Will the so-called blue wave that struck American politics on Tuesday, November 7, 2017 continue into the 2018 elections? Will Missouri’s 2nd Congressional District, currently represented by right-wing Republican Ann Wagner, factor in? I had an opportunity to preview that election last night, when the four Democratic candidates hoping to face off with Wagner held a forum and talked about the issues they would run on. I’ve met each of the candidates at other events, but this format really allowed them to get into the nitty-gritty of their positions.
This article will not attempt to document the evening, but to highlight ideas that stood out to me–especially those of Kelli Dunaway. It was an evening packed with competition, bold ideas, and one major surprise.
The candidates (in ballot order) are Kelli Dunaway, Mark Osmack, Cort VanOstran, and Bill Haas. The Candidate Forum was sponsored by MO 2nd District For Change and was moderated by a League of Women Voters representative.
Kelli Dunaway had a great night, and here are the highlights of her comments. (I’ll be paraphrasing most of the time.)
When asked what her path to victory against Ann Wagner would be if she won the primary, she said that the path to victory is very narrow and that it wasn’t about one candidate but about all of us – it would take the energy, money, and time of every person in the room.
Dunaway shared that the health insurance provided to her mother – a coal miner – allowed her to recover from a crippling car accident at age 17 because she got the operations, rehab, and equipment she needed so she could walk again for only $200 out of pocket. They were poor, but the insurance was good. Now, as a mother of two with a great job, she has the “good” health insurance of today, but she still has a bill for $1000 for tests sitting on her counter. She may be able to afford that bill, but most people cannot. That’s not good enough.
On the environment, Dunaway observed that in Missouri, the clean energy industry is creating twice as many jobs as traditional industries. Missouri, she warned, can choose to lead on energy and create jobs, or can fall further behind. (I looked up data on this when I got home, and it’s probably more than “twice as much.”)
As the night went on, Dunaway’s message got even stronger and clearer.
On guns – Dunaway declared that any parent who leaves out a gun that a kid finds and uses to kill someone should go to prison. It’s the parent’s fault. Prison.
Dunaway said she’d eliminate limits on Social Security and legalize marijuana and then “I’d tax the crap out of it.” And then Dunaway really let it rip.
When asked about Citizens United, Dunaway said that “Money in politics is disgusting,” and that even once elected, the money keeps coming in to candidates – influencing them. The only way to have fair elections is to have publicly financed campaigns. Until then, she says, nothing is going to change.
On trade, Dunaway argued that TPP or no TPP, free trade or more trade or less trade, nothing will change until Americans are willing to pay more for things and “stop buying things for $5 at Wal-Mart.”
On K-12 education Dunaway asserted that it isn’t fair that her kids get a better education because they happen to live in an area with higher-income earners.
On college education she noted that the cost going to the college she attended had increased by 300% in 20 years, but the value of the education hasn’t kept pace with the cost. She predicted this to be the next bubble to burst in our economy
On women’s reproductive rights, Dunaway was not shy about her frustration that Ann Wagner is currently making news saying Satanists promote abortion, and that old, white men were still deciding what women could and could not do. “We need to elect better people,” and (paraphrasing) “This is 2017! Women have to make sure that we matter. Because right now, we don’t.”
Dunaway was the last candidate to deliver a closing statement.
She started out by vowing to fight for women’s rights every day and then declared (paraphrasing) “It makes me angry when Bill Haas says he hopes Van Ostran spends a million dollars on the primary, because this race is not about any one of us (the candidates). It is about the fact that our nation and our state are in peril.” She claimed only one person on the stage would be able to face Ann Wagner and win.
Then she dropped the bombshell. She withdrew from the race.
“I do not see a path to victory for me,” she said. You could hear a pin drop. She withdrew. Everyone was stunned. It was stunning. The forum ended with the entire room gave her a standing ovation for her truth telling.
I apologize for not covering the other candidates’ remarks, but this was the moment of the night, and Dunaway was the person of the night. She showed up to say things that needed to be said to inspire everyone, including her many disappointed supporters.
Osmack and VanOstran both shined as the new passionate, thoughtful, and skilled Democratic candidates they are.
On an editorial note – throughout the evening all four candidates had memorable moments, had detailed policy positions, and espoused American and Democratic values. Overall, Bill Haas seemed dismissive of the other candidates, saying several times that, based on his record, he was going to win the primary. This didn’t sit well with the audience. Dunaway was focused on her message and imminent departure. Osmack and VanOstran both shined as the new passionate, thoughtful, and skilled Democratic candidates they are.
Get up, get out to support a candidate, and vote in 2018. Let’s be a part of a political blue wave.