by Ivan Foley
A kitchen table tour.
That’s what gubernatorial candidate Sarah Steelman is calling a 16-day trip around the state aboard an RV-style bus to meet with potential voters in small groups, often meeting in the kitchens and living rooms of everyday folks.
Thursday, on just the second day of her cross-state adventure, Steelman’s bus pulled into the drive of John and Julie Elliott, who live in eastern Platte County not far from the Clay County line. Steelman later invited The Landmark aboard the bus as the tour continued with a visit to a residence just outside of Kearney. (Click here to see Landmark photos of her area stops)
At her Platte County stop, around 30 people made their way into the kitchen area of the Elliott home to hear the Republican candidate outline her goals and to allow her the opportunity to hear what’s on the minds of area voters.
“I grew up around the kitchen table, talking politics with my family. Everyone deserves a seat at the table,” said the current state treasurer, who is opposing Congressman Kenny Hulshof in the GOP gubernatorial primary to be held Aug. 5.
Democrat Jay Nixon, basically unopposed in his party’s primary, is expected to await the Steelman/Hulshof winner on the November general election ballot.
“The people of this state need a voice. Putting people first. . . that’s what I’ll do as governor,” Steelman said.
In her travels, she’s hearing--and talking--a lot about the economy.
“The high cost of milk and food and gas. People are struggling with that,” Steelman said.
On the topic of gas prices, Steelman’s suggestion is to eliminate the state’s mandate on ethanol.
“I’m a free market economist. I believe the free market should set the price, not the government,” said Steelman, who maintains the ethanol mandate has actually driven up the cost of a gallon of gas rather than lower it, which supporters of the ethanol mandate claim.
About half the people who were present in the room have direct ties to agriculture, so Steelman wasn’t sure how her stance would be received in that setting. But those in attendance listened politely and no one challenged her comments. One of her hosts joined in to also question the effectiveness of the ethanol mandate.
“Yes, it drives up the price (paid to corn producers) but it also drives up gas prices, so is it really helping?” John Elliott said.
Steelman touched on the need for an ethics reform policy.
“We don’t need politicians voting on programs that benefit themselves,” she remarked.
She also said there are differences in valuing a tax dollar between herself and Hulshof.
“I don’t believe my opponent has respect for your money,” she said, pointing out the earmarks that Hulshof supported in past Congressional votes.
“He is spending money like he has forgotten it is your money. We need somebody who can manage the budget and spend your hard-earned money wisely,” she continued.
Later, on the bus with a reporter from the Kansas City Star and The Landmark listening in, Steelman continued to poke away at what she believes is an incorrect perception about her opponent. She says anyone who views Hulshof as a fiscal conservative isn’t looking at the facts.
“My opponent calls himself a fiscal conservative but his record in Congress goes against that. You can’t call yourself a fiscal conservative and continue to spend taxpayer dollars on wasteful projects,” she stated, referencing earmarks Hulshof has supported such as the Alaskan Bridge to Nowhere, the Maine Lobster Institute, the Perfect Christmas Tree exhibit and the Woodstock concert hall.
At the Elliott home and again inside the RV, Steelman reiterated her opposition to the Missouri Assessment Program (MAP) testing in the state’s high schools. She supports the idea of putting the American College Test (ACT) in its place.
She said there is a lot of “preoccupation” with MAP testing, perhaps too much focus on teaching to the test itself. Her stance brought agreement from a private school teacher in the audience, who said that if teachers spend all their time teaching to the test it negates the fact test scores are higher.
In a conversation on the tour bus, Steelman said she would have opposed the No Child Left Behind act, which Hulshof supported. She said she would have opposed it on the grounds that it was the federal government getting involved in what should be more local education issues.
Steelman’s tour through the northwest part of the state on Thursday included stops in Savannah, St. Joseph, Platte County, Kearney and Liberty.
It was at least the third time Steelman has brought her campaign to Platte County. In the spring she spoke at the Platte County Administration Building and earlier this month she and Hulshof both spoke at an event sponsored by the Platte County Pachyderm Club.