Salem, MO – 12 republican congressional hopefuls appeared before a crowd of over 150 people at the Salem City Hall in an interview style forum. To start the program all 12 were asked to come to the front of the room and turn in their cell phones to the timekeeper.
Then all 12 were escorted out of the auditorium to a separate room so they could not hear the other candidate’s answers. They were then brought in alphabetically one at a time and asked the same 5 questions, except for Lt. Governor Peter Kinder who was asked why he would leave the Lt. Governor’s office to serve in Congress. Kinder answered by reiterating his longtime passion for federal issues.
The questions each candidate were asked related to gun control, their ability to raise the funds necessary to mount a successful campaign, poverty, and if they disagreed with incumbent Congresswoman Jo Ann Emerson’s vote on the fiscal cliff measure.
The candidates in attendance were: Wendell Bailey, Jason Crowell, Peter Kinder, Bob Parker, Todd Richardson, Jason Smith, Lloyd Smith, Pedro Sotelo, Sarah Steelman, Clint Tracy, John Tyrrell, and Wayne Wallingford.
Jason Crowell – Crowell’s baritone voice boomed throughout the Salem City Hall reminding some of the infamous filibusters of his senate career. Crowell drew contrasts with other candidates on many issues and bellowed that he had the scars to show for standing up for his conservative principles, and put everyone from John Boehner to the Post-Dispatch on notice.
Todd Richardson – Anyone who came to Salem wondering if Richardson was seasoned enough to fill shoes of Bill Emerson and A.S.J. Carnahan had to leave feeling assured he was up to the task. Richardson was poised and drew on historical references to make his case. The momentum he has been building will only be bolstered by his performance tonight.
Peter Kinder – Kinder was soft spoken and humble in his appeal to the audience. However two things happened for the front runner: 1) He was not attacked by name, and 2) The question was asked about the Lt. Governor’s office vacancy and he was able to answer it well. Also Kinder was able to spike the ball by pointing to his 6-0 electoral score board.
Sarah Steelman – It was the most striking visual possible, 11 white men of varying ages parade through the meeting hall and then towards the end of the program a striking articulate woman took the stage. For a party struggling to reach out to women Steelman’s appearance on the stage was a vision of opportunities. Steelman also had by far the best answer to the question on whether she could raise the funds to win the general election.
Wayne Wallingford – Wallingford was hurt by being the last speaker on a long program, but his presence and his resume demand he be taken seriously. While he had solid measured answers to each question, he stood out best by his creative use of social media. While the other candidates twitter accounts were frozen as their cell phones were lying on a table at the front of the room Wallingford was able to answer questions in real time by the very creative and clever use of his twitter account.
Jason Smith – The hometown hero brought his A game. He was hyped from the start and launched into passionate answers of each question. However, what really made him a winner was the fact that Senator Dan Brown was not in attendance. Brown deciding not to seek the nomination would likely be a big boost to Smith’s candidacy.
The City of Salem – Whoever wins this nomination will have a soft spot in their hearts for Salem. The cell phone awkwardness and other quirks will go down in southeast Missouri political history like the conference call back in 96 between Peter Kinder, Lloyd Smith, Mark Richardson, and David Steelman where it was decided Jo Ann Emerson would be asked to run for a “couple of terms”. Moreover, any city wins when it has the opportunity to host Amber Richardson and Casey Crowell.
Awkwardness Silence – How awkward must that room where 12 candidates all seeking the same job were cooped up for two hours have been. When you take into account three of them were Crowell, Lloyd Smith, and Kinder and your heart goes out to Todd Richardson who by virtue of being the most charismatic and affable person in the room likely had to make 2 hours of conversation, probably filled with awkward silences.
The Cool Kids Table – Everyone in the room was wishing they were in the back corner watching the forum with the cool kids Josh Haynes, Shane Schoellner, and Shelley Keeney.
Wendell Bailey – You just have to love Wendell.
Clint Tracy – He took a different approach to the questions than other candidates and it didn’t seem to click. Going towards the end didn’t help matters. There will be a lot of pressure on him to perform well in Cape Girardeau next week.
John Tyrrell – He is an affable person who may be a serious candidate for state representative some day. He is certainly making a lot of friends in this process.
Bob Parker – He had several supporters in the crowd, and you feel he nearly always has a great speech on the tip of his tongue, but a forum where he is timed doesn’t do him any favors.
Lloyd Smith – Smith has a pitch perfect delivery, and his message that the federal government has been making poor decisions for 20 years would likely be compelling to this audience….if Smith hadn’t been on the federal government payroll for the better part of the last 30 years. Although he did seem to gain some traction with the crowd reminding them of his years as a federal government employee. It seems that many people agree there is a problem with the federal government. The question is will they buy the argument: I’m Lloyd Smith with experience from the federal government and I’m here to help?
Pedro Sotelo – He is an articulate and very nice person….from Kansas City. It would be like Wendell Bailey challenging Congressman Cleaver. There is just no logical rationale for taking his candidacy seriously except he has driven hundreds of miles to be at two candidate forums.
Jo Ann Emerson – Not only did all 12 candidates say they did not agree with her vote on the fiscal cliff, one of the questions asked each candidate was unflattering to the congresswoman. More to the point no one defended her record or even mentioned her name as someone they would model themselves after.
Squirrels – The plight of the rural tree squirrel was thrust into the public domain at the forum thanks to the moderator informing the audience that she loved guns so much she even shot a squirrel for breakfast this morning…the humanity.
The next forum will be Thursday the 17th in Cape Girardeau. We will be live tweeting the event. Follow our coverage at @missouritimes.