Candidates battling it out for the top of the GOP primary ballot in the 7th U.S. House District include, from left: Eric Burlison, Mike Moon and Jay Wasson. (Photos by Jym Wilson and Jack McGee)

As the summer heats up, so has the Republican primary for Missouri’s 7th Congressional District. While the other candidates are looking for an upset, Eric Burlison, Mike Moon and Jay Wasson appear to be leading the pack.

All of them are conservative, and by any means share similar views on a lot of issues. But, it’s their differences that will ultimately decide whom Republican voters will put on the November ballot — which, in turn, will likely decide U.S. Rep. Billy Long’s successor.

The primary election is Aug. 2.

In addition to the frontrunners, the candidate field consists of Republicans Sam Alexander, Alex Bryant, Paul Walker, Audrey Richards and Camille Lombardi-Olive, and Democrat and Independents John M. Woodman, Kristen Radaker-Sheafer, Bryce F. Lockwood and Kevin Craig. 

Burlison, Moon and Wasson have political name recognition like none of the others in the race, with a combined 38 years experience in Missouri’s General Assembly. 

Jay Wasson has served as a mayor, state representative and state senator, but likes to emphasize his roots as a family farmer before eventually getting into commercial and residential development. (Photo by Jack McGee)

Despite claiming his political career has just been a “sideline,” Wasson certainly stands out as the most experienced candidate when it comes to time spent in elected office. Prior to terming out in both Missouri’s House and Senate, Wasson served as a council member and mayor for the city of Nixa. While not elected offices, he also spent time on Nixa’s Planning and Zoning, Industrial and Park Boards. 

“My political career up to now has always been more or less a sideline,” Wasson said. “There are people who have just done politics, that’s kind of been their thing. That’s not me, my business career has always been there right along with the political career.” 

Prior to running for political office, Wasson ran his family farm before eventually getting into commercial and residential development, which he remains involved in.

Eric Burlison, candidate for Missouri’s 7th U.S. Congressional seat, speaks at a luncheon meeting of the Greene County Republican Women’s Club in Springfield on Monday, July 12, 2022. (Photo by Jym Wilson)

Burlison, the incumbent senator for Missouri’s 20th District and former representative for the 133rd House District for the eight-year maximum, has spent much of his career in information technology, from building websites to pay his way through college and eventually becoming an Oracle consultant for CoxHealth. Additionally, Burlison’s MBA focused on economics and finance, and he currently works as a private investment adviser. 

Like Burlison, Moon also termed out in the Missouri House and currently serves as a state senator, in District 29. Moon, a North Carolina native, came to Missouri to attend school at Baptist Bible College and Missouri State University, where he got a secondary teaching degree. He now resides in Ash Grove, where he owns a farm. 

The other candidates have diverse career backgrounds; Radaker-Sheafer is a Joplin-based baker, Richards is a former SBNation sports reporter, and Bryant is a minister and author. These are just a few examples of the rest of the field’s attempt to avoid letting another career politician get elected to Washington.

Following are some of the key issues addressed by Burlison, Moon and Wasson in public appearances and in interviews with the Springfield Daily Citizen. Watch for a story soon on how the candidates see the importance of an “America First” agenda.

Inflation and the economy

As inflation hits a 40-year high, the top candidates have different ideas on how to deal with it.

“When you’re in a recession, the thing that a government is supposed to do is lower interest rates to bring you out of the recession,” Wasson said. “When you’re in high inflation, the thing that the government is supposed to do is raise interest rates to slow down the inflation. What do you do if you got both? And that’s the place that they’ve put us in. I think, at this point, it’s been so mismanaged and so mishandled, that it’s going to be really painful getting out of it, but the first thing you have to do is balance the budget.” 

While it can be hard to gauge whether or not the U.S. is in a recession until we have been in it for some time, the U.S. is not officially in one. A “recession” is declared by the National Bureau of Economic Research; and while the GDP contracted in the first quarter of 2022, the Bureau of Economic Analysis attributes the woes to private inventory investment, reduced exports and a decrease in government spending, not other factors that play a role in determining a recession, such as employment rates and consumer spending. 

“First and foremost, we need to make sure that our energy industry understands that we’re not out to get them, because that’s what’s holding them back from investing or doing any kind of exploration for future resources,” Burlison said. “Gasoline is high because the futures for oil are extremely high and the reason why futures are extremely high is because there is a posture from the [Biden] administration that we are going to either regulate you or tax you to death in the future.”

Additionally, Burlison thinks regulations that can result in higher gasoline usage should be reduced, such as the ten-hour and 300-feet rules in the trucking industry.

