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0000017b-27e8-d2e5-a37b-7fffd9f70000On November 8, Missourians chose their next governor, determined races for U.S. congressional seats and several for the Missouri statehouse. In addition, voters decided among five proposed changes to the Missouri constitution.See the election results here, and view our coverage below on the local candidates and issues. Post election, we're continuing to add to our coverage with related content.

District 7 Democrat, Libertarian Candidates Debate Alongside Incumbent's Empty Podium

Han Zhao
Democrat Genevieve Williams and Libertarian Benjamin Brixey debate Wednesday inside MSU's Plaster Student Union Theatre.

Two of the three candidates for Missouri’s 7th Congressional District gathered Wednesday to share their views on topics ranging from the Affordable Care Act and gun control to poverty and climate change.

Democrat Genevieve Williams and Libertarian Benjamin Brixey also took aim at Republican incumbent Billy Long, who was invited but did not attend the debate. The more than hour-long forum, which can be seen in its entirety here, was held at Missouri State University’s Plaster Student Union Theatre.

Affordable Care Act

On healthcare, Brixey says his family has personally suffered from the Affordable Care Act, and would work to repeal it if elected.

“We now have to reduce our level of insurance, prices have gone up, and now my parents actually have to go get their blood drawn and do other things they’ve never had to do before. And so the Affordable Care Act is a complete bust.”

He referenced recent news of ACA premiums increasing in every state, and some left with just one insurance provider, calling it “unacceptable.”

Williams, who agrees there are serious issues with the affordability of the law, disagrees with repeal. She cites the increase in those with health insurance among the good aspects of the law. She’s in favor of a public health insurance option.

“I support a Medicaid for all system. If you wanna have private health insurance and you can afford that you’re very, very welcome to continue doing under this plan.”

Second Amendment

The topic then turned to guns, with moderators and MSU professors Dr. Eric Morris and Dr. Elizabeth Dudash-Buskirk asking the candidates of their positions on Missouri’s recently passed Constitutional Carry law, which gives the right to carry a concealed handgun without a permit.

Williams, who says she’s owned a gun before she was old enough to vote, called the legislation irresponsible.

Credit Han Zhao / KSMU
Williams, left, and Brixey, right, debate Wednesday. The empty podium in the middle was reserved for incumbent Congressmen Billy Long, who did not show.

“I believe that to walk the streets with a concealed firearm I think that you should have at least some vetting that goes into that. Again if you want to have a gun in your home, that’s your own business.”

She added that change must be made to ensure firearms are kept out of the hands of criminals while ensuring the constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens.

Brixey said he was proud of the Missouri Legislature’s passed of Constitutional Carry. He said you cannot be pro Second Amendment while also supporting an assault weapons ban, citing a position of Williams’.

“If there is a riot going or something going on you have to protect your business, you have to protect your property, and you’re not going to do it with a handgun.”

Williams responded by saying she doesn’t believe the Second Amendment covers owning “weapons of war, basically.”

Law Enforcement/Community Relations

The moderators also asked the candidates about how they would build community trust, referencing tension between law enforcement and minority populations.

Williams said a lot can be done with more “open door meetings” with law enforcement, and through enhanced training.

“I think it’s unfair to the police office to have a short amount of training and to be thrust onto the streets and to be making life or death decisions.”

She also expressed concerns with the militarization of police departments and policies such as stop and frisk.   

Additionally, she says police departments are severely lacking in their amount of officers with crisis-intervention training.

“Anytime that you have individuals that are in need of specialized training in order to keep themselves and the populous safe and they don’t have that, that’s a failure on our part to those police officers and to those members of the community,” she added.

Brixey says the fastest way to bridge the gap in community relations is to “bring the Constitution back and restore the Bill of Rights.”

“Everybody deserves due process from their peers, and if you’re getting due process from your peers then you ought to be saying that’s unconstitutional,” said Brixey.  

He also feels relations can be improved by ending the war on drugs.

“It’s not saying that minorities do drugs more than the majority, it just means that they are persecuted more often. And if you can get rid of the war on drugs you can get rid of unreasonable search and seizure, you can reinforce the First Amendment because people are getting censored after they get caught. You’re actually going to free inmates that can go out and get a job and do things.”

Other Issues

Asked about poverty in the 7th Congressional District, both Brixey and Williams agreed that inflation was exacerbating the problem.  

Williams called the term “a foreign concept for someone that is struggling to feed their children.” She says providing low or no-cost public college and university education and be increasing the minimum wage can help reduce poverty.

The candidates also agreed on medical marijuana legislation, with Brixey saying he’d fight for tax exempt status for those who need it.

The candidates also took questions from the public on veterans, free speech, among other issues. The full debate from Wednesday can be viewed here.

Why no Congressmen?

Billy Long is the incumbent for Missouri’s 7th District. The Republican is seeking his fourth term in the U.S. House. Moderator Dr. Elizabeth Dudash-Buskirk said at the beginning of Wednesday's debate that Long had not responded to her invitation.

At the event, Williams said, “It’s not in the best interest of democracy or the individuals that Representative Long actually represents to not appear.”

She called his decision not to come “distasteful.” Williams acknowledged not initially seeing a benefit personally to debating without the incumbent present, but wanted to give herself a chance to speak to the voters.

Toward the end of the debate, both Williams and Brixey made similar cases for connecting with citizens of the 7th District. Brixey then added, “I think that Liberals and Libertarians are gonna come together; we’re not afraid to be in front of you, we’re not afraid to be here but clearly they are afraid to be in front of you,” pointing to the empty podium designated for Rep. Long.

Reached prior to the debate, Long’s campaign manager Royce Reding told KSMU the congressmen would not be at the debate because he had “no interest in participating in political mudslinging.”

Reding said Long’s focus has been on “doing things with substance,” noting Long’s visits within the district touring local businesses and speaking to citizens directly.

More on the candidates:

Genevieve Williams:

Benjamin Brixey:

Billy Long: