Conservative or liberal?

Lee's Summit JournalJuly 25, 2014 

One of the most entertaining (not informative, but entertaining) pieces of the July 22 candidate forum was watching the District 34 hopefuls jockey for conservative positioning.

One of the questions from the moderator asked candidates what defines conservatism and liberalism.

Current District 4 Lee’s Summit City Councilman Bob Johnson, a moderate by nature, can’t claim he’s uber conservative any more than his opponents, Justin Kalwei or Rebecca Roeber, can convince they are probably further right of the spectrum than most of their constituents.

Still, this race has been a battle of “I’m more conservative than you.”

Thing is, Johnson isn’t playing.

“I’m not sure what a conservative is,” Johnson responded to the question, adding he thinks it is best to “be in the middle.”

Roeber says conservatives value small, transparent government and are “life-loving, family-loving” people.

Kalwei delivered a consistent message throughout the forum, saying that he was, indeed, “the conservative candidate” for this District 34 race.

Kalwei touted conservative values to endorse low taxes, a free market, the government staying out of our lives and the freedom to worship as we choose.

Perhaps all three candidates are conservative in one way or another. You’d never know by some of their responses and some of the attacks that they were all affiliated with the same political party.

That’s a point Jackson County Legislator Bob Spence didn't waste time pointing out.

Spence, who defined himself as a “common sense conservative” said the inter-party sniping is something that has to stop.

“Republicans tend to shoot themselves in the foot on single issues,” noting abortion and gun control as two of them, he said.

Whether or not Johnson is a front-runner for the District 34 primary, he was sure gone after as if he was.

His endorsement from Planned Parenthood was on the top of Roeber’s list, as well as his lengthy political service at the local and state level.

Johnson had what I consider a pretty darn good performance until the closing statements started, which is when he decided to fire back at the accusations that he’s just not “conservative” enough on social issues.

Personally, I think he should have left it alone and been above it.

Johnson’s never been a single-issue candidate and has always done well articulating his platform and discussing his ideas, be it tax incentives, education or anything else.

The attacks got to him a little.

Still, the constant barrage of “who’s conservative” doesn't really get us to a decision making place come Election Day.

Look at the issues, not the rhetoric.


John Beaudoin is the publisher of the Lee’s Summit Journal. To comment, call 816-282-7001 or e-mail

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