Kerns, Murphy face off for 94th

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Kyle Kerns, left, and Jim Murphy

By Erin Achenbach and Lucas Irizarry

Incumbent Rep. Jim Murphy, R-Oakville, is being challenged by newcomer Kyle Kerns for the 94th District seat in the Missouri House. Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 8.

Kerns, 43, is a certified public accountant and chief financial officer of Cultivation Capital, LLC, a venture capital firm.

When asked why he was seeking office, Kerns said, “I believe representatives should actually listen to the people and focus on serving the public. Lately it seems our representatives in Missouri have gone so far to the extreme that no one is listening to the vast majority of people who just want to live their lives and improve their quality of life. I want to work to be a voice for these people who feel left out of the conversation.”

Murphy, 71, is the owner of Shoppers Rule Inc. He is married to Maryellen and together they have three adult children.

When asked why he  is seeking reelection for his third term, Murphy said, “to continue to work for the citizens of the 94th District.”

The candidates gave the following responses to The Call’s candidate questionnaire:

(Editor’s note: The following questions and answers appeared in the Oct. 6, Oct. 13 and Oct. 20 print editions of The Call. They have been edited to fit in print.)

What issue do you consider the single most important issue in this race and why?

Kerns: “Education. I believe education is the biggest responsibility of government, as it touches every single person in one way or another. We owe it to the next generation to ensure all Missourians can obtain a high-quality education that sets them up for success. And if we can do that, we can improve the economy and improve every person’s life.”

Murphy: “The No. 1 issue I hear about at the doors is crime. One hundred and fifty citizens attended my town hall on crime prevention to express their concerns about the marauding gangs pilfering cars and threatening public safety.”

Other issues you perceive in your race and your position on each:

Kerns: “Protecting health care freedom. Missouri has taken an extreme position on reproductive rights that is out of touch with most residents. The law forces a victim of rape to give birth to her rapist’s baby and takes away a woman’s freedom to make her own health care decisions. We should repeal the current law and replace it with one that protects a woman’s freedoms.”

Murphy: “Everyone is concerned about the state of the economy and the horrific rate of inflation. The legislature must control inflationary spending so that we don’t add to the problem.”

What do you believe are the core responsibilities for someone elected to this office?

Kerns: “A representative should truly represent the residents of the district and work every day to make their lives better.”

Murphy: “Represent the interests of constituents who live in their 94th District. Serve on committees that research and evaluate proposed new laws or modify or update existing laws. Introduce and vote on bills that affect the everyday lives of our citizens.”

What is your position on abortion?

Kerns: “The current Missouri law is too extreme and not in line with most Missourians … The government goes too far when it restricts a woman or girl’s freedom to consider her individual circumstances when determining her health care needs.”

Murphy: “I believe in the sanctity of life.”

What is your position on the death penalty?

Kerns: “Missouri should not have a death penalty. Research has consistently shown it does not in fact serve as a deterrent to criminal activity and is not even fiscally smart as it costs more than alternative punishment.”

Murphy: “I am not in favor of the death penalty even though certain crimes are so heinous it would be just.”

What do you propose to generate revenue for road and bridge improvements?

Kerns: “The state should allow online gambling and recreational marijuana similar to other states. We can then use the tax revenue from both to help improve not only our roads and bridges but also other needs of the state.”

Murphy: “The Missouri Department of Transportation has one of the largest state budgets that is dependent on motor fuel taxes … This funding will not be sustainable in the future with more efficient electric and alternative fuel vehicles … The legislature is currently studying alternative funding mechanisms.”

What will you do to improve Missouri’s economy?

Kerns: “I would start with education. We must recognize a high school diploma is often not enough these days and should promote all higher education tracks to ensure we meet the demands of the future. I would also place an emphasis on bringing new businesses to the area.”

Murphy: “Workforce development is the key to improving our state’s economy … We have made great strides in the legislature to remove bureaucratic roadblocks and make it easier to start a new business. I have and will continue to support reducing unnecessary regulations that stand in the way of economic development.”

How will you advocate for the needs of your district in the legislature?

Kerns: “I will listen to the residents of the district about their needs and work with all members of the legislature to advance programs and policies that address those needs. I will work constantly to build consensus by listening to and talking with all stakeholders on an issue. This means being willing to reach across the aisle and understand that progress happens one small step at a time. I won’t let perfect be the enemy of good when it comes to meeting the needs of the people of this district.”

