Challengers Hoping to Oust Billy Long Team Up on Public Forums

Apr 15, 2018

Republican candidate Lance Norris, at podium, speaks as three Democratic candidates listen. Seated from left to right are: John Farmer de la Torre, Vince Jennings, and Kenneth Hatfield.
Credit Jennifer Moore / KSMU

Congressman Billy Long is facing a slew of challengers in the August primary election for Missouri's 7th Congressional district.   And something unusual is happening in that race:  Republicans and Democrats who want Long’s seat are teaming up to host a series of forums together. 

On Saturday, they held a second forum at The Library Station in north Springfield.

Congressman Billy Long was not at the forum, but all three of the Republican candidates challenging him in the August 7, 2018 primary were.

Jim Evans is running for Congress again, this time as a Republican. His main campaign issues are getting big money out of politics and working in a bipartisan spirit to get things done.  Evans is taking a leading role in organizing this series of forums.               

“It’s unique because we have three Republicans and three Democrats who decided to work together in

Jim Evans, who is running as a Republican challenger to incumbent Congressman Billy Long, is spearheading the effort to organize bipartisan forums.
Credit Jennifer Moore / KSMU

order to put together forums. Our idea was that we need to, first of all, demonstrate that bipartisanship and working together is the best way to solve problems.  And we want to do that by demonstration,” Evans said.

Benjamin Holcomb is another Republican running for the Congressional seat.

“I am running because I am tired. I’m tired of doors being locked. I’m tired of VAs not being fully funded. And I’m tired of people not being heard,” Holcomb said.

The other Republican candidate, Lance Norris, said he is motivated to help law enforcement and the challenges they face.

“The war on methamphetamines, heroin, opiates—our law enforcement community has been shortchanged by the federal government and the funding to fight this epidemic.  And I am looking to remedy that,” Norris said.

Three out of the four Democrats running were also at the forum:   John Farmer de la Torre, Vince Jennings, and Kenneth Hatfield

John Farmer de la Torre, who studied foreign policy at Georgetown University, said he was concerned about the military strikes on Syria carried out over the weekend by the US, UK, and France. He said the president’s power to use military force should be kept in check by Congress.

“There is a time in order to set up no-fly zones, as we did in Iraq, as we’ve done in Syria, there are times to be involved. There is a time to use the United Nations and the Security Council and diplomacy in order to limit death. There are good times to do that. So we have to think about our foreign policy and where we should be engaged in the world. We are not the world’s policeman.  Nation building doesn’t necessarily work.  But the United States does have a privileged position and a responsibility in the world to do something when other actors in the world are, frankly, abusing humanity. So, the president should be limited, absolutely,” Farmer de la Torre said.

Another Democrat, Vince Jennings, supports doing away with the Electoral College and legalizing marijuana across the board.

“The reason why I’m running is because people need to get back to power,” Jennings said.

When asked how he would tangibly give more power to the people, Jennings said he would begin by increasing civic participation.

“First of all, get people registered to vote. Get them involved, and get them out to vote. Get them involved in their community as far as causes,” Jennings said.

And Kenneth Hatfield, an Army veteran who served multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, said his priorities are education and reducing the national debt—including what he sees as unnecessary military spending.

“I feel like I have a moral obligation to continue my service after the military,” Hatfield said.

Even though many areas of military spending have decreased over the past decade, Hatfield says it’s not enough. He cites Congress’ new bill that significantly increases military spending and says the national debt cannot handle that spending.

“We can take that money, invest in our schools, create jobs, create infrastructure, and help people at the bottom,” Hatfield said.

The candidates themselves were very civil at the forum, which is more than could be said about some of the audience members. One attendee in the front row lunged at another because of derogatory comments directed at a candidate over the issue of legalizing marijuana.

This group of candidates plans several more forums together. The next one, Evans said, is scheduled for  the MARC community center in Mt. Vernon on April 21st. 

You can view the campaign websites for all of these candidates by viewing this story on www.ksmu.org.

The fourth and final Democratic candidate, Jamie Schoolcraft, and the Libertarian candidate, Benjamin Brixey, also were not in attendance.