Meet the Missouri 8th Congressional District candidates - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

Meet the Missouri 8th Congressional District candidates


The special election to fill the U.S. Representative for Missouri's 8th district is just about a month away on June 4.

Missouri voters will choose someone to fill the seat Rep. JoAnn Emerson vacated.

Steve Hodges is the Democrat candidate. He has worked in the Missouri House of Representatives since elected in 2006, serving Mississippi, New Madrid, Scott and Stoddard counties.

Jason Smith is the Republican candidate. He has worked in the Missouri House of Representatives since voters elected him in 2005 and serves Crawford, Dent, Phelps and Reynolds counties.

Bill Slantz is the Libertarian candidate, and founded his own consulting company.

Doug Enyart is the Constitution Party candidate and founded his company in forestry consulting.

Heartland News sat down with each one and asked a few questions.

What do you want voters to know before they cast their ballot?

"I want voters to know if they're wanting a fresh conservative voice in Washington DC that I'm your choice, for a better, better America, smaller government, more limited. We definitely need to do a lot of things to get our country on the right track," said Smith.

"I want voters to know that I'm a member of this community, Piedmont, we're located geographically at the center of District 8. I'm your neighbor. I'm your fellow business person, your fellow community person, and I'm here to serve you," said Enyart.

"They have an alternative to the Republicans and the Democrats. I'm a Libertarian, and a 3rd party candidate is a real alternative, especially when you consider the state of affairs, the way things are in this country today. We've been camping out on the left. We've been camping out on the right. Libertarians offer a real logical solution for the real problems we have in this country," said Slantz.

"I want voters to know what kind of person Steve Hodges is who's going to represent them. I think of you go in southeast Missouri and talk to anyone who knows me they're going to tell you that I speak with authority. I speak with honestly, and that I'm a hard worker, and I think all those things are essential," said Hodges.

What do you consider to be your biggest priority if elected into office?

"I believe reforming regulations, reforming a lot of the welfare programs, protecting agriculture, you know this is an agriculture district, agriculture is my passion. I'm the 4th generation owner of our family farm and we truly need to make sure we protect it from outside group, environmentalists, animal rights activists and the government," said Smith.

"Reduce the size of government and the cost thereof, because we're looking at 17 trillion dollars I'm a grandparent, I have 3 grandchildren, none of them have even entered school yet and each one of them is in debt over $50,000, the folks we have in Washington representing us now are obsessed with partisan politics, they're not doing anything, they're not getting the job done, I'm very concerned about my grandchildren and the nation they will inherit from me," said Enyart.

"One of the things I would like to do is eliminate income tax, and eliminate not only personal income tax but also corporate income tax. I would also like to completely get the federal government out of the education system business all together. We don't need the federal government giving us unfunded mandates and all types of decisions from the top. I look at education from the bottom. I think education belongs with the parents and the students," said Slantz.

"I would say agriculture and education are going to be my two main priorities, and agriculture is the number one economic engine in the state, and southeast Missouri provides a 3rd of those ag dollars. All the connective services and businesses that we have in agriculture are very much important. That's what's keeping some of these towns, these rural towns in our district alive, it's the only game in town, so that would be where I would concentrate my efforts," said Hodges.

How will you treat the national position?

"I think a lot of stuff that we've done in Missouri, we need to do in Washington, DC like balance the budget, reform regulations, reform welfare programs. We have a lot to learn from the Show Me State that we can take to Washington DC," said Smith.

"I would go to work and do the job every day. I want to do the job and be there because the current crop of politicians that we have in congress right now. They work part time and we can see they're not getting a whole lot done, so I'm going to work at it," said Enyart.

"I would do it the same way I've been running my own business for the past 22 years. I would find good people. I would advocate for the people of Missouri. You have to understand that even though I've offered my leadership it's my philosophy that the people who lead government are actually the people of Missouri 8. It's not the politicians who are leaders, we work for the people there's a dysfunction in leadership today and the dysfunction is thinking you're at the top of government leaders and politicians thinking that they're at the top of the heap, and feel like they should be in control of everything, when really what we are working bees, for the people that we represent for the people of Missouri 8, my job is to do what's required of my employer and that's you," said Slantz.

