U.S. Rep. Vicky Hartzler is vacating the Fourth Congressional District seat she’s held for more than a decade.
Hartzler’s run for U.S. Senate has left her House seat open in the November election, with seven Republicans rushing in to fill the vacuum. But they must win the August primary before they can move on to take on the Democratic and Libertarian candidates in November.
Kalena Bruce is a farmer and CPA from southwest Missouri's Stockton. She has the endorsement of the Missouri Farm Bureau and Gov. Mike Parson and promises to focus on agriculture in the largely rural district.
Lucas Geisler: Just to start things off, what should people know about you?
Kalena Bruce: Well, thanks for having me. I’m super excited and grateful to have the opportunity to be here with you this evening. For me, what I think it's most important for folks to know is that I'm one of you. I am a small business owner, a farmer, fifth generation, raising cattle here in the Fourth District, my family's lived here for over five generations. We're still farming the same ground we've been farming for 117 years. So the district is very important to me, the people are very important to me. We're very highly active in our community, and you know, in the state, and even nationwide, from a perspective of advocating for rural America and advocating for our values.
Geisler: You sport endorsements from the Missouri Farm Bureau and Gov. Mike Parson, a cattle rancher himself. What do people need to understand about the relationship between Congress and agriculture? And what are you going to do to advocate for rural Missouri, as you said?
Bruce: So I think the biggest thing that people can tie to ag right now is their increased food prices, right? When you're going to the grocery store, or putting your order in online, your food prices are up substantially. And that is a reflection mostly on gas prices right now, on transportation costs. But farmers and ranchers are putting the crops in the ground and then laying the groundwork for next year's food prices. And our input prices are through the roof. And the important piece of agriculture in policymaking is that we have a farm bill. And that farm bill is there to make sure that farmers and ranchers can provide an affordable food supply and a constant food supply to all consumers without breaking the bank. So when we have a drought, when we have a wildfire, when we have things like supply chain issues that are constantly bringing our prices up on the farm and making it harder for us to do our job, the farm bill is there to make sure that those one-off things do not pass through to the consumers. It's a tool that we have as farmers and ranchers to make sure that we're continuing to provide the most safe, affordable food supply for the nation. And it's a very important piece of what Missouri does. Agriculture is Missouri's No. 1 industry.
Geisler: Now, you mentioned inflation. Of course, I think no matter what political party you're a part of you notice it just costs more to buy stuff right now. What are you going to do? What is the relationship that you see that Congress can have on tamping down this inflation? What can you do? And what are your ideas to help out with that?
Bruce: So for me, you know, I'm a certified public accountant. That's the small business that I have, and that I own and, you know, I've been doing so for 14 years now. And being in a rural area, being a certified public accountant, we're, we're a jack of all trades. We have clients from every walk of life, running every type of business and, and as we're getting out and campaigning with people and hearing from people, that's the No. 1 thing that's hitting them right now. We have a lot going on in the political world. There's a lot going on in our nation. But the one overreaching thing that we all have in common right now is inflation. And so the first thing that we can do, as a Congress, and hopefully in the 118th Congress, which will start in 2023, is making America energy independent again. That's going to be crucial. From there, my campaign slogan is clean up Congress. And that's exactly what we intend to do. We intend to cut the wasteful spending, cut the duplicity in programs, make sure that our dollars are being spent wisely. And we had a ton of money being dumped into the economy really quickly with COVID. And while a lot of that money was necessary to keep small businesses afloat, some of it was a little bit superfluous. And so we have to make sure that we tighten our belts, so to speak, and that we watch where our dollars are spent. You know, here in Missouri, we are very lucky. We have a balanced budget, and that's something that's in our constitution, but we don't have that same luxury on the federal level and it's something that I will strive for every day is to make sure that we are working towards having a balanced budget that we can get that done and that we can bring back the inflation that's, that's hurting every American. So it's not going to be just a one-answer thing, but there's a lot that we can do right off the bat when Republicans take back the House and I intend to hit the ground running doing so.