The race for Missouri’s 7th District seat in Congress is heating up, as 11 candidates look to fill Rep. Roy Blunt’s shoes. In a four-part series, Springfield Business Journal introduces the candidates and their ideas for representing southwest Missouri’s business interests on Capitol Hill.
Of the candidates running for Seat 7 in the Aug. 3 primary, eight have filed as Republicans, two as Democrats and one as a Libertarian. Their experiences are varied, but each believes his track record holds the right mix to help boost Missouri businesses. In this issue, SBJ covers a battle with big government with Democrat Scott Eckersley, the rules of the political game with Republican Jack Goodman and an economic plan with Republican Jeff Wisdom.Scott Eckersley
Democrat Scott Eckersley believes the right choices aren’t always easy, and he points to his own track record standing up to “big and bad government” as proof he’s willing to make those choices.
In 2007, he served as deputy general counsel to Gov. Matt Blunt and challenged the administration’s e-mail retention policy. As a Congressman, he said he would draw on that same determination to make his mark in Washington, D.C.
“I humbly submit that I’ve got a knack for making my voice heard,” he said. “With Matt Blunt and the governor’s office, I made my voice heard about records and open government violations occurring. … When it was unpopular to be the guy standing up to those special interests, I did it then. I’ll do it again in Washington.”
Eckersley’s plan to help local businesses starts with a hard look at the federal deficit, he said, and that includes making a realistic assessment of the situation and taking sure steps to reduce deficit spending.
“I think southwest Missourians – myself included – we know what it takes to balance a budget, we know what it takes to balance a checkbook. We need to expect the same from our government,” he said.
That doesn’t mean he’s opposed to federal spending on local interests, he said, noting his position on earmarks is different than other candidates in the race.
“In all honesty, if we don’t use them here, they’re going to figure out ways to use them somewhere else,” he said.
Eckersley added that he plans to make sure southwest Missouri receives its share of federal tax dollars, which can be used to help strengthen the local economy and drive its growth.Jack Goodman
Republican Jack Goodman’s work as a state senator has given him a foundation in legislative operations that he plans to leverage on Capitol Hill, he said, noting he plans to master the rules of the House and use them to get off to a quick start.
“If you learn how to use those rules by putting up roadblocks to the things you disagree with and helping to make things smoother for things you do agree with, that can allow a freshman member of Congress to have a voice while a lot of other folks are still riding with their training wheels,” he said.
The agenda Goodman hopes to push forward is a reversal of the current course, he said, to get government out of the way of the people who want to create jobs. While he acknowledges the recession has left some companies without the ability to grow, others, he said, have the resources and are holding back because of concerns with health care reform, tax and regulatory burdens, and even the threat of cap and trade.
“They’ve planned well, they have the resources and they could grow,” he said. “They have a plan in place, but almost universally, these folks are saying we don’t want to take the risk.”
Today, he said, the government is providing more disincentives than incentives to businesses that are on the fence. He attributes the collapse of the housing industry to the government forcing lenders to make loans to people who could not pay back their mortgages. Smaller banks and community banks, he said, are saddled with a heavier regulatory burden because others were thought to be too big to fail.
“Now that we’ve seen those who are ‘too big to fail’ fail, and get bailed out, our smaller banks are still dealing with disproportionately higher assessments,” he said. “That takes money out of the marketplace that could be going to get credit to businesses that want to grow.”Jeff Wisdom
Republican Jeff Wisdom is an educator with experience in the military and business, and his own education – with a concentration in economics – is a mix he thinks will resonate well in Washington, D.C.
“I’ve worked in retail, in banking, and at one point, I also ran a small kiosk in the mall,” he said. “With that background, I think it will give me an advantage when it comes to representing southwest Missouri’s businesses.”
While Wisdom expects to draw on his business experiences to guide his work as a congressman, he’s confident in crossing party lines due to experiences in higher education, teaching economics on the post-secondary level for 15 years, and in the Navy, including a stint in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
“There were a lot of differences in those of us who served together, but we came together, to work together in Iraq, because that’s what our country needed us to do,” he said.
His plan to spur economic development in southwest Missouri involves creating a foundation for businesses to feel comfortable enough to begin to rehire. Stimulus money, he said, isn’t the right course, noting once the dollars are gone, jobs will disappear with them.
Instead, Wisdom supports the extension of the Bush tax cuts in the short term, and the creation of an altogether different tax system for the long term.
“I have created an economic plan that the fair tax is part of,” he said. “The fair tax would lessen the burden on businesses and individuals.”
Wisdom intends to actively solicit input from business and community leaders, he said, asking what the federal government can do for them and establishing a good working relationship with the business community.
“A lot of people are upset because they feel like their elected representatives don’t listen to them,” he said. “I plan to be different.”
Part 1 of the search for Seat 7 series can be found here