"A lot of the problems are different, they're different areas, I get sometimes questions though my office that are federal issues, and so I generally work those out through Senator McCaskill's office you know she has field reps around the state and if it's something that's out of my jurisdiction then I think the same way Representative Emerson when she was in office, there were cases and she would refer things to me that were state issues. So I think that's important that you continue to have that open line of communication between state and federal because you do, you have some common areas, then you have some areas that are separate that's with your own perimeter," said Hodges.

How would you approach working on both sides of the aisle?

"It's all about building relationships. You can cooperate with anyone you can find where you agree with individuals and where you disagree, respectively disagree, but don't compromise on your core values, but cooperate," said Smith.

"Well for one thing, I would be the only Constitution member of Congress. They would have to work with me for my vote, and here's what I really want to drive home to the people of the 8th District. We need to have a political discussion that just doesn't use the words of Democrat and Republican. Let's discuss the issues on the merits of the issues, and not use those two terms," said Enyart.

"Well, you have to look at government. You have to look at it like being your own personal family, and part of the problem, is you're not necessarily going to agree with your brother or your sister, you're not going to necessarily agree with your mother or your father, but that doesn't mean that you don't find ways to get along with one another. So even though we may have completely different viewpoints with different ideas, of how we should go about running this country, and those traditionally today have pulled us to huge poles, one side or the other, as a family we will find a way to come together and make our family live," said Slantz.

"I've said I know I've told several people, go to the state house, talk to the Republican caucus individually, whoever you want to, and ask them what kind of guy Steve Hodges is. Is he the kind of guy that speaks to them in the morning that calls them by first name. Of course we've got a world of new faces up there now, but I think that's so important. All the committee chairman, except one in the House this year are Republican. Well the committees that I'm on, it's very important that I have a good relationship. I think I'm more respected, I'm one of the two ranking members of Democrat caucus and they recognize that. They also recognize what kind of person I've been since I've been in the legislature. Again honesty, I am the butt of jokes sometimes and that's okay, you know you've got to be resilient, but you have to be receptive too, so I have no doubt that I'd have a very easy time, that's my nature, it's been the nature of my life," said Hodges.

How would you make sure the people of the 8th district would get any needed relief after a natural disaster such as tornadoes, ice storms or floods?

"That is one of the most important duties of a representative, we in the 8th District face tornadoes, drought, possible earthquakes, floods, ice storms. It's something I'm ready and prepared to help take care of our area," said Smith. "Just being there and making sure the right federal resources are here to adequately prepare for these disasters."

"I'm looking at the questions that are kind of at a bigger level, the Constitution, limited government, and what we're really trying to do, as far as that's concerned, one of the things that really throws me into making this decision, is people are really upset with the current gridlock that we have in Congress and that we have had for a long time, and so I think Missouri and the 8th District is uniquely positioned right now to make a difference not just for Missouri, not just for the 8th district but for the nation itself. If we can send the Constitution back to Congress, and begin whittling down the size of government, then the other states will follow us, just two choices results in the current gridlock," said Enyart.

"I feel like the infrastructure of the country of the state, is the primary purpose for government making sure we have robust highways, robust waterways levees, telecommunications and that is the appropriate use of government funds the appropriate use of government dollars to protect those types of areas, not necessarily protect but build them as robustly as possible," said Slantz.

"First of all I would respond to those types of situations, I was involved in the ice storm thing. I know when I got home on a Friday night, I met a trooper the next morning I spent the whole day out. I started in Caruthersville, met the governor down there worked my way back up was in this town in Portageville, came over here to the cafeteria which is right next door, set up a food kitchen for people feeding workers and different people displaced people. I would be very involved in that. That is part of my obligation throughout the 8th Congressional District. Again we've had our share with the tornadoes and the detonation of the spillway, and the ice storm. I told people you've just never seen anything like that ice storm that last Thursday when it started icing up, so I said Lord please don't let this happen again," said Hodges.

