Missouri House, 34th District: Three Republicans competing to replace Jeff Grisamore

07/27/2014 2:00 PM

07/27/2014 2:00 PM

Lee’s Summit has three Republican candidates for 34th District state representative, one well known after many years serving in political office.

Bob Johnson — city councilman, former school board member and elected to the General Assembly by Lee’s Summit voters several times — faces Justin Kalwei and Rebecca Roeber in the Aug. 5 primary.

The winner will oppose Democratic candidate Dale Mercer in the general election. The seat is currently held by Jeff Grisamore.

Kalwei and Roeber contend they’re a better match for the district because they’re more conservative. Johnson said that as a moderate, he has appeal for more residents beyond the primary.

Kalwei and Roeber adamantly oppose abortion, and both support the 72-day waiting period vetoed by Gov. Jay Nixon.

Johnson said Missouri already is among states that have the most restrictive abortion laws, and he would not vote to go further.

Kalwei and Roeber said they could support using state money to let students in failing schools attend private schools, a step Johnson strongly opposes.

Johnson said ideological purists are polarizing politics, driving out moderates and preventing consensus builders from finding solutions. He wants to see more cooperation and campaign finance reform.

“I don’t owe anything to a special interest group.”

Johnson said he’d focus on reforming state tax breaks (such as those exempting yachts from sales tax) so the money could be used for necessary programs like education.

“If you can afford a $500,000 yacht, shouldn’t you pay sales tax on it?”

He’d tighten regulations for some tax credits, like those for historic buildings or low-income housing, to ensure they’re used for their intended purpose instead of traded by developers.

He said his experience “gives me a leg up on the process. I don’t have to spend my first year learning how it works.”

Kalwei said he falls between Johnson and Roeber as a conservative politician.

It is “imperative” to protect Lee’s Summit schools, he said.

He said another priority would be to keep the federal government out of Missouri, slowing down programs like federal health care.

However, he’d want local and federal law officers to cooperate in enforcing current gun laws. He said the party needs more young people in government who can advance to future conservative leadership.

Kalwei said his work in the prosecutor’s office gives him practical insight when making difficult decisions. He said he daily weighs the needs of victims, defendants’ rights and justice.

Kalwei said he’d follow guidance from residents of the district: “People first, party second.”

Roeber said she was encouraged to run by Rep. Mike Cierpiot, another Lee’s Summit Republican.

“The social issues are big,” she said. “My traditional values match this district better.”

Roeber said she’s had some experience with issues facing Kansas City schools. She’s a retired teacher who taught many years in Raytown and Hickman Mills.

She said that will help her shape good decisions as lawmakers grapple with issues such as student transfers.

Roeber said the state needs to consider innovations to help struggling urban schools, such as providing resources like food stamps or WIC at school buildings to enable lower-income parents to participate in their children’s education.

She’d want requirements for reading proficiency before children go on to higher grades and performance standards for teachers showing their students make improvements.

Bob Johnson

Age: 68

Address: 1,000 Remington Court, Lee’s Summit

Occupation: Homebuilder

Education: Master of arts in business, Central Missouri State University (now University of Central Missouri)

Previous public service: Currently on Lee’s Summit City Council, former Lee’s Summit school board member and state legislator

Website: Facebook, Friends of Bob Johnson

Justin Kalwei

Age: 34

Address: 209 S.E. Citation St., Lee’s Summit

Occupation: Assistant prosecutor

Education: Law degree, University of Missouri-Kansas City

Previous public service: None

Website: justinkalwei.com

Rebecca Roeber

Age: 56

Address: 603 N.E. Clubhouse Drive, Lee’s Summit

Occupation: Retired teacher

Education: Bachelor’s of science, Avila University

Previous public service: None

Website: Facebook, Rebecca Roeber for District 34

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