Both Democratic candidates for Missouri lieutenant governor have described the most important part of the job as being active in the state's affairs.
Gregory Upchurch, of St. Charles, and Alissia Canady, of Kansas City, will appear in that order on the Aug. 4 primary election ballot seeking their party's nomination as the Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor in November, when they would face the winner of the Republican primary.
Upchurch said he is a small business owner of a banquet center, but his professional experience includes being a commercial fisherman in Alaska and a truck driver. He holds a master's degree in public administration.
Canady is an attorney in private practice who has previously served as a Kansas City Council member and assistant prosecutor in Jackson County and has been a mayoral candidate.
"It's quite the liaison position," Upchurch said of the most important part of being lieutenant governor — appointments, directing who's on certain boards.
"It's not a passive role," Canady said of being lieutenant governor; the position requires someone to be engaged, and she said they should use the office to advance policy and the interests of constituents across the state.
The lieutenant governor's constitutional duties are to preside as president of the Missouri Senate and vote in the event of a tie; preside as governor when the governor is out of the state or disabled; and become governor for the remainder of the term should the governor die, resign, or be convicted or impeached.
Missouri law has expanded the role of the lieutenant governor to serve on a variety of boards and commissions, including the Board of Fund Commissioners that issues, redeems and cancels state bonds; the Missouri Development Finance Board that promotes economic development; and the Missouri State Capitol Commission that recommends how to restore and preserve the Capitol and its grounds.
Central Missouri Newspapers asked the candidates for lieutenant governor about their priorities for the position's role with advocating for senior citizens, as well as serving on the state's Housing Development Commission.
The lieutenant governor's office has within it the Office of Advocacy and Assistance for Senior Citizens, which coordinates activities with the long-term ombudsman program on "complaints made by or on behalf of senior citizens residing in long-term care facilities," per Missouri law. The advocate also investigates complaints and recommends actions to be taken.
Upchurch said "affordable housing" for seniors needs to be truly affordable and comfortable.
He also said property taxes need to be looked at to be sure seniors are not losing their homes because they cannot pay taxes that are beyond their means. He added there would have to be cut-offs — perhaps applying to seniors of a certain income level with a certain value for their property.
Canady focused on protecting senior citizens' well-being during the COVID-19 pandemic: holding the senior living industry accountable for protecting workers and residents and asking what resources are needed for that protection; making sure seniors on fixed incomes are able to have personal protective equipment; and making sure seniors have opportunities for socialization and good nutrition.
She also mentioned making sure seniors are housing-stable and not being evicted or exploited.
The Missouri Housing Development Commission in the Department of Economic Development has a $3.5 million budget funded through the Missouri Housing Trust Fund, according to the lieutenant governor office's website. The commission appropriates money to homeless shelters, domestic violence shelters, transitional housing, emergency housing assistance, home repairs for low-income homeowners, rental assistance for low-income people, and development of low-income housing.
Upchurch is open to exploring a broad array of options for helping find solutions for people experiencing homelessness — such as container homes and small village concepts.
"I'm a middle-of-the-road Democrat," he said — fiscally conservative and not sure everyone needs help all the time but acknowledging some people do need help.
"If you don't have proper housing, you probably lack in education, you probably lack in health" and a couple other areas, he added.
Canady said the state needs to bring back its low-income housing tax credit.
In December 2017, then-Gov. Eric Greitens and the Missouri Housing Development Commission voted to stop matching state funds for federal tax credit programs. Then-Lt. Gov. Mike Parson, who is now governor, was one of two dissenting votes on the 10-member commission.
Canady said when the tax credit is brought back, the process should be more transparent and should be able to address seniors and working families who work full time or more but still cannot afford housing or are food-insecure as a result of what they pay for housing.