The race for Senate District 16 should be one to keep an eye as two locals vie for the position currently held by the father of one of the candidates.

The race for Senate District 16 should be one to keep an eye as two locals vie for the position currently held by the father of one of the candidates.

The commonality between Justin Brown and Ryan Dillon is that both hail from Phelps County and call the Rolla community home. Brown is a Republican.

Justin Brown defeated two fellow Republicans in last week’s primary election. He will run against Ryan Dillon for the seat in the Missouri Senate currently held by Brown’s father.

While Brown and Dillon have both been involved in politics, the primary election was the first time either have ventured into the campaign process for themselves.

After spending weeks on the campaign trail, meeting residents and sharing his message, Brown said his strategy will be to keep focusing on meeting with as many people from the 16th district as possible and listening to their concerns and questions.

“We will continue to take our message of “rural values have never failed us” to the people,” he said. “I am committed to make the changes that we have been discussing on the campaign trail across the 16th district of Missouri.”

Dillon said his campaign will remain about bringing people together, to compromise, and reach the solutions that we all know are possible.

“Good ideas transcend partisanship. I’m working to build people up, strengthen communities, and make Missouri a better place to live and work for everybody. As I travel around the district, I continue to be inspired by the people I meet in every community. I believe in the people who live in Missouri’s 16th Senatorial District and the opportunities we can create when we work together,” he said. 

Two issues that will be on voters agendas as they head to the polls in November, is what to do about Missouri’s highway system and how to combat the opioid crisis statewide. We asked the candidates where they stood.

Q&A with the candidates

What is your position on the fuel tax on the November ballot?

Brown: I as a general rule will oppose any new taxes and regulations that stifle business. I know that we can cut waste out of the money that we already receive for our roads and I will work to find the best way to do more with what we have.

Dillon: Deteriorating roads and crumbling bridges are not a partisan issue, they are a public safety issue. I stand with Governor Mike Parson in support of a bipartisan proposal to increase the gas tax in Missouri, which will appear on the ballot in November. The voters in Missouri should have the final say and as long as the funding from the increased gas tax is used for its appropriate purpose, this bipartisan proposal is a commonsense solution to a problem that affects all Missourians.

Missouri has not seen an increase in its gas tax for two decades and the current state of our infrastructure reflects that.  At 17 cents a gallon, Missouri’s current gas tax is 7 cents below the national average and one of the lowest in the nation. The current bipartisan proposal would raise the gas tax by 2.5 cents per year over four years, moving our state just above the national average.

With this small increase, the gas tax in Missouri is projected to raise approximately $290 million annually for roads, bridges and port systems. In addition, it would increase funding for the Missouri State Highway Patrol and generate $123 million for city and county projects. By investing in infrastructure, we would attract new businesses to Missouri, create good-paying jobs across the state, and decrease the amount of money Missourians spend on vehicle maintenance due to wear and tear.

What is your position on a prescription drug monitoring program?

Brown: I have met with local police, state police and DEA agents to discuss the best way to combat the opioid crisis in Missouri. They have universally told me this is important to their success. As long as the information, privacy and rights of the innocent are protected, I support the idea. That's one of the reasons I am endorsed by the Rolla chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police.

Dillon: The first step to solving a problem, is recognizing that we have one. When a teen dies of an overdose every ten minutes, we have a problem. When the United States is 5% of the world’s population and we consume 80% of the world’s opioids, we have a problem. A prescription drug monitoring program (PDMP) is one of the tools that we have to combat this epidemic and we should be utilizing it.

A PDMP works to change prescribing practices by giving physicians access to information about a patient's history with opioids. By implementing this type of program, we can prevent a patient's ability to obtain opioids from multiple providers. In the Missouri State Senate, I would support the creation of a PDMP because it  is a commonsense solution to one of the biggest challenges facing our communities. We cannot wait for a program of this nature to spread county to county, we must create a functioning statewide program that partners with local law enforcement, healthcare professionals, and community leaders. With that being said, a PDMP alone will not solve the opioid crises, but is one of many steps we must take in order to stymie this epidemic.