Higher education funding and the state budget were the dominant topics in the most recent state senate debate between incumbent Republican Senator Kurt Schaefer and his Democratic challenger, Representative Mary Still.
The debate was held last night in Allen Auditorium in the Arts and Science building on MU's campus.
Just a month shy of their showdown at the ballot box, Schaefer and Still had sharp exchanges on a variety of subjects, most with a common theme - where is the money going to come from to keep the University of Missouri competitive and vibrant, and who is to blame for past higher education budget cuts? The challenger, a sitting member of the House Appropriations - Education Committee, got in some early body blows.
“In the three years that he has been head of appropriations, state funding for this University has gone down $23 million,” Still said.
However, Senator Schaefer, the current chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, fired back.
“You’ve got to look at, people can say whatever they want to say, but do you have the right people in the right position and do they have the right skill set to make sure that they’re not just there lobbing bombs at everybody for one political party. But they’re there actually making relationships with people that down the road they can work with to get those things like funding for the University of Missouri,” Schaefer said.
Still also denied reports that she allegedly bribed former Rep. Nancy Copenhaven, also a Democrat, to back out of the 47th district primary in August. When an audience member asked Still if the bribe allegations were true, the atmosphere turned tense.
“I certainly was not in a position, nor did I offer anybody any money," said Still. "I have my own campaign I’m trying to fund. That is not true."
The reports surfaced after Mike Martin of The Columbia Heart Beat blog said he received an email from Copenhaven saying that Still had offered her money to switch districts. Still, along with Schaefer, are running for a four-year term in the newly created Boone and Cooper Senate District 19. Senator Schaefer and Representative Still are both from Columbia.
Correction: A previous version of this story quoted Rep. Mary Still as saying that state funding for MU decreased by $23 billion. The actual figure was $23 million.