A candidate seeking support in November's election met with voters Friday evening in New Bloomfield.
Russ Carnahan, the Democratic candidate for Missouri lieutenant governor, said he is running to bring unity and change to the state's political system.
"I don't have a lot of patience for what our political system has become," he said. "We need people to work together. With that approach, we will get more done, and there will be less of the political food fight we often see today."
Carnahan, who grew up in Rolla and worked farm jobs to put himself through school, said he has a soft spot for rural Missouri.
"I've made a concentrated effort to travel throughout rural Missouri," he said. "I grew up in rural Missouri, and I've also done a number of small-town round tables with key leaders. We've really spent a lot of time listening."
Carnahan said one of his focuses as lieutenant governor would be the revitalization of small towns in Missouri.
"The No. 1 focus is helping to build up the rural economy," he said. "There's a number of ways we can do that. We need a serious infrastructure initiative. We know when we invest in infrastructure, it creates good paying jobs."
One of the most pressing matters is the need to improve internet access in rural towns, Carnahan added.
"We need to have the ability to have broadband access everywhere," he said. "People need to be able to operate a business anywhere in the world from right here in Missouri. It's the modern day equivalent of rural electrocution in the 1930s."
In conjunction with expanded broadband, Carnahan said focusing on improving health care offerings in the state will also result in more jobs.
"We have to expand Medicaid in the state," he said. "Those are our dollars. At a time when access to health care in rural Missouri is suffering, we need to improve. In addition, many hospitals and chambers of commerce have said this will result in the creation of more jobs."
Gracia Backer, former representative for the Missouri House and the first woman in Missouri's history to serve as party floor leader, said meeting a candidate in person is far more helpful to a voter than the 15-second soundbites on radio and television commercials.
"This is about voters seeing the statewide candidates," she said. "You can have all the Facebook and Twitter interaction, but there's something about meeting a candidate face-to-face and shaking their hand."
Joe Holt, another former member of the Missouri House, said the political landscape in Callaway County has shifted in the last half-decade.
"Fifty years ago tonight, I was presenting myself as a candidate for the state Legislature in front of 1,000 people in Fulton," he said. "The Democrats ran everything at that time."
Holt, who supports Carnahan for lieutenant governor, said Carnahan has been around politics his whole life and thoroughly understands the process.
"Russ is the best qualified candidate," he said. "He understands the government. He worked for us in the house as an assistant clerk early in his career. His father was governor, and his mother was a U.S. Senator. He understands it."
Backer said while some people may try to sling mud at Carnahan's involvement in politics, he has chosen a life of service to the people.
"I believe experience counts," she said. "There's no such thing as a career politician. I'm sick and tired of people using the term career politician as a slam. These are people who have chosen a life of public service."
Larry Doyle Jr., a candidate for eastern district county commissioner, said while some voters may be swayed by party loyalty, at the end of the day, it is the caliber of the person running that should be the main decider for a voter.
"What matters is who we are as people," he said. "I'm a member of the NRA as well as a Democrat. Democrat or Republican, no decision is going to be made to be harmful to the people."
Carnahan said he's politically inspired by leaders of both political parties, but one son of Missouri stands above the rest.
"I'm a Harry Truman Missouri Democrat," he said. "That's just an overall good, common sense approach. The bottom line is we need to make our system work for everyone."