The Primary Elections are happening on Tuesday, August 2, 2022. AltonMo.com reached out to the local, state, and federal candidates to answer poll questions. Eight candidates responded. One local candidate replied: Crystal Howell running for Oregon County Circuit Clerk. Four candidates responded who are running for Missouri’s United States Senate seat: Dennis Chilton, Eric McElroy, Kevin Schepers, and Gena Ross. Three candidates for state auditor and for Missouri’s U.S. representative seat respectively also responded: David Gregory, Jim Higgins, and Randi McCallian. The candidates were asked fifteen questions in the survey. Here are the answers for the United States Representative, state auditor, and local candidates.
The question was, “Are you aware that many school children cannot read or write? What would you do to solve this problem?”
- Crystal Howell (circuit clerk)- Yes. We see this issue in the clerk’s office, we have adults that come in and indicate that they can’t read or can’t read well or understand the documents that are necessary for the case. The only way to help with this issue is one-on-one tutoring either by an in-class aid or after-school programs. The issue is available funding and teachers/aids.
- David Gregory (auditor)- 55% of Missouri students are below reading proficiency. I carried HB 1556 this past session which required literacy and reading coursework for teacher education programs. This is a deep
problem that will require a lot of work.
- Jim Higgins- (representative)- Allow for more competition in education. Let parents use their education dollars wherever they want. The measures recently passed by the Missouri legislature to expand tuition credits to private schools will help.
- Randi McCallian (representative)- It’s true that our nation’s children are falling behind in education. For nearly 30 years, there have been relentless cuts to funding our schools and that has meant less resources for our children, and less individualized education, as classroom sixes grew even larger. We all value our children and we value our teachers, we must act together to invest sufficient resources so that both can thrive.
The second question was, “Do you believe that self-defense is a right? Why?”
- Crystal Howell (circuit clerk)- Yes, I do. That I believe is the only deterrent for some that seek to do harm. In our county try as they might our police force can not be everywhere. I believe someone would think twice about attacking someone armed or training to defend themselves.
- David Gregory (auditor)- Yes. We have a right to self-defense that is guaranteed by the Second Amendment right to bear arms. These rights secure all other rights.
- Jim Higgins (representative)- Self-defense is a right provided in the constitution and natural law. Sometimes there is not enough time for the police to arrive.
- Randi McCallian (representative)- Of course, it’s only natural for us to defend ourselves when we face an attack.
The third question was “In light of the Bill of Rights, how do you propose supporting our freedoms and rights that are enumerated?”
- Crystal Howell (circuit clerk)- The only way to protect our freedoms at a local level is to elect representatives with the like mind of their constituents. We need someone that will stand and fight for our freedoms. This starts from local officials to the president.
- David Gregory (auditor)- It is essential that we appoint good, constitutionalist judges to our state courts. All branches of government must respect the rights provided in the Constitution if our liberties are to be
- Jim Higgins (representative)- I will oppose any governmental infringement on the Bill of Rights, for any reason.
- Randi McCallian (representative)- I deeply respect our rights and will legislate in a manner that strives for “Liberty and Justice for All.” Our system of ‘checks and balances’ allows for us to challenge legislation that we feel violates our enumerated rights via the judicial system. I will protect this system of checks and balances.
The next question was, “The Bible says ‘the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel.’ In light of that, what might you advocate to really help the homeless?”
- Crystal Howell (circuit clerk)- Our homeless community and those destitute have grown in the last several years with the pandemic and very few rental properties available. While we have wonderful programs such as food pantries and homeless shelters they are limited in what they can do with the little funding that they receive and
the donations that they receive. Some of the funding should and can come from our government (thru grants) to offer training and short-term assistance. This assistance should be to help get those on their feet and should not be a long-term solution.
- David Gregory (auditor)- Our efforts need to be focused on mental health and job training. For homeless veterans, we need more opportunities for acclamation training. Giving people the tools to succeed on their
own is more compassionate than handouts that keep people from joining society.
- Jim Higgins (representative)- The best way to help the homeless is to provide opportunity in a healthy vibrant economy.
- Randi McCallian- I stand firmly on the side of compassionate evidence-based policy. Considering that many of our homeless neighbors are veterans, or people who have suffered a traumatic brain injury, or are suffering through a mental health crisis … in every instance it’s compassion and support that are needed. People facing homelessness need safe housing, treatment for any mental or physical wounds, help getting important documentation, and then support finding an income.
The next question was, “Do you believe additional background checks for firearms will prohibit murder?”
- Crystal Howell (circuit clerk)- No, in short, those that are committing murder are breaking the law, and adding more laws to those that are not being obeyed seems pointless. A better solution is to address mental illness in our community, there are programs available to provide counseling making those known to those in need is a good first step as a large part of our community does not know that these exist. The another step is stronger punishments for those that commit violent crimes.