Moon shared similar views as Burlison in implementing policies to combat inflation that relieve pressures in the energy industry and also thinks the U.S. should seek to become more energy independent and temporarily reduce foreign aid.

STORY CONTINUES BELOW:

Gun wall at Eagle Pawn & Jewelry.(Photo by Shannon Cay Bowers)

Guns and crime

Wasson thinks the federal government should leave crime to be handled primarily by individual states, but is supportive of Congress making more funding available, especially with staffing shortages in recent years. 

Regarding the recent gun legislation passed by the federal government that closed the boyfriend loophole (in which unmarried, convicted domestic abusers can still own guns), made available funding for mental health resources, and incentivized states to implement “red flag” laws (which would allow a judge to temporarily take away an individuals’ firearms based on the suspicion that they are a threat to themselves or others), Wasson only showed support for one component. 

“The mental health situation I’d be all for trying to find some ways to do something there,” Wasson said. “The biggest problem I’ve got with ‘red flag’ laws is where does it end. I mean, you pass one today and something happens three months down the road or six months down the road and emotions run high again and so now you pass another one.” 

Mike Moon, candidate for Missouri’s 7th U.S. Congressional seat, speaks at a luncheon meeting of the Greene County Republican Women’s Club in Springfield on Monday, July 12, 2022. (Photo by Jym Wilson)

Moon sees “red flag” laws as an infringement on the Second Amendment, and thinks law-abiding citizens should be able to carry firearms concealed or open, suggesting that anyone could potentially prevent a shooting from occurring. However, Moon stressed the need for gun owners to educate themselves on how to properly use firearms, or bear the consequences if used incorrectly.  

“I believe something that Rand Paul stated is that ‘the true answer for a bad guy with his gun is a good guy with better aim,’” Moon said.

Moon reiterated that he would do nothing to harm the rights of the Second Amendment and said that law-abiding citizens should be on the ready to protect themselves and others because “no law will stop murdering violence.”

Burlison, similar to Moon, was in complete disagreement with the new federal gun legislation. While he shared the same views as his counterparts on “red flag” laws, he went further as to detail his perception of the law’s attempt to close the boyfriend loophole. 

“[The left] creates a loophole,” Burlison said.

Burlison said that, according to Missouri statutes, assault, or in reference to the new federal law, domestic assault, would only fall under a misdemeanor charge, which shouldn’t result in a loss of rights that a felony conviction would result in. Because of this, he said the gun legislation didn’t close a loophole but opened one. 

“Honestly, I can’t believe that it hasn’t been struck down by the Supreme Court as being unconstitutional,” Burlison. “It is a complete anathema to our complete legal system as a whole.”

On crime, Burlison sees poverty as a direct cause. However, he was quick to note that law-abiding citizens were in a position to use firearms to stop criminal acts. 

“We have a problem with poverty, and we have a problem with people that are in situations where they are choosing a life of crime or drugs because they don’t have other opportunities,” Burlison said. “If you have a job that you got to wake up and go clock in, or maybe you’re going to school because you have an opportunity for a career, then you’ve got something to lose and you’re going to be less likely to be involved in the drug trade or criminal activity. We need to be a country that gives people opportunity.”

Burlison also blamed some of the lack of opportunity on unemployment benefits, and said that we need to stop paying people to not work.

STORY CONTINUES BELOW:

People gather outside the U.S. Courthouse to protest the June 24, 2022 U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning Roe V. Wade. (Photo by Jym Wilson)

Other issues

While Moon and Wasson stressed their support of the trigger law in Missouri following the recent Dobbs decision that overturned Roe v. Wade, they both believe abortion rights should remain a state issue. 

“I am pro-life,” Wasson said. “But, if somebody said to me ‘Would you pass a federal law right now banning abortion?’ No, because my proposition was before this ever happened that it should’ve been the states decision. I’m not going to change that now that it’s went the other way.” 

Moon conveyed his disagreement with any mail-order drugs that had the potential to end the life of a developing fetus, and said that such medications should be prescribed and dispensed in-person.

STORY CONTINUES BELOW:

Eric Burlison and Mike Moon, candidates for Missouri’s 7th U.S. Congressional seat, take questions at a luncheon meeting of the Greene County Republican Women’s Club in Springfield on Monday, July 12, 2022. (Photo by Jym Wilson)

Burlison, who received the Missouri Right to Life endorsement for this race, on the other hand, expressed his willingness to take further steps in the House to limit access to abortions.

“Anything that we can do to stop the practice of abortion, would be, in my mind, stopping people from murdering children,” Burlison said.

