Congressman Billy Long says he’s invested in working in the counties of the 7th district rather than campaigning. The Republican representative has faced criticism in recent weeks for declining to debate his opponents. KSMU’s Theresa Bettmann spoke with Long and his two challengers ahead of next month’s general election.
Long says congressional duties come before those of his campaign.
“We have 11 counties in this district and so I am out working the most effective way that I know to represent the people. I am more interested in being a congressman than I am a politician. I don’t care about doing the events where you stand up and talk about how great you are and how bad the other folks are. I am interested in serving the people in my capacity as a congressman,” Long says.
Speaking to KSMU on Friday, Long said he’s been busy conducting other business throughout the district. He frequently cited a visit from the ambassador of Kazakhstan he arranged to promote Missouri’s livestock, manufacturing and technology. The event was from late August. Long did not mention any more recent engagements.
Long is seeking a third term in the U.S. House.
His two November opponents have suggested that the Republican congressman’s alliance with corporations outweighs his concerns for Missourians regarding healthcare, education and renewable energy. Long says he is invested in each issue, but says his number one concern is over-regulation.
“And we’ve got to peel those back so that we can create jobs. The second thing is spending, get our spending under control, we can’t keep spending 35 to 40 percent more than we have available every year,” Long says.
As the economy continues its slow recovery, debate this midterm election season over how to increase the workforce has been paramount. For Kevin Craig, Long’s Libertarian opponent, wasteful spending and big government is the primary problem.
“So I would be absolutely committed as a Libertarian to abolishing unconstitutional wasteful and harmful government bureaucracies, which would be a dramatic change from the ways Republicans have been doing things for decades,” says Craig.
Jim Evans, a Democrat, says if elected to represent Missouri’s 7th District he would work to improve the economic situation for the middle class by putting a stop to job outsourcing and negotiating better trade policies.
“Right now we have a terrible problem with our trade policies. We hear our politicians saying ‘we’re negotiating this big trade policy and it’s going to create jobs.’ What they don’t tell you, yes it will create some jobs, but for every job it creates it costs us two,” explains Evans.
In addition, Evans feels strongly about campaign finance and ethics reform, and renewable energy.
He says he is reaching out to everyone in the district because he strongly feels a non-partisan approach rather than to “divide and conquer” is what southwest Missouri needs.
“When we go out campaigning we want to visit with everyone. We want to take a non-partisan approach. We are yes, trying to get 51 percent of the votes so we can get elected. Then when we get elected, we don’t want to ignore the other 49 percent. Because the whole idea is to represent everyone in the district, not just the ones who voted for you. There are 750,000 people in this district,” Evans says.
Evans has conducted various forums throughout the community over the past several weeks. On Oct. 14, Evans and Craig, minus Rep. Long, participated in a debate hosted by the League of Women Voters for Southwest Missouri and the Missouri State University Center for Community Engagement.
Craig contends he knows his chance of winning the election is slim, but has been encouraged by the support he has received.
A big platform for Craig is education reform. He feels people are tired of the way government operates, saying the Libertarian Party is about choice and taking responsibility for those choices.
“If you give people choices, and you give them the freedom to follow those choices, they’ll make better decisions than the government makes for them,” says Craig.
For his part, Rep. Long encouraged all eligible Missourians to exercise their right to vote, regardless of candidate preference.
All eight congressional districts in Missouri are up for grabs. Voters go to the polls on November 4th.