Chris Benjamin (left, he’s in there) working the crowd at another Democratic candidate’s event in Johnson County last night.
I’ve covered this open seat race in the 31st Senate District a lot, and I’ll continue to do so. The seat was previously held by Chris Koster (D). The republicans would dearly like to take it back and have tapped David Pearce (r – advocate of automotive deer hunting) to run for the seat.
I spoke with Chris Benjamin at the fairgrounds west of Warrensburg last night after a fundraiser which was held there for Steve Shippy, the Democratic Party candidate for Johnson County Treasurer:
SMP: …where does your campaign stand now?
Chris Benjamin: Things are looking very good right now because I was able to save a lot of the, most of my resources, through the primary, not having a primary opposition. I feel very good about where we stand right now. I got a lot, even though I was unopposed, I felt very good about the votes I did get in the four counties, Cass County particularly. It’s fifty four per cent of the district. I feel very good about my chances there and the other three counties as well.
Every place I go voters are very receptive to change. And that we need to change the leadership in Jefferson City and put working familes in charge once again in state government. And I’m very, a lot of people, most people are very excited about that. And I’m very, very, feel very good about the whole team going into this final two months. I think there’s going to be a lot of Democratic victories going in to November. I feel very good about my chances…
…SMP: …You’re not concentrating just on Cass County, you’re actually working all four counties in the district.
Chris Benjamin: I’m spending most of my time right now in, actually in the other three counties. I’m spending quite a bit of time in Cass County, that’s where I work and where I live, but I’m in Johnson County, in Vernon and Bates quite a bit. I spent all day Friday down in Vernon County. And I’m gonna to be here, back here in Johnson County again tomorrow. And I’m not takin’ any area for granted. I’m gonna be workin’ all four counties very hard.
SMP: …You talk about working families in the district. As you’ve gone and talked to people, or gone door to door, what are people concerned about?
Chris Benjamin: High gas prices. Problems with a lot of jobs leaving the states. Having a hard time getting health care insurance, small businesses not being able to provide health care insurance for their employees, People are really ready for change right now. And they just, they’re ready for new leadership to come in in Jefferson City. But it’s pretty much right down the line, even Republican areas that I go to, those folks are ready for change as well.
SMP: How has your reception been, generally, within the Democratic Party?
Chris Benjamin: Very good. Starting, starting from the point of not having a primary opposition, all the local Democratic county officials in the four counties have endorsed my candidacy…pretty much just about every Democratic official and anybody involved on the grassroots side with the Democratic Party locally, they’re very receptive, very supportive to my candidacy.
SMP: Your opponent is based in, is from Johnson County…and is a state representative in Johnson County. Has he been able to, how has he addressed, sort of, these voter concerns? What are you hearing from what he’s done?
Chris Benjamin: It’s really, it’s really hard to say. I noticed one thing leading in to the primary. he was running against a guy that was very, very conservative on a lot of issues. So he really ran to the right in the primary, really defending a lot of the Medicaid cuts that he voted for. Really going so far as to saying that, almost toeing the lines, almost to the point where he was saying that he was, had some opposition to things like stem cell research. He had to go very, very conservative in that primary. So it’s really hard to say going in to the general how he’s going to respond, or if he’s gonna try to move to the middle. But, it seems to me, outspending his opponent ten to one in the primary, and not being able to win Cass and Bates counties, he’s having a hard time really getting the message out over in those areas of the district.
SMP: …Campaigns are expensive…You’ve been obviously working to, to, to raise resources and get support. And obviously the Republicans always have enough money for, for their needs. How do you feel, do you feel you’re going to have any kind of parity in, in basically being able to keep up with the support that he’s going to get?
Chris Benjamin: I feel very confident that I’ll be able to match his, his resources going into the general election. He did, he won his primary after outspending his opponent, I believe somewhere between ten and fifteen to one. He was able to, to gain a victory, but he did see some loses within the district. And, by looking at that, by being able to keep up with parity with him, particularly what I believe is gonna be a strong Democratic year in which people are ready for change, I feel very good about my chances going into the general.
SMP: …Thank you very much.
Chris Benjamin: Thank you.