Why do you think you're the best man for the job?

"I think I'm the best man because I have a proven track record in Jefferson city for the past seven years, of getting things done and that's exactly what we need to do in Washington DC. I'm running for Congress because I'm tired of them not genuinely solving the problems at hand and it's time that we go in with a bold fresh approach to turn Washington around," said Smith.

"I'm the only one running for the Constitution as nominated by the Constitution Party and of course as the name implies we feel pretty strongly about the Constitution and one of the things I want to do is begin to turn this ship around and turn it back towards and constitutionally limited government," said Enyart.

"Well, I have a lifelong history of leadership and mine has always been in the private sector. I've been a small business man here in Missouri as I believe it's my time as I believe that we all should do it's my time to serve. The people and I feel like we've been groomed to this point where I feel the calling to offer my service," said Slantz.

"I think that I'm the most experienced. I feel like I'm knowledgeable. I've lived my life except just a couple years in southeast Missouri. I've sold groceries to people. I've worked next to them. I've been in their schools like this Portageville high school right now. I told you I referee ball games down here. I know the school personnel. I've been all over in a number of different venues, and I think that's important…my opponent is younger, and certainly there's a lot of advantages to youth, you don't hurt as much…you know I think these things are important. You know my experience is working with people with public. I've said in my grocery store, especially over a 30 year period after I moved back in '75, you learn their family members, you share in their joys, you share in their sorrows, you share in their challenges. I had different people maybe who couldn't read or write, that would come to me and say, 'Mr. Hodges, I got this in the mail, and you know I can't read, could you explain it to us?' and I'd say, 'Sure" and they'd come into my office you know if they have that trust in me and they respect my opinion. I think that's very important and I try to make myself as a state representative. I go to everything that I can. I have been amazed at what was right here in southeast Missouri that I didn't know anything about, and didn't appreciate as I should have, and the general person doesn't because they're doing their job, raising their family whatever, but my life the past 6 or 7 years has been a public servant so I've tried to dedicate my life. You know I've said if I got elected to this, this is all I'd do, and it is all I do, besides watch Mizzou basketball," said Hodges.

Candidate Debate

Heartland News is teamed up with Southeast Missouri State University and the Southeast Missourian to present a debate between the candidates. That debate aired live on KFVS on May 28. 

All four candidates were there to answer questions. The panelists, Jeff Cunningham of Heartland News, and Bob Miller from the Southeast Missourian, alternated asking the candidates questions in which they each had a set time to respond. The candidates answered questions on the second amendment, social security, same sex marriage, abortion, taxes, jobs and immigration to name a few.

People traveled from all over to attend the debate. One couple traveled to Cape Girardeau from Texas County. 

"To get more information on the others that are running," said Doyle Heiney.

"Tonight it's not anything in particular, it's just all of it, all of it and to know the people a little bit better, like I said even though I've got my candidate, it doesn't hurt to hear all the people and that's what a debate's all about," said Treena Heiney.

"I know about all I need to know," said Doyle Heiney.

"This is a very important issue, the 8th district hasn't had this done in I don't know how many years, and so this is important to all the people in the 8th's good for as many people that can to watch this on the internet, TV, wherever it's at, and get informed on all the candidates," said Treena Heiney.

"Yeah exactly what I'd expected it to be, I'd heard most of their positions on these issues before and the questions that were asked so they came down the same way, and each of them seemed to be improving their game as time's gone on," said Bollmann.

"What they say tonight could very easily have a lot of impact on a lot of people's votes," said Mathew Rigdon. 

Rigdon works for SEMO Alliance for Disability Independence.

"We came out tonight to hear all the candidates speak kind of get their positions on the major issues especially those that affect individuals with disabilities so can pass that along to them and hopefully educate them in the week to come before the election," said Rigdon.

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