Crowder College, Neosho, commemorated Constitution Day with weeklong events and activities, starting with a General Assembly Forum on Monday.
Candidates on the November ballot for the Missouri State House of Representatives for the 159th and 160th districts were invited to participate along with candidates for the 32nd district seat in the Missouri Senate.
The event was organized by Keith Zoromski, Social Science Chair at the college. Zoromski welcomed those who attended.
"This is a candidate forum," he said. "It's very different than a debate, it's very different than a rally. It's as if you are the employer, which in a way, as voters, you are."
He outlined the rules for the event which provided each candidate present with a 5-minute introduction to state their platform, followed by questions from the audience and then a 1-minute final statement.
"We want to keep this a civil event. There's a difference between hearing and listening. I encourage all in attendance to listen."
Candidates spoke in alphabetical and numerical order, starting with the House candidates.
Dirk Deaton, Republican candidate for the 159th district, spoke first. His opponent, Democrat Jerry Sparks, was unable to attend.
Deaton, at 24 is the minimum age to run for a House seat.
"I take the correct view on the Constitution." According to Deaton, he believes the Constitution is as relevant now as when it was adopted. Deaton said he attended Crowder College and graduated from Liberty University with a degree in theology and religion.
Of the two candidates running from the 160th district, one was present. Ben Baker, the Republican candidate, cited previous commitments but sent a letter which Zoromski read. "I'm a 4th generation minister and a 5th generation carpenter by trade," the letter read. "I believe we need people who are tied to the principle of the Constitution."
Baker's letter also included the fact he owns a small construction company, serves as President of the Care.net board, and serves as Mayor of Neosho.
His opponent, Democrat Angela Thomas, shared her background and platform. "I come from three generations of farmers and ranchers in Southwest Missouri," Thomas said. "My home has been in Neosho for 29 years. This is my home. I care about the people of this district." Among the issues Thomas considers most important, she cited education and senior citizens.
Of the three candidates for the 32nd District Senate seat, two were present, Bill White, the Republican candidate and Democrat candidate Carolyn McGowan. Green Party candidate Conon Gillis was unable to be attend because of his commitment as a social sciences teacher at Neosho High School but his wife, Lacey Gillis, attended in his stead.
Gillis spoke first and shared a written statement from her husband that included, "I realized I would hit the minimum age of 30 days before the election so I took the plunge."
Gillis said that her husband wanted to carry out the principles he has taught in his government and history classes for the past seven years. He also wrote, "I believe someone with fresh ideas and energy is just what our state needs."
During her turn at the microphone, McGowan said, "I'm 76 years old. I have kind of a long resume."
McGowan said she graduated from KU in 1964 and cited her previous government experience that includes serving on the Webb City city council, including a time as both mayor pro-tempore and mayor, library board, and as a state delegate.
"I'm basically a teacher," she said. "I like to also say I'm an actress. There is a correlation - all good teachers are also actors."
Bill White, who has served for the past eight years in the Missouri House, encouraged those who attended to vote.
"If you vote, you have an important decision to make in November,” White said. “If you don't vote, you should."
He spoke about his parents' blue collar background, his education, and his career path that eventually led to a law practice.
"I'm a lifelong Republican," he said. "That doesn't mean I just vote the way the party votes but for what's best."
He also said he's one of the few people in the General Assembly who reads all the bills.
"In eight years, I also took zero lobbyist gifts," White said.
After taking questions from the audience, the event concluded.
Participants made campaign literature available to those attending.
Zoromski said the event furthers the Crowder College mission statement of building a civil, serving, literate, learning community of responsible citizens.
The general election will take place on Tuesday, November 6th. The last day to register to vote is October 10.