- David Gregory (auditor)- No. Most people that commit murders have a criminal record and would not pass a
background check. Cracking down on straw purchasing would be a far more effective way to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people.
- Jim Higgins (representative)- Additional background checks will have little if any effects on the murder rate.
- Randi McCallian (representative)- Murder is already prohibited- it is illegal. Background checks are an important measure to keep guns from being purchased by people with a violent or criminal background, and we all agree that violent criminals shouldn’t be able to easily purchase a gun.
The sixth question was, “Scientist look for any form of life on other planets. Our very Declaration of Independence states that everyone has a right to life. Given that, do you believe that a woman should be able to have an abortion?”
- Crystal Howell (circuit clerk)- As a Christian conservative, I am against abortion.
- David Gregory (auditor)- No. Abortion should only be allowed when it is necessary to save the life of the mother.
- Jim Higgins (representative)- Abortions will happen whether they are legal or not. It should remain legal and safe.
- Randi McCallian (representative)- Abortion is a very personal and medical decision and I do not believe a small government has any place making such personal and medical decisions for people.
The seventh question was, “Will it cancel the vote of Missouri citizens who have lived in the state a number of years, to allow persons to move to our state and be allowed to vote within one month?”
- Crystal Howell (circuit clerk)- Your LEGAL right to vote should not be infringed, I do believe they should be registered in the county and show identification before they are allowed to vote. I believe that mail-in ballots should be restricted and you should have to show proof of why you cannot appear in person with ID to vote.
- David Gregory (auditor)- The Constitution protects the right of people to seek a better life in different states and their right to vote when they do move.
- Jim Higgins (representative)- July 6 is the deadline to register to vote in Missouri’s primary, Oct 12 is the deadline for the general. That seems fair if someone moves here from another state.
- Randi McCallian (representative)- N/A
The next question was, “What benefits (if any) do you see from the total shut down of the coronavirus in businesses and schools across America? Why?”
- Crystal Howell (circuit clerk)- I do not feel that the total shutdown helped control the virus. I do believe that it hurt our economy in such a way that it will take years to recover from. I do feel like those that are/were sick with the virus should isolate (just like the flu), they should have the support of their employers and the Judicial system
but a total shut was unnecessary.
- David Gregory (auditor)- None. Lockdowns were extreme and unnecessary. We are just now learning how much they set back children’s education and devastated small businesses. Those findings will only get worse.
- Jim Higgins (representative)- There were no benefits just lost revenue. Businesses and customers should be allowed to assess risks and benefits on their own.
- Randi McCallian (representative)- The COVID-19 pandemic was very hard on all of us, and our government was ill-prepared to handle it, one of the reasons for that is we don’t have enough people in our government with a background in healthcare and public health. I have that experience, and my perspective will help us prepare for the next crisis, so we don’t face such uncertainty again.
The ninth question was, “What is your greatest accomplishment that you want voters to know about?”
- Crystal Howell (circuit clerk)- I have worked in the Clerks office in Howell County for 6 years working closely with all judges in the circuit. I have contributed to the whole circuit in my six years by creating spreadsheets that were used circuit-wide, I helped to implement Web-ex court that was used circuit-wide. I have trained multiple new employees in several positions throughout the office in Howell County. I am constantly working to improve the scheduling and tracking of our court cases to improve processing improve data entry and ensure that your
court case is processed and concluded in a timely manner.
- David Gregory (auditor)- As a freshmen state representative, I audited the Department of Revenue and found $36 million in wasted taxpayer money. As Auditor, I will scale this approach across our state government and safeguard all taxpayer dollars.
- Jim Higgins (representative)- I have raised two children to be self-sufficient, who don’t expect the government to take care of them from cradle to grave.
- Randi McCallian (representative)- It has been the challenge of my life raising healthy and happy children in a struggling world. My greatest accomplishments are seeing them grow up, surrounded by love, and getting to celebrate every milestone by their side.
The tenth question was, “What do you see as the most pressing needs for infrastructure or capital projects in the state?”
- Crystal Howell (circuit clerk)- What I can say is that on a local court level, Oregon County needs to implement
audits to clean up the court records, and put processes in place to balance financial records and improve month-end reporting. I have worked closely with law enforcement and will continue to do so the re-coupe needed county funds.
- David Gregory (auditor)- Our first priority must be real, physical infrastructure. As part of that, connecting rural
communities to broadband must be a priority. Rural broadband is vital to the success of Missouri’s number one industry.
- Jim Higgins (representative)- The taxpayer funded road system put trains and mass transit out of business. Now we have an energy crises and pollution. Having said that we need to keep bridges safe.
- Randi McCallian (representative)- In our 8th district, we have so many roads and bridges that need attention right away; bad roads also put more damage and strain on our cars. In our rural areas, we travel further to reach our family, friends, jobs, schools, hospitals, and more, so good roads are critical to life here. Housing is also lacking in our district, and it makes it hard to draw jobs to our district, because there aren’t a lot of affordable houses for people to move into.
