2016 election primer
October 17, 2016
Written By Adam Buckallew
The November election is shaping up to be a momentous occasion. There are a wide range of national and state-wide offices up for grabs and some important ballot measures for voters to consider. We’ve highlighted a few of the important races and questions voters will be deciding upon.
For months, Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump battled through primary elections for their respective party nominations. Now the stage is set for a historic presidential election that will play a pivotal part in shaping the direction of the nation’s future.
The differences between the candidates are stark.
Clinton is a Washington veteran and lifetime politician with experience as a U.S. senator, the secretary of state and a former first lady of the United States.
Meanwhile, Trump, who made his name – and his multibillion-dollar fortune – as a real estate mogul and reality television personality, basks in his role as a political outsider.
No matter which candidate wins, the election will make history for a few different reasons.
Age is only a number, or is it?
Regardless of whether Trump or Clinton wins in November, the next president will be quite a bit older than Barack Obama, who, at age 47, was the fifth-youngest U.S. president to be elected. Trump turned 70 on June 14 and would be the oldest president in the history of the United States if he were to be elected. While Clinton is younger than Trump, it’s not by much (she turns 69 on Oct. 26). Ronald Regan was the only president of similar age when he took office. He was 69.
Breaking down gender barriers
Clinton made history when she accepted the Democratic nomination for the presidency. As the first woman ever to be selected by a major U.S. party to run for the office of the president, she’s one step away from capping a truly historic campaign. The only other women to be part of a presidential ticket for a major party are Sarah Palin, who was the running mate of Republican John McCain in 2008, and Geraldine Ferraro, who Democrat Walter Mondale named as his vice presidential pick in 1984.
The non-traditional candidate
Not since the 1928 election, when Herbert Hoover won the presidency, has a candidate had as little political or military leadership experience as Trump. If he were to win, Trump would be the first president in more than 60 years without experience holding a congressional or gubernatorial office. Dwight Eisenhower, who served as Supreme Command of the Allied Forces in World War II, was the last person to be elected president without political experience when he won the 1952 election. Trump points to his business empire as proof of his leadership skills and hopes to pick up votes from Americans who are dissatisfied with the status quo in Washington.
Race for Missouri Governor
In something of a mirror of the presidential race, the two candidates vying to take up residence at the Missouri Governor’s Mansion are Chris Koster, a Democrat with a long political resume, and Republican Eric Greitens, a businessman who has branded himself as a non-establishment candidate seeking reform. In a strange twist, both men were formerly members of the other political party.
Koster’s political career began with his election as the Cass County prosecuting attorney, and he held that office for 10 years before moving on to the state Senate. In 2007, he left the Missouri Republican Party citing divergent views on many issues, such as stem cell research, workers’ rights and the non-partisan court plan. Koster successfully ran for attorney general the next year as a Democrat and won reelection in 2012. His eight years as the state’s top law enforcement official have given Koster plenty of name recognition. He easily won the Democratic primary with 78 percent of the vote.
Like Gov. Jay Nixon, Koster is typically viewed as a moderate Democrat who sometimes breaks from the party line to support conservative issues. He’s an advocate of the death penalty, supported the state’s 2nd Amendment referendum in 2014 and is in favor of lowering taxes on businesses. As attorney general, Koster sued the Environmental Protection Agency for over-reaching its federal authority with the controversial “Waters of the U.S.” rule, which farmers feared would lead to harmful restrictions on how they use their land.
Koster’s centrist approach and his support for the 2014 “Right to Farm” amendment have won him endorsements from traditionally Republican groups such as the Missouri Corn Growers Association, the Missouri Soybean Association, the Missouri Cattlemen’s Association and most notably, the Missouri Farm Bureau – the first time the organization has ever endorsed a Democrat running for statewide office.
While Greitens has never held public office, he does have experience as a leader in the military and private sector. The retired Navy SEAL and one-time Democrat’s background includes four tours of duty overseas with deployments in Afghanistan and Iraq. When he returned home from combat, Greitens founded The Mission Continues, a Missouri-based non-profit that helps returning veterans get back on their feet and give back to their communities.
Greitens was a bit of surprise to emerge from a grueling four-way GOP primary that featured Lieutenant Governor Peter Kinder, former Speaker of the Missouri House of Representatives Catherine Hanaway and businessman John Brunner, who was a U.S. Senate candidate in 2012. Greitens captured 35 percent of the vote, topping Brunner’s 25 percent. Kinder and Hanaway took 21 and 20 percent, respectively.
Just as Trump has railed against the Washington establishment, Greitens has embraced the role of the outsider, claiming he will “clean up Jefferson City” and vowing to oppose “corrupt politicians, well-paid lobbyists and special-interest insiders taking the state in the wrong direction.” Greitens’ campaign website outlines a number of positions, including backing of the 2nd Amendment, his pro-life beliefs, support for “Right to Work” legislation, a goal to shrink governmental budgets, simplification of Missouri’s tax code and a willingness to fight federal overreach that would negatively impact family farms. He has the endorsement of the Missouri Chamber of Commerce.
