U.S. Fourth District Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler was the latest candidate to speak with the Pettis County Pachyderm Club during its meeting Friday afternoon at Best Western State Fair Inn.
Hartzler will face fellow Republican candidate John E. Webb, of Cleveland, Democrats Gordon Christensen, of Columbia, and Jack Truman, of Lamar, and Libertarian Mark Bliss, of Warrensburg, in the Aug. 2 primary election.
Hartzler opened her remarks by talking about the Orlando nightclub shooting last weekend, noting what she thinks President Barack Obama should be focusing on.
“This week started off pretty sober with what happened in Orlando, so we are obviously very sad about that tragedy, but what is also sad is how this president has tried to turn this into an issue just dealing with LGBT communities instead of focusing on the problem, which is terrorism, radical Islamic terrorism,” Hartzler told the group. “We’re trying to, while we mourn the losses, make sure this isn’t turned into a gun control issue like the president wants to and he wants to not focus on the problem. We’re still waiting on the president to come up with a strategy to deal with ISIS.”
Instead of speaking about her candidacy for re-election, Hartzler focused on informing those gathered about recent legislation and other happenings in Congress she has been involved in, including fighting wasteful spending. She cited a recent example she’s worked on for several years — a duplicative catfish inspection program.
All seafood is inspected by the FDA, Hartzler explained, while beef, poultry and pork is inspected by the USDA, but in the 2008 Farm Bill “a senator who has catfish farms in his district, in conference discussion on the bill, he inserted in there to pull out just catfish inspection with FDA and put it with USDA,” Hartzler said. “The reason was to make a trade barrier with Vietnam and other countries trying to import because it’s a different system. The problem is not only is it wrong, it’s very costly — it costs $700,000 a year to inspect through FDA, this is estimated to be about $15 million a year.”
An amendment from Hartzler doing away with the new inspections was taken out of a more recent Farm Bill. Now there is a Resolution of Disapproval regarding the program, which has been passed by the Senate and will most likely be put to a House vote soon.
As a member of the Armed Services Committee with both Fort Leonard Wood and Whiteman Air Force Base in her district, Hartzler spent a large portion of her time with the Pachyderm talking about the military. She said she is fighting to keep the A-10 at Whiteman and possibly bringing another aircraft to the base.
Hartzler said her No. 1 goal last year was to stop cuts to defense spending.
“I’m the only member of Armed Services on budget and I asked to be on budget committee so I can advocate for more funding for our military because we are in a desperate state. The threats are exponentially exploding around us and then our country is cutting the military? This is lunacy,” she said. “I fought all year to try to stop these cuts, to find money to replace it, to get support from some of my friends. We got that in the final deal so I felt I needed to support (the omnibus, an appropriations bill for the Fiscal Year) because that’s what I had worked on and they put it in there, partly because of my advocacy.”
One member of the audience asked, “In your opinion, is Donald Trump a help or hindrance for the down-ballot candidates in November?”
“Talking to colleagues around the country, it just depends on what part of the country you’re from,” she replied. “I think most people feel fairly positive about it around here, but some of my colleagues who are in Democrat seats or close seats, they’re a little nervous about it.
“… When you look at some of the data too, he has put together a different coalition and Independents are interested. Many Democrats are supportive who haven’t been interested in our candidates. … I feel there’s some opportunity there to pick up new people.
“If Hillary (Clinton) continues to be (the Democratic) candidate, I think that’s only going to help us, especially if they come out with an indictment recommendation on her,” she added.
Hartzler also brought up another hot button topic: gender neutral bathrooms.
“They have magically redefined what the word ‘sex’ means. It doesn’t mean male/female anymore, it means even gender identity,” she explained. “As a school, if you have a boy who says ‘I think I’m a girl today,’ he can use all your facilities, including bathrooms … because we would not want him to feel embarrassed.
“This is a huge violation against privacy, not only common sense, but privacy rights of our other students, and basic decency. … It is just guidance, so it’s not law … I’ve written a letter encouraging (schools) not to.”
Gubernatorial candidate Catherine Hanaway will speak at the next Pachyderm meeting at noon Friday at Best Western State Fair Inn.
Nicole Cooke can be reached at 660-530-0138 or @NicoleRCooke.