Lee’s Summit has three candidates vying for the Republican nomination 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.
Kalwei and Roeber contend they’re a better match for the district because they’re more conservative. Johnson said as a moderate candidate he has appeal for the electorate beyond the primary race and for more residents.
Kalwei and Roeber both support the 72-day waiting period for abortions 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 farther.
Kalwei and Roeber said they could support using state money to let students in failing schools attend private schools, a step Johnson adamantly opposes.
Kalwei and Roeber said they want to limit numbers of children transferred from one school district to another. Johnson said he thinks failing districts should expand programs that are working in their individual schools, with additional financing if necessary.
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. “There’s nothing I feel obliged to collapse over.”
Johnson, a home builder, said one area he’d focus on is reforming state tax credits that cost $600 million in revenue annually, which could be used for necessary programs like education.
Johnson uses the example of sales-tax exemption for yachts as why tax reform is necessary.
“If you can afford a $500,000 yacht, shouldn’t you pay sales tax on it?” Johnson said.
He’d tighten regulations for some tax credits, for example historic buildings or low-income housing to make sure 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.”
He’s already sponsored laws that improved Missouri’s quality of life, such creating living wills or allowing paramedics for emergency medical service in the state.
Kalwei is an assistant prosecutor for Platte County, but has lived in Lee’s Summit 17 years.
He said he believes he falls somewhere between Johnson and Roeber as a conservative politician. He said it is “imperative” to protect Lee’s Summit schools.
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 enforcing current gun laws.
“Working the extremes is not good,” he said. He said the legislature should not pass laws that are clearly unconstitutional that will result in lawsuits.
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, defendant’s rights and justice.
“I’m not wet behind the ears in real world experience,” Kalwei said.
Kalwei said he’d follow guidance of residents of the district:
“People first, party second,” Kalwei said. “Our job is to do good for the state and our district.”
Roeber is also a long-time resident and known in local Republican circles from many years working on campaigns.
She said she decided to run when encouraged by Rep. Mike Cierpoit, who represents District 30.
“The social issues are big,” Roeber said. “My traditional values match this district better.”
Roeber said she’s had some experience with issues facing Kansas City schools as a retired teacher who taught many years in Raytown schools and in Hickman Mills.
She said that will help her shape good decisions as the General Assembly grapples with issues such as school transfer in the future.
Roeber said the state needs to consider innovations to help struggling urban schools, such providing resources like food stamps at school buildings to give lower-income parents more opportunity 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 that their students show improvements during a school year.
“I’d be lying if I said I knew what all the solutions are,” Roeber said. “But all children need a good education. It’s good for our economy.”