U.S. Congressman Billy Long, a Republican, was elected to the Missouri 7th Congressional District seat in 2010, and in the upcoming Presidental Election he'll face two opponents. KSMU reached out to Long; independent candidate, Audrey Richards; and Libertarian candidate, Kevin Craig, for interviews, and only Richards and Craig responded . Below are the interviews with Richards and Craig.
Independent candidate, Audrey Richards:
Why did you decide to join the race as a write-in candidate?
"Well, my initital intent was to run as an independent candidate. I began getting petition signatures last July, and you need, in this election, 5,930 valid signatures to get your name on the ballot, and I was about half way there in March when coronavirus came and basically ruined everything. And I thought, after the lockdown lifted, I would still try to go out and get the signatures, but there was just no way time wise to go ahead and physically acquire almost 6,000 signatures, and you actually need more in case some of the signatures are invalid, so they were telling me that I needed basically, like, 10,000 signatures in order to be sure that I would cross that threshold, so there was no way for me to go ahead and do that, and whenever the deadline approached for the signatures, I just recognized that I wasn't going to be able to make it, and I'm not the type of person to give up. I always want to find another way, and the write in candidacy was really the only other path available to me, that's kind of how I ended up here."
What are the top two issues you're campaigning on or the two top issues you'd try to change after the election?
"Number one is education. I am a big proponent of equity within education especially for kids' in rural areas access to things like dual credit courses, AP courses, skilled education, things of that nature because I feel like a lot of kids who don't have access to things that more kind of affluent or just bigger city schools have access to by virtue of increased internet access or increased access to, whether it be like, nearby colleges or what have you, they just have access to more stuff, and that can push you further in your education, so kids in rural America kind of get left behind a little bit. And I want to be sure that doesn't happen. And number two is infrastructure, which encompasses a whole bunch of different things. But only about, I think, 33 percent of our roads and 40 percent of our bridges are deemed to be in, like, good condition, and obviously that is horrible. Like, how are we driving on this poorly maintained infrastructure? We have one of the largest highway infrastructures and one of the lowest rates of funding, so we definitely need to work on repairing and maintaining that because it's an economic issue obviously for things like truckers and tourism. You want people driving on safe roads, and obviously for those of us day to day, we hate driving over potholes. I know, like for me, I drive up to Springfield all the time, and going from Branson to Springfield on 65 is not exactly the most enjoyable trip. So, you know, definitely things like that, but it also encompasses wi-fi--wi-fi access and broadband internet access because there are so many people within this district who don't have access to cell service let alone reliable internet. And, like I was canvassing Pleasant Hope, I think, and my cell phone was just like not working. There was no service. I am canvassing and people are opening the doors, land line phones. I was like, 'oh my god.' You know, that in and of itself is kind of a safety issue, right? Like you have an elderly population and they fall and their cellphone doesn't work or anything like that. It's just really kind of something that I don't think is something that's talked about a lot in Washington D.C. because people out there generally come from bigger cities and areas with access to these sorts of things, and they just don't have the same priorities that we have here because either they just don't care or they just don't realize that these are things that we don't have."
What sets you apart from the other candidates?
"Well, I am an independent candidate, so no party establishment for me. And also, I would like to point out that I am the only candidate who's out here, you know, trying to really fight for everybody and listen to people. We're the only campaign going door to door. We've got yard signs, and we've got tv ads. We're the only candidate who's got television ads, and we're working on radio ads, so we're out here running an actual campaign, fighting for this seat, and you can't really say that about the Democrat or Billy Long."
(KSMU Note: The Democratic candidate, Teresa Montseny, withdrew from the race. Richards is running against incumbent, Billy Long, a Republican and Kevin Craig, a Libertarian).
"So, I'm always trying to listen, and it doesn't matter to me what party you're part of if you're part of a party at all because to me it's like if you're a citizen of the district your voice deserves to be heard, and I'm doing my best to reach out to as many people as I can during these incredibly difficult times."
What do you think is the 7th Congressional District's most pressing need?
I would kind of go ahead and really just kind of work my way back to education with that one because all of our future is based on how much we're investing in ourselves and our kids, right? So, if you have somebody who is a really bright kid or a child who's really going to excel and they go like somewhere out of state for college, what is their incentive to move back here afterwards to join our workforce, to join our communities and try to make a life here instead of going to a bigger city like St. Louis, Kansas City, Chicago, wherever? If you are not going to have access to things--or you know you don't want to make a family here because your kids aren't going to have access to the best education, your roads aren't safe to drive on, you know, those two things especially, you're not incentivising people to want to live here. You know, people are moving away. What's their incentive to come back? What is anyone's incentive to move here? We have to make sure that there is a community infrastructure in place in this district where people are like, 'hey. This is a good place to live. This is a place I want to go and make my family, make my life because I feel like they're going to get the education that they need. They have the opportunities that I want them to have, and I'm going to be driving on safe roads, and I have, you know, the opportunities to either start up a small business or join an existing business and have a good job that allows me to participate in the economy.' So, it really goes back to investing in our community, and I think education is kind of the biggest part of that, so I would go with education, but, again, it's really more of a, 'hey, let's actually spend the time and money investing in these things that are going to bring us rewards in the future.'"
