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- Southeast senior organizes student art show (11/20/20)
- President Vargas enters quarantine — contact did not come during commencement (11/19/20)
- Behind the scenes of Redhawk sports productions (11/16/20)
- Black Student Union hosts first event of the Fall 2020 semester (11/16/20)
Wallingford VS Leighton Q&A
As the campaigns for Missouri House of Representatives District 147 approach the finish line tomorrow, Nov. 3, the Arrow sat down with Democratic Candidate Andy Leighton and Republican Candidate Wayne Wallingford to ask them the same set of questions. The candidates responses have been kept in their own words as complete as possible only edited for brevity.
Q: What is your main goal going into the House?
My main goal would be to provide the best representation for good government that we could possibly have and that will take two forms. We’ll be ensuring full funding of Medicaid expansion and the other will be defending the already on the books Clean Missouri 3. Amendment 3 is on the ballot this time around. It's meant to undo the redistricting portion of Clean Missouri, which I firmly believe will be put down to defeat anyway. We need fair redistricting in this state among other things to ensure less corruption.
My main goal would be to keep Missouri, of course, healthy so we need to figure out this COVID-19 and how we can best combat that because it's not good for the state of Missouri or the people in the state of Missouri to have their businesses shut down or limited travel or gatherings, you know, church gatherings. I had concert tickets to see Lynyrd Skynyrd and I was really looking forward to that and of course, that canceled. So a lot of things are changing really quickly so we want to make sure we get a good handle on that and of course the budget is going to be very important.
I don't like cutting things but, we’ve got to get a handle on spending because we do have a balanced budget, according to our constitution. It's going to be a tough year next year doing the budget and making sure that we fund the things that we need to fund and try not to cut too many things if we don't have to. So it's going to be an interesting year.
Of course, we have been trying to get some money into our transportation budget for our infrastructure and that's always a challenge but with deteriorating roads and bridges we need to keep them in repair and safe. Right now the funds going into that isn't as much as it used to be because people are driving less right now because of COVID and they are driving cars that get better gas mileage so we don't have as much money coming in from the fuel tax as we normally do so that's why its a challenge as well. And of course, education to me is a very important issue. I was a professor at Southeast Missouri State University for four years. I have eight grandchildren and they're all in school. We want to make sure that we fund the schools at a proper level because that's what grows the economy.
Q: In regard to the redistricting process and Amendment 3, why are we voting on this issue again?
The fact is hundreds of thousands of Missouri voters signed petitions to put Clean Missouri on the ballot two years ago. It was a clear indication that people knew what they were doing at the time. It won with 62% of the vote which is really not heard of — it's rare that things pass with that much of a majority. It passed every senate district, it cleared on the positive side in House District 147. But for some reason, my opponent does not support it and he and his fellow legislators just voted for themselves to put Amendment 3 on the ballot. They didn't ask anybody. They didn’t put a petition out and circulate it, they didn't get hundreds of thousands of signatures. They just decided they didn’t like it.
You know they called it Clean Missouri. A more appropriate name would have been Dirty Missouri. I have talked to a lot of people on that amendment. I know some people say “Wayne, the legislature is trying to overturn the will of the people. They were smart. They knew what they were doing when they voted for that.” But I haven’t met a person yet who knows anything about Amendment 1, which Amendment 3 is trying to get back to what we used to do. Not one person. I asked, “Do you know how redistricting used to be done?” “No.” “Do you know how it's going to be done now under Amendment 1?” “No.” And that's people that are involved in the political process from different organizations like the Cape Republican Women's Club, The Central Committee, The Pachyderm Club— people who are really involved and they don't know.
Clean Missouri ended up being Dirty Missouri because they tricked the voters. They started out by saying we are going to limit lobbyist gifts. First of all the title alone would get someone to sign that at a Walmart. “Hey, are you for Clean Missouri?” “Yes, I am.” “Well then sign this.” And if other people are like “Well what is Clean Missouri?” “Well we are trying to limit lobbyists' gifts and we are trying to limit contributions.” Well everyone is for that. “Yeah let me sign that.” And if someone is smart enough to ask “Does it do anything else?” They say “Yeah, it has to do with redistricting. We are trying to make it fairer.” “Well, I want a fair district ok.” So people signed it, so they were really tricked.
In fact, the fliers that have gone out have been totally baseless lies on what it says. The latest flyer that went out said Amendment 3 was written in secret by politicians. Well, they obviously don't know anything about the legislative process. That's anything but secret.
Q: What is the most pressing issue in this district right now that constituents may not be focused on?
Well, my district is a pretty smart district. I get a lot of phone calls from people telling me their opinions and the way we should be going. In my district, people are pretty much involved quite a bit in the political process and the needs of the state of Missouri.
I think probably the one thing though is that some people probably don't realize the necessity to continue to fund our infrastructure system so that our roads and bridges are safe because right now we are barely keeping up with that. Of course, we don't really have any money for new construction although we have that going on here in Cape Girardeau out at intersection 99, but a lot of our bridges have lived beyond their life expectancy. They might look good driving across them but if you walk underneath you see a lot of crumbling concrete, exposed and rusted rebar and that sort of thing. So they really aren't that safe. The Department of Transportation is trying to do the best they can to tackle the ones that pose the most threat and we don't want the safety of the people of Missouri to be at risk by going on an unsafe bridge or highway. I think some people probably think the Department of Transportation gets enough money with the current fuel tax but if you really think about it my car gets better gas mileage than it did 5 years ago and the cost of concrete, rebar and labor has gone up over the years. They might say “I have been getting raises.” but the department of transportation hasn't been getting raises to fund that stuff so as inflation continues, the costs get higher and higher but their income gets lower and lower because people are driving less and getting better fuel mileage. So that would probably be the one issue I think could be stressed a little bit more.
I think there's two things. The governor came through here this summer, several times, touting a special session on crime reduction. And I’ll give him credit for even considering a witness protection program, which we desperately need in this state. The main purpose of that would be to protect witnesses, especially to murders. Unfortunately, while the legislature passed a bill to create the program, they did not fund it. So it's just another empty promise and in the meantime, there are families suffering right here in our community. They are being terrorized by people who are committing crimes and preventing witnesses from stepping forward.
It's not just here it's all over the state and I'm sure it's a problem across the country but here's the thing. The governor called a special session — it went on for many weeks at great expense — and they didn't consider a single plan that involved sensible regulation of guns. I am a Pro-Second Amendment candidate. But every single amendment to the Constitution is regulated in some way. Our rights are regulated. Missouri has some of the weakest laws in the entire country and because of that our reward is we have a great deal of violence in our communities. Whether it's suicide, domestic violence, drug-related turf wars, we can blame ourselves — or our legislature that is — for being unwilling to have any kind of sensible regulation.
Q: What are your thoughts on the local response to COVID-19? What do you think we got right and what do you think we could have done better?
Well, I think the behavior of our republican party, led by Parson, is just criminal — and I mean that in every respect. The best example I can give is the statewide democratic candidates that came through our town on Tuesday (Oct 27) evening. They had a somewhat lowkey event. They wanted to come to our community and they wanted to get some press coverage and introduce themselves to our community before the election — but every single person there wore a mask. The only time anyone took off their mask was briefly when each candidate for statewide office stepped up and said a few words. They were physically distanced from the participants. Everyone was wearing masks the entire time except as I said the individual speakers. By contrast, Parsons' crew came through here and practically nobody had a mask on — especially not any of the leaders. This, at a time when we are looking at a massive wave crossing the country. This is not over no matter how much they wish it would go away. No, it is true, we cannot close down our economy but we must take simple steps to protect ourselves and our family neighbors and neighbors from this vicious disease. And yeah, for some people it's no worse than the common cold, they may not even know about it, for others it is deadly and there's a whole lot of in-between. It's just reckless.
Well although my master's degree is in healthcare administration and I worked in two hospitals before I took a 25-year career detour in the United States Air Force, I am not a medical person so I leave that up to the professionals. I don't try to Monday morning quarterback them and try to out-guess them. They are trained in those fields, they are the experts. They rely on scientific knowledge so I kind of leave it up to them.
I have got different calls from constituents saying “I don't like wearing a mask but if that's what it is I can do it.” Others say “I don't like wearing a mask and this is infringing on my liberties.” So there's people all over the board on that. I know the public health center has had different open hearings on that with people coming in and complaining about that. Of course, the governor has kind of left it up to the counties and Cape Girardeau County is probably a little bit stricter. I still don't think anyone fully knows how COVID works. I have read articles that say masks don't really help because the virus is different than bacteria, you know, a mask will stop bacteria but a mask won't stop a virus because it's smaller than the pores in the mask. Others say that it does help some and of course, I think everyone pretty much agrees on social distancing so that's probably a good thing.
Q: Looking back as the election season comes to a close, how do you feel your campaign has handled such an unusual election season?
Well, I have followed the guidance of the Missouri Democratic Party which is essentially, since March when the national shutdown was announced by President Trump, we took it to heart. Led by Auditor Nicole Gallaway — hers was the first office in the state to follow the guidelines and shut down to business unless it was conducted safely. All of the candidates across the state, for democratic nominations, ceased having public meetings. At times there were small public gatherings and there were outdoor gatherings but we practiced social distancing. We used masks. We provided a way for people to sanitize their hands and so forth. On the other hand, within a couple of weeks of the president's recommended shut down back in March, the Republicans went ahead and had a fundraiser right here in Cape Girardeau County. As far as we know they brought some of the disease with them here. They have been on-again, off-again with wearing masks and not wearing masks. I just don't understand it. I don't see what people don't get about “This is a disease.” There are no cures. There are no vaccines. But there are simple things that we can do to protect one another. One of them is wearing a mask in public.
Well, I didn't do as much door knocking as I normally did, I used more of the telephone calling people. People are kind of uncomfortable having a stranger show up at their door wearing a mask, you don't know who that is so I didn't do as much door knocking. Normally I would knock on every door. This time I didn’t out of respect for people who want to remain safe and not be standing out there talking to someone even though I am wearing a mask. That's been the biggest change going towards telephonic and digital media as well more than the hands-on door-to-door knocking.