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8 southwest Missouri Republicans were asked: What would make you unique in Congress?

Pixabay, used with permission

In a live debate Wednesday evening, eight Republicans vying to succeed outgoing Congressman Billy Long in Missouri's 7th district tried to distinguish themselves from one another ahead of the crowded August 2 primary.

The two-hour debate was hosted by Springfield radio station KWTO. Former speaker of the Missouri House Elijah Haahr, who was a moderator, posed the following question to the eight candidates: “There are 435 members in the U.S. House of Representatives. How will you stand out from the rest?"

Below are the highlights from their answers.

Col. Paul Walker: “To solve the southern border problem, I would draft legislation to require the president to send an ultimatum to the Mexican president: either they stop the flow of illegal drugs within six months, or a state of war will exist between Mexico and the United States. I don’t see this as a ‘bombing cities kind of thing’—but I do see it as getting Mexico’s attention.”

Sen. Eric Burlison: “Whenever I served in the House, what I quickly realized is you can’t do anything alone. You have to do two things: you have to build relationships, and you have to showcase your expertise…I’m already building relationships in D.C. today with people that we know and trust, like Congressman Jason Smith who is in our own area."

Burlison said he’s been endorsed by the far-right Freedom Caucus. That's a conservative group that includes members of Congress Jim Jordan and Lauren Boebert, whom Burlison described as “the most conservative members of the legislature.”

Sen. Jay Wasson: “I’m not going to be anybody’s puppet. I’m not going to join some club or let somebody play me.”

Wasson listed his endorsements, which include the Missouri Fraternal Order of Police; the Greene County Deputy’s Association, the Springfield Police Department and several sheriffs in the district.

Dr. Sam Alexander: “I would take the values of southwest Missouri with me. And I would work to build relationships with people—the other Congressmen and Congresswomen. And I would represent this district and this district alone. I do like the Freedom Caucus…and I’d actively try to join that caucus.”

Camille Lombardi-Olive: “I want to listen to the people. I want to know what the people want me to do in Washington. You’re my employer. I’m the employee…That’s a paid job and I work for you. I plan on having quarterly, town hall meetings where I actually show up in person and talk to the voters. And talk to my constituents.”

Audrey Richards:  “I am the only candidate sitting around this table who has worked in the [U.S.] executive branch. I am the only one who’s got that D.C. experience…In addition to that, the Democrats are holding on to this notion that they have a monopoly on the voices of young people and on the voices of women. We have to have somebody up there to say, 'That’s not accurate.' The national media doesn’t have a face to put to that. Let’s give them one.”

Alex Bryant:    “When you look at the 435 members of the House of Representatives, 58 of them are Black. And 56 [of those members] are Democrats. That’s exactly how the ‘Squad,’ Pelosi, and Biden pass their radical agenda. Because they want to say to all of the good people of southwest Missouri: if you don’t go along with it, you’re homophobic, xenophobic or you’re racist. Well, I stand against that.

"I married a lady who is a white, Caucasian lady and we’ve been married 26 years. I’m tired of my kids being told in school that half their family is inherently racist and the other half is victims. I reject that,” Bryant said.

Sen. Mike Moon: “I have attempted to expose what really goes on in Jefferson City. And people, voters, are clamoring to know what’s going on behind the scenes—the good, the bad, and the ugly. In Washington, D.C. I’ll expose corruption.”

You can watch the KWTO debate on that station's Facebook page here.

To watch the in-depth, 1-on-1 candidate interviews conducted by a coalition of nonpartisan groups and broadcast on KSMU, click here.