Voters in the southwest corner of Clay County are fortunate to have two well-respected, thoughtful candidates for the District 17 Missouri Senate seat once held by Republican Ryan Silvey.
In fact, it’s unfortunate that either Democrat Lauren Arthur or Republican Kevin Corlew has to lose this race. The good news is that the candidate who’s defeated in the June 5 special election will likely continue his or her career in the state House, as both have also filed for re-election to their respective seats.
But at this moment in Missouri, Arthur is the clear choice. She has a detailed, almost encyclopedic grasp of policy. And her stands on an array of issues align with positions this editorial board has taken, including opposition to tax cuts that favor corporations over workers, support for the Clean Missouri ethics reforms, full rights for LGBT citizens, allowing Kansas City and other cities to boost their minimum wage and common-sense gun legislation.
The election of Arthur, a former middle school teacher, is important in another way. It will take another bite out of the Republican Party’s overwhelming, veto-proof majorities in both chambers of the General Assembly. That needs to happen. Missouri is still a two-party state, but the GOP has nearly complete control of the levers of power in state government.
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Unlike Corlew, Arthur rightly opposed the short-sighted and politically-motivated income and corporate tax cuts the General Assembly passed this month. Corporate tax rates would dip from 6.25 percent to 4 percent while individual tax rates would fall from 5.9 percent to 5.5 percent starting next year. Although authors of the cuts added provisions aimed at making up for lost revenue, we remain skeptical.
Arthur correctly points out that the chief beneficiaries of the cut will be Missouri’s rich. She also notes that the tax cuts come as lawmakers continue to struggle with the most basic of choices: whether to support programs for grandparents or for children.
“At a time when our economy is going strong, when unemployment is low, we’re having difficulty funding our state’s vital, most basic services,” she said. “We’re not investing in the people in our state.”
On guns, Arthur takes a common-sense approach. For example, this year she opposed a sweeping plan that would have extended the list of places where gun owners could take concealed weapons to include college buildings, churches, daycare facilities and bars. Fortunately, the bill did not pass. But Corlew was generally supportive. “There are places where if you can lawfully carry, you should be able to,” he said.
The two split on the proposed good-government Clean Missouri initiative that would enshrine much-needed ethics reforms into the state constitution, such as a ban on lobbyist gifts, greater transparency and a requirement that lawmakers wait two years after they leave office before becoming lobbyists. Corlew opposes the plan; Arthur is a strong backer.
She also is adamant in her support for the Missouri Nondiscrimination Act, a measure that would provide long-overdue protections for LGBT Missourians that achieved a milestone this year when it passed out of a state House committee for the first time.
“It is sort of unbelievable that at this moment in history that you can still be fired for being gay or denied housing for being gay in the state of Missouri,” Arthur said.
Corlew, though, has attempted to stake out ambiguous middle ground on this question.
Another key issue that divides these two candidates is Medicaid expansion. Arthur favors a move that would bring tens of millions of dollars into the state, provide health care to thousands of needy Missourians and secure the future of many rural hospitals. Corlew voted against the measure.
Arthur supports allowing Kansas City and other cities to set their own minimum wages. That would allow workers in cities where the cost of living is higher than in rural areas to gain a better economic foothold. Corlew backs the state setting a uniform minimum wage to avoid a confusing hodgepodge of differing minimums across the state.
Corlew has proven to be an important moderating influence on a House GOP supermajority that leans too conservative. He is a responsive, hard-working lawmaker who’s been a leader in the drive to finally raise the state gasoline tax to aid the underfunded state highway program. Northland residents should appreciate his stellar service.
But Lauren Arthur is our pick in a crucial state Senate race that should mark the beginning of a critical re-balancing of political power in Missouri.