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Cleaver, Turk battle for Missouri’s 5th District

Democratic U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver II cites raising the minimum wage, advocating for immigration reform and pushing for increased access to affordable healthcare as the main issues in his run for a sixth term representing Missouri’s 5th congressional district.

Cleaver is running in the Nov. 4 midterm election against Jacob Turk, a Lee’s Summit Republican who is running for the fifth time, and Libertarian Roy Welborn of Kansas City.

Turk’s top issues are the effects of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare, on small businesses and the economy in general, support of military veterans and the need for members of Congress to increase their availability and responsiveness to their constituents.

Cleaver wants to raise the minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $10.10 an hour, the top issue to which he is “inseparably committed,” he said.
“I’m one of the co-sponsors of (increased minimum wage) legislation,” he told Kansas City Hispanic News. “It’s probably going to die, (despite that) 70 percent of Americans … support an increase in the minimum wage. It does no harm to the U.S. economy, despite all the claims to the contrary.”

Raising the minimum wage would especially affect women, Hispanics and other minorities because they hold a disproportionally large number of minimum wage jobs, he said.

“A lot of them are single moms and they’re trying to make it,” Cleaver said. “They (also) are people trying to uphold one end of a two-income family. … Keep in mind that if you’re an illegal immigrant in this country, you’re going to be treated miserably on a job and have no capacity to complain.”

Turk opposes a mandated increase in the minimum wage and instead favors “a marketplace approach, where government’s role is to help increase skills of workers,” he said.

“An unintended consequence of raising the minimum wage is a decrease in jobs because of increased costs for businesses,” he told Hispanic News. “We have a lot of the federal government that funds a lot of well-intentioned programs. I’ll keep an eye on the flow of dollars to programs like job-training programs. Often the check is written by the federal government, but nobody’s held accountable for results. … As skills increase, increase wages without hurting job availability. A lot of union contracts are tied to increasing the minimum wage.”

Cleaver has been a leader in efforts to reform U.S. immigration law. In September, he and four other U.S. representatives traveled to the U.S.-Mexican border and met with Mexican officials in response to an influx of thousands of minors from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala who’ve fled violence in their countries and sought refuge in the United States.

“Our nation is a 10-day nation,” he said. “We can give something a great deal of attention for 10 days, after which we move on to something new, and that issue has never been resolved. … To keep Americans turned off and not as obsessed with the children as they should be, you say, ‘Because our borders are porous, you need to know that we are opening ourselves up to Ebola contamination and spread, and terrorism.’ So, Americans say, ‘I’m against it.’ That’s unfortunate, but that’s what’s being used.”

Cleaver supports amnesty for the estimated 11 million to 12 million illegal immigrants in the United States, he said.

“With amnesty for people who broke the law, there are requirements that go beyond what is required of other immigrants who followed the law,” he said. “Look, let’s bring the people from the shadows. … It’s unrealistic to think that we’re going to (deport) those folks. Do we say, ‘They’re here. Let them stay here.’ Or do we say, ‘OK, this is a tough decision, but we’ve got to deal with these (people), so let’s set up a system for them.’

Asked about the possibility of continued illegal immigration into the U.S. from Mexico if an amnesty bill were to become law, Cleaver said that U.S. and Mexican immigration offices should be set up at Mexico’s southern border.

“Mexico deports twice the number of illegal immigrants as the United States does,” he said. “They’re not creating the problem in Colombia (and) in Ecuador; we are. We need these immigration offices to deal with unaccompanied minors.”

Turk said it had become clear to him that “the man in the street – the American people – want our immigration system fixed.”

“Before that, we have to secure all our borders and ports of entry,” he said. “The federal government has broken that promise to us. To protect our sovereignty, the federal government has to prove that they’ll protect our borders. Then we can have immigration reform.

“We’re a nation of immigrants,” Turk said. “We have 12 million to 14 million people who entered this country illegally. And we need a system that cuts the red tape for those trying to come to the U.S. legally. We all know immigrants who are here illegally. They’re good people. They work hard.”
Regarding healthcare, Cleaver praised the ACA, but with qualifications.