The tenth question was as follows: “How do you define a family?”
- Crystal Howell (circuit clerk)- The definition: family: A family is a group of tow or more persons related by birth, marriage, or adoption who live together; all such related persons are considered as members of one family. I believe it is more than that. I have members of my church that I consider my family. I have life-long friends that I consider family. Family to me is someone loving and supporting you and you supporting and loving them.
- David Gregory (auditor)- N/A
- Jim Higgins (representative)- A small group of people that live in the same dwelling together.
- Randi McCallian (representative)- Those who you love, and who love you; the people you stand by, support, and nurture – and they do the same for you.
The next question was, “Do you think that our freedom of speech rights are being infringed upon at this present time? Is there a way to combat that?”
- Crystal Howell (circuit clerk)- Yes! Everyone has the right to freedom of speech excluding certain exceptions, the issue is that some of those exceptions have vast gray areas open to interpretation. In the coming years, it will be interesting to see the laws that will inevitably be enacted to clear up those areas.
- David Gregory (auditor)- Right now, there is an unprecedented attack on free speech from Big Tech companies who use their power to censor conservative speech and push wokeism. This is an abuse of their power and must be reigned in.
- Jim Higgins (representative)- Yes, the current administration campaign against misinformation is subjective and biased. Misinformation is for each individual to determine on their own. Opposing opinions and debate are essential in a free society.
- Randi McCallian (representative)- I support our right to free speech and it’s a right that I am proud to exercise by running for office to speak on issues that are important to me and our community. Recently, there has been a lot of speech that incites violence and threatens the lives of others, and I believe it’s important we remember that dangerous speech- speech that calls for violence against others- isn’t something our country values and considers to be “free speech.”
The thirteenth question was, “How would you prevent school shootings? Would veterans be a part of your plan?”
- Crystal Howell (circuit clerk)- As I touched on previously in question five, and I can only speak of this on a local level, it will start with those that exhibit signs of distress in the home. Counseling, and tougher sentences for offenders. This is an interesting idea and I would not be opposed to it.
- David Gregory (auditor)- Prevention begins with security. We must secure schools with physical and human resources.
- Jim Higgins (representative)- We need to do a much better job and raising children to have descent respect for others in society.
- Randi McCallian (representative)- As a mother, I support common sense firearm safety legislation to help prevent school shootings, such as: background checks on all gun sales, safe firearm storage laws, and informing local law enforcement when a background check fails and a violent criminal is trying to obtain a gun. Personally, I believe our veterans have sacrificed enough for our country, and already don’t get enough support, acknowledgment, and respect for what they’ve done for us.
The fourteenth question was, “How would you protect Missouri from big government interference?”
- Crystal Howell (circuit clerk)- It starts at the local level to elect local officials and representatives with the like minds of their constituents. Those that are not afraid to stand up for our rights.
- David Gregory (auditor)- As auditor, I will ensure that state agencies aren’t abusing their power and going beyond their mandate. Too often overzealous bureaucrats use their position to push agendas and interfere in
- Jim Higgins (representative)- Expose the inefficiencies and ineptness of government whenever possible. Government gets our tax dollars regardless of performance. Government has no incentive to innovate.
- Randi McCallian (representative)- I am a firm believer in local governmental control. I know that no one better understand the needs of our small communities than our friends and neighbors.
The final question was, “What laws would you like to see passed or repealed in your term?”
- Crystal Howell (circuit clerk)- Missouri Bond Reform or House Bill 666, this mandate treats some felony cases like misdemeanors. With the new rules, some alleged felons will be issued a summons and released without being required to post any bond. According to Callaway County Sheriff, “How does this affect our county’s hardworking, taxpaying citizens? If you are the victim of a crime such as a burglary, theft, property damage, or forgery…..(the list goes on and on) and the offender is arrested, there is a distinct possibility the offender will be released with a summons as opposed to a warrant being issued and the defendant being required to post a monetary bond. Our extreme effort to combat drug offenses, which I know drives so many other crimes in the county, will definitely be affected by this change.” These feelings are felt in many law enforcement and prosecutors’ offices across Missouri.
- David Gregory (auditor)- I hope to pass legislation that provides tax deductions for those who serve in law enforcement. This past session, I carried HB 1558 which phases is a tax deduction on the first $100,000
anyone makes serving in law enforcement. I hope to see it passed soon.
- Jim Higgins (representative)- Remove regulations which impede economic growth. Remove any professional licensing requirements.
- Randi McCallian (representative)- I will fight for local access to affordable healthcare. I will also support policies that protects us from price-gouging on essentials that we all need: medications like insulin and chemotherapy, gas prices, food, and housing. I want to protect our community from corporate greed and I want to see Citizens’ United overturned- because corporations are not people and their greed should not have so much power in our government.