Tobacco Tax Battle
For years, Missouri’s tobacco tax of 17 cents per pack of cigarettes has been the lowest in the country. The average tax on a pack of 20 cigarettes in the United States is $1.65. In November,
Missouri voters will see a pair of competing initiative petitions aimed at raising those taxes for the first time since 1993. Missouri is just one of three states – along with North Dakota and California – that has yet to increase taxes on cigarettes since the turn of the century.
The first initiative is a constitutional amendment known as Amendment 3. It proposes to raise the taxes on name-brand cigarettes by 60 cents a pack and off-brand cigarettes by $1.27 per pack over the next four years.
Amendment 3 is backed by an organization called Raise Your Hands for Kids, which has received more than $2 million from RAI Service Company of Winston-Salem, N.C., the parent company of R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company (RJR).
RJR is supporting this tax proposal because it wants to end the pricing differences between its products and those of off-brand cigarettes. The pricing disparity exists because of the Master Settlement Agreement, a pact between 46 states and Big Tobacco which requires the companies to pay states billions of dollars in money for costs the states paid in extra health care as a result of the major tobacco companies hiding the health dangers of their products. Missouri receives about $130 million each year under the agreement and has collected roughly $2.2 billion since 2001.
The money raised from Amendment 3 (about $300 million per year) would go toward the newly established Early Childhood Health and Education Trust Fund.
The Missouri Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association (MPCA), of which MFA Oil is a member, opposes Amendment 3 and argues its purpose is to help RJR gain market share by snuffing out value brand competition rather than helping children. The amendment contains controversial language that restricts how the money can be used – prohibiting spending on abortion services and embryonic stem-cell research. Another point of contention with Amendment 3 is that it would undermine the Blaine Amendment, which bans giving taxpayer money to private schools, by providing funding to both public and non-public schools.
Proposition A is the competing ballot measure backed by the MPCA that would institute a statutory tax increase rather than a constitutional amendment. If passed, Proposition A would raise the price of cigarette taxes by 23 cents a pack over a three-year period, starting at 13 cents per pack the first year and adding an additional 5 cents per pack in subsequent years. It’s estimated Proposition A would provide around $100 million annually for state transportation projects.
Ron Leone, executive director of the MPCA, has touted his group’s plan as the more sensible of the two.
“We think the unreasonable and outrageous tax increase is going to fail,” Leone said. “People are going to say ‘no’ to (that) again.”
Proposition A includes a roll-back provision that would automatically nullify its 23-cent tax if another tobacco tax hike is passed in the future. The roll-back provision was added to alleviate convenience store owners’ concerns of tobacco taxes increasing too quickly.
The passage of either of the cigarette tax proposals is no sure thing. Missouri voters rejected triple-digit tax increases on cigarettes in 2002, 2006 and 2012. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 23.1 percent of adult Missourians are smokers, among the highest rates in the nation.
Oklahoma Right to Farm
Oklahomans are set to vote on a state constitutional amendment designed to protect family farmers and ranchers from unreasonable government interference and attacks by out-of-state special interest groups.
State Question 777 – referred to as the “Right to Farm” amendment – would add a section to the Oklahoma Constitution that would create a constitutional right for farmers and ranchers to use agricultural technology, livestock procedures and ranching practices.
The amendment – supported by all of Oklahoma’s leading agriculture organizations – is meant to defend farmers and ranchers from unwarranted laws and regulations in the future, including ballot initiatives. Right to Farm laws are on the books in every state, but not all are included in state constitutions as they are in Missouri.
“SQ 777 will protect our ability to use science-based production methods to humanely produce food and fiber,” said Terry Detrick, president of the American Farmers & Ranchers/Oklahoma Farmers Union. “We are in a daily struggle with adverse weather conditions, burdensome regulations and contrary markets. SQ 777 will lend stability to our industry by encouraging younger generations to be involved in agriculture without worrying about outside influences with an anti-agriculture agenda.”
The state question appears on the ballot as a result of legislation that was passed in 2015. A lawsuit claiming the ballot initiative was unconstitutional was filed by a coalition known as Save the Illinois River, Inc., but the Oklahoma Supreme Court dismissed the suit in August.
“The legal challenge to State Question 777 was nothing but a last-ditch effort by radical in-state and out-of-state groups to silence the voice of Oklahomans,” said Tom Buchanan, president of the Oklahoma Farm Bureau. “Thanks to the wisdom of the Oklahoma Supreme Court, the measure now will be decided by Oklahoma voters, rather than the liberal minority.”