Burns challenges incumbent Lembke for 85th District Missouri House seat in Nov. 7 election

Bob Burns

Photo by Mark Gilliland Photography 314/9

Bob Burns


Democrat Bob Burns is challenging Republican incumbent Jim Lembke for the 85th District Missouri House seat in the Nov. 7 election.

Burns, who defeated Democrat Thomas Organ of Concord in the August primary, hopes to unseat Lembke, who has held the 85th District Missouri House seat since 2002.

Asked to identify the most important issue in the race, the two candidates gave the following responses:

• “A compassionate government of the people, by the people and for the people …,” Burns stated.

• “Balanced state budget, no tax increases, job creation,” Lembke stated.

Burns, 58, 9057 Southview, 63123, is employed by Grey Eagle Distributors. He and his wife, Dianne, have two grown children.

Burns served four three-year terms on the Affton Board of Education and was a St. George alderman for two years. He also served for three years on the staff of former U.S. Rep. Richard Gephardt, D-south county, and was co-chairman of Lemay on the Move, an organization that supported a Lemay casino sought by Ameristar Casinos.

He is seeking election to the 85th District House seat “to make a positive change for all Missourians, especially our senior citizens, children and our most vulnerable.”

Lembke, 45, 812 Ann Lynn Court, 63125, is a full-time legislator. He and his wife, Donna, have two school-age children.

He is seeking re-election “to be a strong voice for residents of the 85th District and a good steward of the taxpayers’ money.”

The candidates gave the following responses to a Call questionnaire:

What is your position on abortion?

Burns said, “I am a pro-life Democrat. I believe in counseling, education (and) family planning.”

Lembke said, “I am 100 percent pro-life.”

What is your position on the death penalty?

Burns said, “In light of the recent moratorium, I believe the death penalty should be reviewed. Furthermore, it makes better fiscal sense to use life without parole, especially after so many innocent people have been found awaiting the death penalty.”

Lembke said, “Because of lengthy appeals that cost the taxpayers millions and put an undue burden on the Public Defender’s Office, I support a moratorium on the death penalty. It is much more cost effective to have life without parole.”

What is your position on tax-increment financing?

Burns said, “Tax-increment financing has been abused. I believe there should be a much stricter definition of blight because of long-lasting financial damage to our school and fire districts.”

Lembke said, “TIFs can be a proper tool of good government. Under current law, I believe they are overused and abused. Reform is needed.”

Would you support placing a constitutional amendment before voters that, if approved, would repeal the supermajority requirement for school district bond issues?

Burns said, “As a 12-year member of the Affton Board of Education, I saw firsthand the benefits of bond issues for schools and the community. Therefore, I feel a supermajority is unwarranted.”

Lembke said, “No, I believe we should be very careful in changing our Constitution. We should always err in protecting the taxpayers from expanding government.”

Are changes needed to the state’s foundation formula for funding education?

Burns said, “Yes. The school districts in south county are being shortchanged. Affton, Lindbergh, Mehlville (and) Bayless aren’t getting their fair share.”

Lembke said, “Yes, under the current formula most urban districts receive only a small portion of their funding from the state formula. I support a new system of funding that would be more equitable.”

Are changes needed to the law allowing Missouri citizens to carry concealed weapons?

Burns said, “American citizens have the right to bear arms. However, I along with an almost 2-to-1 majority in south county voted against concealed weapons. Jim Lembke voted for them in Jefferson City.”

Lembke said, “No, the law that was passed allowing Missourians to exercise their 2nd Amendment rights is working well.”

Are changes needed to the state’s current Open Meetings and Records Law?

Burns said, “All meetings should be open to the public with the exception of meetings discussing hiring and firing of personnel and acquisition of land. The public has a right to open meetings.”

Lembke said, “Let the sun shine in.”

What measures, if any, will you propose to encourage economic development in this area?

Burns said, “I was co-chair of Lemay on the Move, which worked hard to bring 3,000 jobs — 2,000 regular, 1,000 construction — to the (former) National Lead site in Lemay. I will work hard to bring more economic development.”

Lembke said, “I have supported policies and legislation that have created more than 40,000 new jobs in Missouri over the last year. I will continue to support policies that will attract employers to Missouri and protect high-paying jobs.”

Are you satisfied with the eminent do-main legislation signed into law by Gov. Matt Blunt? Are changes needed?

Burns said, “No, I am not. We need total protection for our citizens. It should never be used simply for profit for a company like the fiasco in Sunset Hills.”

Lembke said, “I think the eminent domain law passed last year is a good start. We still have much to do in protecting private property rights. I support legislation that would prohibit the taking of private property for private development. We need to tighten the definition of blight. We need to strengthen the definition of public benefit.”

The Legislature two years ago approved legislation protecting Missouri residents from Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation, or SLAPP, lawsuits. Should the provisions of this legislation be expanded? If so, what would you propose?

Burns said, “Yes. They should be expanded to protect citizens outside of public forums.”

Lembke said, “I would support any further changes that would protect a citizen’s right to be involved in public discourse. Our right to freedom of speech is a fundamental right. I am always in favor of more openness in government.”