Thompson a "can do" candidate; Wright "comes out" for charter schools

COLUMBIA, 7/25/12 (Op Ed) -- You can tell the Big D Democrats from the small d democrats the minute you enter a public debate.  You can also tell the debate is going to be a mite boring when the candidates start agreeing with each other too much.  
Both phenomena were on display at last night's NAACP Hot August Primary forum at 2nd Baptist Church in downtown Columbia.

My two winners for the evening were both Big D Democrats:  State Rep. candidate Ken Jacob, who has clearly regained his plain-spoken, fire-in-the-belly mojo;  and Janet Thompson, the only "can do" candidate I saw among contenders, both Democrat and Republican, to replace Skip Elkin as Boone County's Northern District Commissioner.
Jacob, Thompson, and State Rep. candidate Nancy Copenhaver got my votes for true believer, Big D Democrats:  party loyals who not only talk the talk, but walk the walk. People who believe what they say, which I admire even if I don't always agree with it.
I also liked Caleb Rowden, a plain-spoken Republican State Representative candidate who told voters last night that he didn't want to make any promises he couldn't keep.   He also told them how he would vote on various issues and why (e.g. Rowden would vote yes for voter ID if he saw enough evidence of voter fraud.  But he doesn't think voter fraud is a big problem in Missouri).
State Rep. candidate Ken Jacob...has clearly regained
his plain-spoken, fire-in-the-belly mojo.
Janet Thompson's candidacy may mark a historical first: ol' man Waters over at the Tribune just endorsed her over three other Democrats for County Commissioner. After watching her last night and reading about her, I agree -- and I almost never agree with ol' man Waters.
Thompson was the only candidate, among her all-male competitors, who straight up said she would take action on lagging New Haven road, where she had an accident and first-hand experience of its poor condition.   The other candidates, including OJ Stone, Darin Fugit, Don Bormann, and even Presiding Commissioner Dan Atwill, pussy-footed around the issue with "we'll have a look at it" here and "budgets are tight" there excuses voters are tired of hearing.

Fugit summed up the real reason for all the hedging when he told the crowd that all that road work around Battle High will pretty much suck up every additional dollar county government will have on hand, with nothing left for other roads like New Haven.
All that road work, as predicted, to help Bob Pugh, the Atkins family, the Mendenhalls, and a bunch of fat and sassy developers who hoodwinked the school district into buying their overpriced land for the high school, and now want to build huge subdivisions around it on the county taxpayer's infrastructure dime!

Thompson, on the other hand, said she'd roll up her sleeves and get to work on roads like New Haven.   Without a bunch of mealy-mouthed excuses, she faced the audience and spoke in plain, clear English whenever she took a question.

Which brings me to Senator Jacob, who did the same thing.  (He's running for a different statehouse seat now, but a person is entitled to their highest title from public life).  

The politically-seasoned former Senator took a room full of political novices to school on how to answer questions without pussy footing, and because he was straight up, how to get lots of audience applause (which Mr. Jacob did, winning the evening in audience approval).
Don't tell me you agree with the other guy or gal unless
you want me to get confused about what makes you different.
Voter ID, Mr. Jacob?   No way.  Support Obamacare?  Absolutely.  Support the Human Rights Commission?  Without a doubt.
Heck, we have wars going on overseas for human rights, Mr. Jacob told the audience.  So we better be darn sure we get human rights right here at home (huge applause).  
If you're a Dem, isn't this how you want your candidate sounding?  No equivocating; I stand for party principles and will not sell out to special interests.  Same thing goes for Big R Republicans on their issues.  
The other candidates did too much agreeing with their more forceful peers, which I don't like.  Don't tell me you agree with the other guy or gal unless you want me to get confused about what makes you different.
But one contrast did emerge, on the issue of charter schools.

Nancy Copenhaver, my third Big D true-believer Democrat, isn't a fan.  But her opponent, John Wright, is -- just not in Columbia, where he (rightly) pointed out, public schools do a fine job.
"It's an exciting time in education, a time full of experimentation," he told the audience.  In struggling districts, "we have to be willing to consider other alternatives," he said.  

Fair enough.   Charter schools in distressed areas with bright, capable behind them like Mr. Wright are an alternative worth serious consideration.   But this audience member would have liked plain talk -- just come right out and say it: "Under certain circumstances, I'm in favor of charter schools."

In other words, don't play me, dude.