“We have millions and millions of people who are insured now who weren’t four years ago,” he said. “Who are those people? They are low-income and working- class whites, and brown and black people. Women are no longer considered to be a medical liability because they can have children.”

The ACA “is imperfect, but it is important,” Cleaver said, “in the sense that even with its imperfections, it has enabled 26-year-olds to stay on their parents’ health insurance until they can get out of college.

“If we were a sane nation politically, we would have passed the ACA, looked at all its flaws, sent instructions to the committees of jurisdiction in the House and said, ‘We have to fix parts of this.’ But we’re too politically tribal.”

Turk said he saw fundamental flaws in the ACA.

“As a small business owner, I know that Obamacare is impeding the economic engine of America,” he said. “In fact, it’s burdening small business, which is the job-creation engine of America, so that we are not having jobs created. It’s causing businesses to drop healthcare coverage for their workers. Walmart just dropped healthcare coverage for 30,000 of its part-time workers.”

Turk said that he had worked for the National Association of Insurance Commissioners and had learned how the healthcare insurance industry worked.

“I’m eager to find solutions to getting people covered by healthcare insurance without hurting our seniors, veterans and the businesses that we all rely on for good jobs,” he said. “To repeal Obamacare, we must have a replacement. I suggest creating geographic areas where any health insurer can compete for the business with two conditions: that they can’t turn anybody down in that area and they can’t (increase their rates) for pre-existing conditions. Those are the two problems with healthcare insurance that the American people wanted solved.

“There’s a very workable solution that doesn’t force a government takeover of our whole healthcare system,” Turk said. “Those who need financial help with paying premiums – we help them with federal subsidies based on household income. They can pick the insurer, from the same system we had before Obamacare.”

Turk is a Marine Corps veteran and puts veterans’ issues front and center in his campaign.

“Veterans sometimes need protection from Congress, because they’re politicians,” he said. “We have multiple deployments of men and women who are brought back broken in spirit and body. … We are losing 22 veterans to suicide every single day. When I’m in Washington, D.C., the military and the veterans are going to have an advocate in Congress. If we’re going to be involved in military actions around the world, instead of cutting the military we need to increase the army. … To do otherwise is morally wrong.”

On politician’s responsibility to their constituents, Turk said that members of Congress “need to show up” and make themselves available to citizens.

“Congressman Cleaver doesn’t show up anywhere except to make a speech and drive away,” he said. “I want to hear what’s on their hearts. I bring somebody who actually interacts with people. I’ve driven over 6,000 miles during this election cycle. You can’t be a good representative without getting the wisdom of the people.”

Turk charged that Cleaver has “simply lost touch with folks. He started out on the right path, but like so many of them that get elected and re-elected, they stop listening to the rest of us. I talk to African-Americans in the district, and they say, ‘We see him around election time, but aside from that we don’t see him anymore.’”

Asked about criticism he has received for federal money he’d brought back into the 5th District through earmarks, Cleaver said that he hadn’t heard such criticism but that “it wouldn’t surprise me if it was out there.”

“I would like somebody to run some ads on television criticizing me for bringing money for women’s shelters, for highways and bridges, new buses, money to rebuild Troost, money for I-70. We wouldn’t have the (Christopher S.) Bond

Bridge if Kit Bond had not been able to get the money for that bridge, which was desperately needed.”

Cleaver attributed much of his success in Congress to his former chairmanship of the Congressional Black Caucus.

“It puts you into one of the strongest positions in our federal government,” he said. “As chairman, I was able to do a lot of things because of my higher visibility. I was able to bring in for the first time in history the secretary of agriculture into our district, to Odessa. He’d never heard of Odessa.”

Turk described himself as “an independent thinker.”

“I think that if I can find sincere partners when I’m in Washington, then I think we can find those solutions,” he said. “We can inspire a lot of Americans to come back and get involved in their government.”

According to their most recent campaign-finance filings with the Federal Election Commission, as of Sept. 30: Cleaver raised $848,636 and had $197,825 on hand. Turk raised $102,839 and had $24,724 on hand. Welborn raised no money.