Murphy: “I work for my constituents every day. When COVID-19 disrupted the lives of many of our citizens, needs were many and I stepped up and provided for those in need. I arranged for 25 food distribution events that delivered over 300 pallets of food and fresh produce to citizens of the 94th. In the early days of COVID-19, vaccinations were not readily available … I … went directly to the governor and arranged a state-run mass vaccine event for the citizens of the 94th. These are just two of many examples of how I advocate for my district.”

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

Kerns: “Tax-increment financing is a tool that if used well can encourage development of areas that otherwise might not happen, so I am in favor of TIFs with changes in order to increase oversight and transparency, more clearly define ‘blight’ and better respect taxpayer rights.”

Murphy: “The original intent of tax increment financing or TIF, subsidies was to encourage redevelopment of blighted areas. The use of TIFs has gone far afield of the original intent. I am generally opposed to the use of TIFs as they punish our school districts, place existing local businesses at a competitive disadvantage and rarely spur development that would not have occurred with or without a TIF.”

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

Kerns: “I would support allowing voters to decide if they want to amend the Constitution in this manner. Because the current requirements are often confusing to voters, I think we should consider a more consistent approach that is easier to convey and easier to understand.”

Murphy: “I would not support placing this in our constitution. Long term taxpayer obligation should be important enough that it will be supported by the vast majority of the citizens having to foot the bill.”

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

Kerns: “We should look not just at concealed carry laws but should take a holistic look at all gun laws to keep guns out of the hands of people whose only intent is to harm others while also protecting law-abiding owners’ rights.”

Murphy: “Concealed carry laws in Missouri have been effective and do not need to be changed. Illegally obtained guns continue to be a problem and I have sponsored legislation that would take these guns off the street. I support strengthening the laws regarding the use of illegally obtained firearms.”

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

Kerns: “The current law is an effective tool to increase citizens’ awareness of the government. I would like to see better enforcement of the current law rather than changes made to it.”

Murphy: “In light of recent events I believe we need to define when remote public meetings are appropriate. Live streaming of meetings is a convenience for many who cannot travel to the meetings but citizens have the right to attend and express their views in person. We must define under what circumstances the public can be excluded from open meetings.”

Would you support legislation to facilitate a merger of St. Louis County and St. Louis city?

Kerns: “Any merger should be decided by a vote of the residents of both jurisdictions. I would support legislation that allows the county and city to vote … but would not support legislation that either requires or prevents such a vote.”

Murphy: “At this time, I see no plan for a merger that would be beneficial for the citizens of the 94th district. Until a plan comes forward that garners citizen support, I am opposed.”

Should police departments be defunded?

Kerns: “No … Rather than defunding them, we should look at ways to help them meet the increasing needs of all residents. This includes competitive pay and additional funding for mental health crisis and de-escalation training.”

Murphy: “Today our police who put their lives on the line … to protect us are under attack by the liberal left … Meanwhile crime continues to rise … The liberal plan to cut funding and undermining confidence in our officers … will reduce the amount of protection our community deserves. I stand with our police and do not support efforts to defund and disarm them.”

What do you think of the leadership of Gov. Mike Parson?

Kerns: “I have been disappointed in several of the decisions Gov. Parson has made, most notably his attack on and threat to prosecute a reporter who found personal private information was available through the state’s public website. Leaders should recognize when they are in the wrong and be willing to apologize.”

Murphy: “Having worked with Mike Parson over the last four years, I have great respect for his sincere desire to move Missouri forward. His priorities of workforce development, education and infrastructure are the right ones … He came from humble beginnings and truly understands the needs of our citizens.”

What do you think of the state’s COVID-19 response?

Kerns: “The state’s leaders had no comprehensive plan, and we received shifting messages from our leadership. At this point, the state’s response should be focused on identifying lessons learned and preparing for the future. I have yet to see any such action.”

Murphy: “I feel the state responded … in a responsible manner. We appropriated $1.6 billion in CARES act funding to local governments, schools, and state agencies. When County Executive Sam Page neglected South County by only offering mass vaccine events in North County, Gov. Parson responded to my request and provided vaccine so that I could hold a mass vaccine event for the citizens of the 94th District.”