The two contenders for Missouri’s 117th District seat, Democrat Travis Barnes and Republican Mike Henderson, were the featured guest speakers at the Park Hills-Leadington Chamber of Commerce monthly investor luncheon on Tuesday.
Each candidate was allotted 10 minutes to speak followed by a joint question and answer session.
Henderson, who was raised on a farm in southeast Missouri, spoke first, telling chamber members about his wife, two adult children and one grandson, three-and-a-half-year-old Charlie.
After earning a degree from Murray State University, he worked in education for 31 years as a history teacher, coach and administrator. Henderson also completed both his Master’s in Educational Administration (1993) and his Specialist Degree in Educational Administration (1995) at Southeast Missouri State University in Cape Girardeau.
“I retired about two and a half years ago,” he said. “My wife was a teacher for 31 years so we were an education family. That’s what we did.”
Not surprisingly, education is one of Henderson’s top priorities.
“I think the kids that we have are probably the greatest resource we have,” he said. “They’re the future for this area, the kids that we have in school now. And those kids are going to compete in a different world than most of us in this room did. They’re gonna compete in a global economy.”
In order for future generations to be able to succeed in a world economy, Henderson said, if elected, he would work toward ensuring Missouri teachers have all the resources they need to prepare students for success.
He also emphasized his interest in seeking higher salaries and better working conditions for state employees.
“We’re 50th out of 50 in pay,” said Henderson. “Now, I’ll say that again: We’re 50 out of 50 in pay, which means we’re dead last. I don’t think anybody in here would say, ‘All right, that’s where we want to be. We want to be dead last in pay for our state workers.’”
Henderson talked about how pay for demanding jobs means a high turnover rate, which leads to increased recruitment and training costs and, often, less safe work environments for many state workers.
He said failing to provide state employees a living wage actually places a greater burden on all taxpayers.
“Here’s another fact I found out,” Henderson said. “You can have a corrections officer with two kids who could qualify for state aid … We pay ‘em out of tax dollars, then we’re gonna give them state aid out of tax dollars ‘cause we’re not paying them a livable wage.”
Henderson’s third priority is the Missouri economy and making things better for small businesses.
Missouri’s economy, he said, “is driven by small business … Small business drives the economy in Missouri. And consequently, we need to make sure we’re trying to help make life better for small businesses.”
Making Missouri attractive to business owners by reducing governmental regulation were among the positions Henderson shared with chamber members.
Barnes spoke next, beginning by sharing a little bit about his upbringing.
“I grew up on Three Rivers Road, a little gravel road out on D Highway,” he said. “I lived there for 20 years and then bought a house outside of Desloge and lived there for about 8 to 10 years. I’ve been a union iron worker starting right out of high school and (have) been there for 20 years.”
A graduate of Central High School, Barnes said he has been an officer of the union for the past 14 years and currently serves as vice president of Iron Workers Local 396.
“I’m running for state representative because I have some nieces and nephews and I don’t want them beatin’ up and down the highway for the next 20 years like I have,” he said. “I want them to have better jobs here in the community and I think this is a good place to raise a family.”
Barnes stressed the local education resources available already.
“We have the technical school, we have Mineral Area College, we have all those tools right here,” he said.
Barnes said the next step, one of his major goals as a state representative, would be job creation.
“I’m going to do as much as I can to bring good businesses, big businesses here,” he said.
Despite some recent negative radio ads, Barnes said he wanted to reassure chamber members that he is not “pro-Obamacare.”
“I paid over $18,000 in health care last year. Obamacare is not helping,” he said.
Barnes also contradicted claims that he is in favor of granting amnesty to illegal immigrants and sending jobs overseas.
“I’m not for that,” he said, referring to the amnesty claim.
“I’m definitely not for that,” said Barnes regarding the jobs claim.
Finishing his presentation, Barnes said, “I’m a hard worker; I swing a sledgehammer every day.”
During a brief question and answer session, both candidates stated they are against “Right to Work” laws for Missourians and are in favor of Amendment 4 — the “taxpayer protection amendment” — which, if passed in November, would prevent placing a tax on services such as doctor visits, hair styling, tanning, pet grooming and veterinary care, delivery and moving services, daycare, funeral services, auto repairs and a variety of other common services.
Amy Patterson is a reporter for the Daily Journal and can be reached at 573-518-3616 or email@example.com.