▪ Fifth District: It is the sixth time Democratic Rep. Emanuel Cleaver and Republican challenger Jacob Turk have faced off in a general election.
Cleaver is a former Kansas City mayor and councilman who was elected to Congress in 2004. Turk, a Marine veteran and small-business owner, has not held public office. Cleaver, a former United Methodist minister, is known for his eloquence and urgent push for civility in the halls of the Capitol. Turk has honed a pitch for the need for an advocate in Congress to deal with government programs such as veteran disability claims and remediation for environmental exposures, and for becoming a voice for small businesses that he says are being crushed unnecessarily by government bureaucracies overstepping their mandates.
Turk, with practice, has become a better candidate. Cleaver, facing challenges, has become a better congressman.
Cleaver worked with Republican Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer of Missouri to co-author and enact the largest comprehensive housing overhaul bill in three decades.
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Cleaver worked effectively to secure an estimated $700 million to keep 2,500 jobs at the National Security Campus in south Kansas City. He deserves credit for his work to maintain the National Nuclear Security Administration/Department of Energy Honeywell Federal Manufacturing Facility in this area, when it could have been relocated anywhere in the country.
Cleaver was a leader in gaining $22 million in the budget for law enforcement body cameras. When used, these cameras should benefit both communities and the law enforcement officers who serve them.
Some purists have complained about Cleaver’s unabashed pursuit of pork for the Kansas City area. That is short-sighted criticism. He has been unapologetic about bringing hundreds of millions of dollars home to the 5th District through federal investments in transportation, flood control, Veterans Affairs improvements, job training and domestic violence prevention funds.
Cleaver deserves to continue representing the people in this district.
Also on the ballot is Libertarian Roy Welborn.
▪ Sixth District: Republican Rep. Sam Graves, a northwest Missouri farmer, was first elected to Congress in 2000 after serving two years as a state representative and six years as state senator in Jefferson City. Democrat David Blackwell, a software technologist, is a political newcomer who got into politics this year as a Bernie Sanders supporter. He does have a political heritage. His great-grandfather Willard M. Payton was western district judge in Clay County from 1956 to 1964, and his mother, Elizabeth Payton Blackwell, served as an alderwoman in Smithville in the 1970s.
Blackwell supports campaign finance and lobbying reforms to get big money out of politics. He says the Founding Fathers never envisioned a permanent political class, but embraced citizen politicians as he would be. He supports universal health care, either a single-payer system or adding a public option to the Affordable Care Act. To help bridge the divide between rural and urban interests in the district, Blackwell supports a rural broadband initiative.
This newspaper has disagreed with Graves on more than one occasion. He took his role as fiscal watchdog too far earlier this year when he attacked a $1 billion plan to upgrade Kansas City International Airport, and did so with misleading numbers. While there was legitimate concern over murky language in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed regulation on Waters of the U.S., Graves could have gained clarity for Missouri farmers without blanket attacks.
But on the whole, Graves has been a reliable representative for issues that are vitally important to the 6th District with his consistently conservative approach on fiscal and social issues.
He was an important force in gaining reauthorization of the five-year highway bill. For Missouri, that means $90 million more to spend on roads each year, or $450 million in additional funding over the course of the bill.
As a member of the House Armed Services Committee, Graves has been able to bring significant resources to military installations across Missouri and Kansas. That includes major investments in the single biggest asset to the 139th Airlift Wing in St. Joseph, its fleet of C-130H aircraft.
Also on the ballot is Russ Lee Monchil, Libertarian.