Burns, Organ seek Democratic nod in 85th District

Candidates answer Call’s exclusive survey

Bob Burns

Bob Burns

By MIKE ANTHONY

An Affton man and a Concord man are vying in the Aug. 8 Democratic primary for the opportunity to face Rep. Jim Lembke, R-Lemay, in the November general election.

Bob Burns of Affton and Thomas Organ of Concord are seeking the Democratic nomination for the 85th District Missouri House seat currently held by Lembke, who is unopposed in the primary and is seeking a third two-year term in the Nov. 7 election.

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

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

• “The health-care system is broken and needs to be fixed. It is the key to the budget,” Organ 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 the Democratic nomination for the 85th District House seat “to make a positive change for all Missourians, especially our senior citizens, children and our most vulnerable.”

Organ, 28, 4636 Longspur Drive, is employed as a general merchandise/drug sales person for Schnuck Markets Inc. He is single.

Organ, who has not previously held elective office, said he is seeking the Democratic nomination for the 85th District House seat because “we need a fresh face and a new voice to carry our message.”

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.”

Organ said, “I am pro-life, and the only candidate who meets all three criteria: 1) I oppose abortion; 2) embryonic stem-cell research and human cloning; and 3) I care about people.”

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.”

Organ said, “My position is neutral. I’ve asked myself this question many times: If a family member was murdered, what would I want? And I always think that I would want the criminal apprehended so that no other people are hurt. I don’t think I would want vengeance. However, I am neutral on the issue.”

What is your position on tax-increment financing? Are changes needed to this law?

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.”

Organ said, “TIFs have their place in this world, but have been badly abused. We must restrict them more. A bipartisan effort is the only way progress will be made. I am biased towards homeowners.”

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.”

Organ said, “I support this. It’s only fair that a simple majority should rule. However, voters must also pass the amendment, and voters must also approve the bond issue. Voters should have the power, and they will not pass measures for tax increases if money is being squandered.”

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.”

Organ said, “Missouri is a progressive state and this law will not change. I support the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) and the Bill of Rights — our Founding Fathers were brilliant. We also must support our hunters and sportsmen. I don’t believe that Rep. Lembke should vote against his constituents …”

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.”

Organ said, “No. This law needs to be enforced. The spirit of the Sunshine Law is that meetings of public bodies be open to the public. This is important and I am for it.”

Are you satisfied with the eminent domain 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.”

Organ said, “Yes, it was a good bill and a step forward. I would have liked to see stronger legislation protecting homeowners, but increased notification and the protection of farmland were good. The bill got bipartisan support on a very difficult issue from rural, urban and suburban lawmakers.”

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.”

Organ said, “This was an excellent bipartisan bill that gained overwhelming support. I would support anything that perfects it to protect First Amendment rights. Citizens must have input in their communities without being threatened.”

What do you propose to make health-care accessible and affordable to Missouri citizens?

Burns said, “First, a serious effort has to be made to stop fraud and abuse. Second, the 100,000 people cut from their insurance should be restored.”

Organ said, “This issue is the key to the Missouri budget as money gets wasted on administrative costs and insurance company profits. We should set up a program that competes with insurance companies in order to lower costs for consumers. My plan doesn’t affect doctors or drug companies. We should start by helping the over 100,000 children here in Missouri with no health insurance at all. We can do it.”