Richards told KSMU her two top donors are $500 from retired school teacher, Linda Holt, and $150 from Teresa Moon, a woman Richards met while canvassing.
Libertarian candidate, Kevin Craig:
Why did you decide to join the race for the Seventh District?
“I want to give people who actually believe in the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence and who like America, think America once was a great nation, someone to vote for because I actually like the founding fathers. I think America really was a great place. And I think if you were to take Billy Long back state to the 1960s, Republicans would say Billy Long was a radical liberal who was voting for all kinds of unbalanced budgets, trillions of dollars of debt, funding organizations like Planned Parenthood. He hasn't been really following the wishes of people who love America and love the Constitution. He's been following the wishes of the liberal Republican establishment. So, if you like America, if you like the Constitution, I'm the guy to vote for.”
What are the top two issues are campaigning on or the top two issues you’d try to change after the election?
"Well, I think one of the top issues is education. I think if America's founders could travel through time, they would say that most Americans are victims of educational malpractice. Most parents would like their children to be taught that the Declaration of Independence is actually true. But you can't teach that in public schools because they say that violates the separation of church and state, which I think is basically a myth. So that's a key point. I would go back to the 1996 Republican Party platform. That was the year our previous congressman, Roy Blunt, was first elected. And that platform called for the abolition and defunding of a number of federal bureaucracies, all of which are unconstitutional and are destroying America like the Department of Education. But the liberal Republican establishment has actually increased funding for all those agencies that they promised that they would abolish. So that's a laundry list--my to do list, if you will--is the 1996 Republican platform, which calls for the abolition of those unconstitutional bureaucracies.
What sets you apart from the other candidates?
"Well, I would say I'm a radical Libertarian and a radical Christi. A radical Libertarian--the Libertarian Party stands on proposition that aggression is bad. To be a candidate with the Libertarian Party, you have to sign a statement that says, I do not believe in the initiation of force as a means of achieving any social or political goal. Now, right now in America, you have Republicans trying to use the power of the government to force their will on Democrats. And Democrats are trying to use the power of the government to force their will. And Republicans were at each other's throat. I've never heard so many people say I hope you die. And that's the kind of thing that government teaches us. The government teaches us that we resolve our disputes by force and threatening people with violence. So, I'm a radical Libertarian. I believe that human beings can live a peaceful, prosperous and just life without threatening people with prison terms or bombing them back to the Stone Age. And we can't have a very humane society without this thing called a monopoly of violence. That's what the state is, a monopoly of violence. Libertarians don't believe in monopolies or violence. And the reason why I'm a Libertarian is because I'm a Christian. I think that's what Christ taught us. Don't use the sword to impose your will, not the people. Jesus said, 'blessed are the peacemakers.' So this is what sets me apart from other candidates is a radical commitment to smaller government and a radical commitment to the idea that America was once a Christian nation. And that's what made it the most prosperous and most admired nation in history.
What do you think is the 7th congressional districts most pressing need?
"Well, I would say it's the same need that every other district has, and that's the need to to forgo, to repudiate the idea of solving problems by violence, solving problems by war, by SWAT teams, by prison terms. The use of political power I think is inherently wrong. And we need to just repudiate that whole idea. America's founding fathers abolished this idea of the divine right of kings, very controversial in their day. One of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, Benjamin Rush, a physician and an educator, he said, 'I had been taught to believe that the king was as essential to social order as the sun is to the solar system.' But he eventually saw that a system of self-government, which we prefer today as an experiment in liberty, was actually the way to go. The founders then created a government which they thought was a form of self-government, but it's turned out to not really work. A representative government still has the same fundamental flaw of relying on violence to solve problems. And we've seen America go from a Christian republic to an atheistic empire. I think the United States is probably the most dangerous entity on the planet. During my lifetime, tens of millions of innocent non-combatant civilians have been killed or crippled or made homeless by the federal government. And everybody in America needs to say that we can live in peace, we can heal our world by repudiating aggression and especially the monopoly of aggression that we call the state."
Craig told KSMU his top two biggest donors are his left pocket and his right pocket. He said he hasn't taken any donations.
Republican Billy Long:
Long did not respond to KSMU's request for an interview.
According to followthemoney.org, Long's two biggest donors are $117,923 from Security for America Fund and $100,000 from Long himself.