More than 19 years have passed since a lawmaker other than Sam Graves represented the Missouri 6th District in the U.S. House. He holds the record for longevity as congressman in this part of the state.
The Republican from Tarkio insists, however, that he never takes any re-election race for granted. Graves says he respects the process and, above all, the district.
“I live it. This is where I’m from,” he told the St. Joseph News-Press last week. “I want it to be a chore to go to Washington, not a chore to come back to my district.”
A number of candidates have lined up again to see if they can remove Graves from that job in Washington, including a fellow Republican, a quartet of Democrats and a Libertarian.
The party nominees will be chosen in Missouri’s primary election on Aug. 4.
Chris Ryan of Liberty, a frequent candidate, registered to oppose Graves in the GOP primary. The Democrats, by ballot position, are Charles West of Canton, Dr. Gene L. Ross of Platte City, Henry Martin of Kansas City and Donald Robert Sartain of St. Joseph. Ramona Farris of Kansas City suspended her campaign but remains on the ballot.
Jim Higgins, who lives outside the district in St. Louis, has no opponent for the Libertarian nomination.
Martin represented the Democrats as the 2018 nominee, and he vowed to use his experience from that race to bolster his campaign this time. He has been meeting throughout the district with county commissioners to learn about their needs, finding infrastructure help to be at the top of the list.
Two years ago, Martin became a lonely voice in calling for criminal justice reform. This time, circumstances have caught up to his position.
“Justice is now in the limelight for everyone to see,” he said during an interview in Parkville. He pointed out the need for representation for minorities and the poor, saying both groups have suffered from substandard schools, lack of access to health care and inequitable justice, particularly incarceration.
“Is our intent to rehabilitate or is our intent to punish? If it’s to rehabilitate, we need to put our money where our mouth is,” the Army veteran and long-time educator and coach said.
“People spend time behind bars and end up losing their jobs for one mistake. Or they’ve made a series of mistakes related to an addiction, and we’re not treating those addictions.”
Ross, who has a doctorate in public policy and administration, wants to make citizen involvement and health care her signature issues.
“For those that have private insurance, you can keep that if you want it. But for the most part, I want everybody covered,” she said at an interview in her Platte City home, noting that too many Americans find themselves with a choice between paying bills and buying prescription medicine.
“It’s almost a matter of life and death for some people, and that’s not right.”
West, a lifelong resident of Northeast Missouri who serves on the Clark County school board, views education, health care, infrastructure and jobs as key parts of his platform.
The infrastructure improvements, he says, must include not only repairs to roads and bridge but expansion of rural broadband.
“With everything going on right now, look at all the people having to work from home, all the students having to do school work from home,” West said, noting his best internet coverage comes from his truck’s hot spot, not his house. “It’s 2020. We shouldn’t have to be dealing with that.”
Sartain describes himself as a “conservative leaning populist” and a firm believer in market economics.
“No matter how hard one tries, an economy with inflation will never really be righted,” he wrote on his campaign website. “Just like our home economies require us individually to balance our own budgets, so it works on a larger scale. Possibly we ought elect citizens having excellent credit ratings.”
The candidate, an Army veteran, favors a progressive taxation system that provides “no shelters, exemptions or loopholes.”
Graves serves as the top Republican on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. He has chaired committees and subcommittees in the past and finds virtue in knowing the political process in Washington.
“That is the only way you get things done. You come together, you find what your common ground is and you work through it, you come to a compromise,” the lawmaker said.
He added, “Infrastructure is one thing the government should do and do well.”
Ryan speaks in his campaign literature about the national debt, securing the nation’s borders, taking care of veterans and self-imposition of term limits.