Add To Favorites

Missouri GOP voters have a standout choice in House primary — with one screaming alarm

Kansas City Star - 7/18/2022

Taylor Burks is the best candidate among the Republicans running in the Aug. 2 primary for the 4th District U.S. House seat being vacated by Rep. Vicki Hartzler.

Burks earns our endorsement even though we share few of the former Boone County clerk’s political views. We do agree with his strong support for Missouri farmers, military veterans and teachers.

All of the candidates in the GOP field are staunch Fox News-style conservatives. Burks, a U.S. Navy veteran from Ozark, demonstrates experience both in and outside of government. That puts him in a better position to work with people from different backgrounds and beliefs.

Burks praised the way schoolteachers worked through the COVID-19 pandemic, supports paying them better — average Missouri salaries rank near the bottom in the country — and said decisions about what goes on in classrooms are best left to local officials.

The Star Editorial Board asked each of the seven Republicans for their time to discuss issues they deem important to voters of their predominantly rural district. Besides Burks, we heard from Kalena Bruce, Bill Irwin and Kyle LaBrue.

The other three running for the GOP nomination did not engage with us, and we can’t endorse them for that reason. Voters should know these candidates’ websites, social media and public comments reveal hyper-extreme right wing positions that are out of step with the larger 4th District and not good for Missouri as a whole.

The four candidates who did take our questions indicated they agree with regressive social positions that characterize today’s GOP: All support Missouri’s draconian abortion restrictions, oppose changes to state gun laws, and favor more parental control over school curriculum.

No candidate admits Biden beat Trump in 2020

It should be disturbing to every voter that none of the four who spoke with us would admit one truth that’s vitally important to our democracy’s future: Donald Trump lost a fair and open 2020 presidential election to Joe Biden.

Burks at least uttered the words “President Biden,” but would not make the simple declaration that Biden beat Trump.

It’s deeply disappointing that any serious candidate for office continues to sustain this nonsense. The election was not stolen. We agree with what longtime Missouri Republican U.S. Sen. John Danforth has said: Perpetuating Trump’s Big Lie is “an attack on our constitutional structure.”

Burks said he believes “people have lost faith in the voting process.” Perhaps, but whose fault is that? Too many Republican officials haven’t pushed back against what most of them know is nothing but deceitful whining from a sore loser reality TV star.

In his two years as county clerk in Boone County — home of the University of Missouri and one of the few counties in Missouri that lean left — Burks worked with the staff of his Democratic predecessor without issue. That impressed us.

He was appointed to the county clerk’s office in 2017 by Eric Greitens, but doesn’t seem to share the disgraced former governor’s counterproductive belligerence. He declined to comment on Greitens’ tight race for the retiring Roy Blunt’s Senate seat.

Republican Greitens is accused by his ex-wife of abusing her and their children. He resigned as Missouri governor in 2018 amid accusations of sexually assaulting his hairdresser and campaign finance violations.

Among the candidates we spoke to, Burks professed the most ability to reach across the political aisle to get things done for all Missourians. He said he’s willing to “listen and engage.” He expressed admiration for the late Ike Skelton, the longtime Democratic 4th District congressman who served as chair of the House Armed Services Committee.

Burks is one of the top fundraisers in this campaign. He’s been accused of living outside his district, but he told us he has always lived inside it and owns property there. There’s no rule on candidate residency, but Burks said he believes it’s important to reside in the district you represent to best understand the issues of those constituents. We agree.

It’s worth noting that Burks touts his endorsement from the needlessly combative and reactionary U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas, and features a tiresome video on his website attacking the media and denying the existence of transgender people. One suspects he might legislate more divisively if elected than his moderate demeanor indicates. We certainly wish voters’ choices in this primary included a kind, traditional Republican more in the mold of Danforth. Still, Burks stood out.

Bruce, a Stockton CPA and fifth-generation cattle farmer — the only woman in the race — is also a serious contender. She has served on several agricultural boards and is active with the Missouri Farm Bureau. Gov. Mike Parson endorsed her, but she lacks political experience.

Osage Beach entrepreneur LaBrue and retired Lee’s Summit police officer Irwin are both affable, but too extreme in their views, and out of their depth to represent Missouri in Congress.

GOP voters should reject the other candidates for the nomination simply for their refusal to engage with members of media organizations who aren’t openly in their ideological corner. We especially urge them to be circumspect about former Kansas City TV news anchor Mark Alford, who is carpetbagging in the 4th. Don’t let name recognition distract from his radical, anti-democratic politics.

Taylor Burks has the experience and temperament to advance to November’s general election. Republican voters can feel good about casting their ballot for him in the primary. But he should also level with them to help bring his party back to the real world.

©2022 The Kansas City Star. Visit Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.