Regarding election integrity, both Moon and Wasson think that there should be no federal oversight. Moon is supportive of paper ballots, Voter ID and getting rid of ballot boxes except in polling stations. Wasson is against any federal election law, and thinks the only time the federal government should get involved is when a state is dealing with issues of voter fraud.

Additionally, Moon would like to see some diminishing of the power from the president, the court system and federal agencies to adopt law and policy. “The U.S. Constitution, Article I, Section 1 authorizes only the Congress to make law,” Moon said. “I intend to work to call attention to the unlawful giving of power by the federal government.”

Burlison encouraged voters to look at his record, and reiterated how objectively conservative he considers himself to be.

“I’m not there to work with the swamp; I have a record of being very principled and very conservative,” Burlison said, touting his other endorsements from Conservative Political Action Conference, Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.

Wasson promoted his record as well, and claimed he had more, and better experience. He said that he won’t do things to get headlines and expressed that he just wants to get to work.

“I’m not a guy that runs to the camera,” Wasson said. “You won’t see me on Fox News every other night, that’s not me. I want to do the heavy lifting, I want to do the work.”

STORY CONTINUES BELOW:

Other candidates vie for attention

In a debate hosted on KWTO Radio July 20, all of the Republican candidates in the 7th District primary had an opportunity to share differing viewpoints, and give voters insight on where they stand on some of the issues Wasson, Burlison and Moon discussed with the Springfield Daily Citizen. 

Paul Walker, the former Army colonel, and Alex Bryant, expressed support for a border wall, but Walker took it a step further. He suggested that if Mexico doesn’t cooperate in getting border security under control, the U.S. should impose an ultimatum, that, if they don’t get the migrant flow under control within a certain period of time, the U.S. would declare war on our southern neighbor.

In the attempt to codifiy the right to same-sex marriage at the federal level — amid speculation that the Supreme Court may revisit the issue — only one of the eight Republican candidates, Audrey Richards, expressed direct support.

Bryant, while disapproving of same-sex marriage, indicated his support that it was a personal choice and Walker thinks the codification should be handled at the state level.

Camille Lombardi-Olive, however, strongly opposed the recent measure passed in the U.S. House that protects same-sex marriage from any potential Supreme Court reversal. “I do not believe Congress needs to impune their idiocratic belief structure on the rest of America,” Lombardi-Olive said in the debate.

Richards also stood alone amongst her fellow Republican candidates in not supporting term limits, suggesting the decision to re-elect a politician, no matter the length of their incumbency, should rest with the voter. 

Sam Alexander echoed Wasson’s message on the need to balance the budget and, on school safety, suggested schools should only have one entry and be protected by armed guards. Richards contradicted this by speaking on the impracticality of schools only having a single entry.

Wasson tops campaign fundraising

As the campaigns wind down, so have the campaign funds for some of the candidates. At the most recent filing deadline for each candidate, Jay Wasson tops all of his Republican peers in total receipts, disbursements and cash on hand, with $567,290 left in the bank. Eric Burlison follows with $181,470, having spent roughly the same as Wasson thus far in their campaigns. 

Alexander, Moon and Bryant are the only other candidates with more than $1,000 of cash on hand at $38,061, $28,848, and $13,902, respectively.  

Wasson has received significant donations from the National Automobile Dealers Association PAC, Commerce Bancshares PAC, the Missouri Soybean Association PAC and Johnny Morris, among other wealthy contributions and notable supporters. (Full disclosure: Springfield Daily Citizen Publisher Thomas Carlson has donated the maximum individual amount of $2,900 to Wasson’s campaign, and also recently hosted a fundraiser for Wasson.)

Burlison has received significant donations from the RNC-endorsed WinRed, the House Freedom Fund and the Club for Growth PAC. Other notable contributors include the American Academy of Emergency Medicine PAC (Alexander), Doug Pitt (Bryant) and a significant number of WinRed cash infusions into Moon’s campaign fund.

If Missouri’s 7th Congressional District votes as it has in the general election for the last 62 years, the Republican nominated in the primary will be our next representative in Washington. Voters will head to the polls on Tuesday, Aug. 2 to determine which Republican they want on the November ticket to oppose the Democratic and independent nominees. Polling places open at 6 a.m. and close at 7 p.m.. The Missouri Secretary of State’s website can help you find your polling location and provide a sample ballot of what to expect on election day.

Jack McGee

Jack McGee is a general assignment reporter at the Springfield Daily Citizen, with a focus on regional politics. McGee most recently worked at Carbon Trace Productions, a documentary film company, as a producer. He’s a Missouri State University graduate and former reporter at student-led newspaper The Standard. More by Jack McGee