(JOPLIN, Mo.) Billy Long gave up no ground at the candidate forum Tuesday night in Joplin, sponsored by the Joplin Globe.
Long was the first candidate asked whether or not he would vote to end tax payer subsidies of oil companies. “Do what now,” Long questioned the reporter. She repeated her question, to which Long replied “Yes.”
While the answer received laughs and some applause from the audience gathered, the lack of response and the strict adherence to talking points had some observers questioning the auctioneer’s motives.
“It makes me wonder what he has to hide,” one voter told TFJ.
Political observers say they see Long under a rope by his handlers, who have really restricted unscripted access to the candidate over the past few weeks.
Just two weeks out from the election, regarding one of the most substantial national security decisions congress will be involved in making, Long setting a date to withdraw from Afghanistan, Long said, “I – some things in life are difficult for me – I just don’t understand it. You cannot set a date in any war.”
After the forum, TFJ asked Long for a short interview, to which he replied, “No!” and moved quickly out of the room, stopping only shortly to shake a hand, before exiting the building completely.
Long seemed to be building momentum over the last few months, with a string of endorsements from former Congressman Mel Hancock, Missouri Right to Life, and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee. Last week, the campaign announced a fundraiser featuring former State Treasurer Sarah Steelman. The campaign has yet to answer whether or not they see the Steelman event as an “endorsement,” or not.
Sources close to Steelman have told TFJ that she’s doing it as a favor for “her friend” Jeff Layman, but say Steelman does not see this as an act of endorsement.
Long, who is running as a “citizen legislator,” is one of 3 frontrunners for the race, along with State Senators Gary Nodler and Jack Goodman.
Nodler and Goodman have both taken on the tone of “ready to go on day one,” touting their experience and history in the state legislature.
Long doesn’t think that’s necessary. “I think in Washington, D.C, today, we have enough experience to choke a horse. I think that’s the problem.” He said, “we need to chagne the type of people we send – we need to send business people.”
Randy Turner, a Joplin political commentator, said Long “hit his talking points, as usual, but he also let more of the good old boy personality work its way into his answers.” He said, “Goodman, who shined in Monday night’s forum in Springfield, had the best debate among the eight Republicans, though he probably has to share top honors with [rising GOP star] Jeff Wisdom.”
Tuesday night concluded the debate cycle for the 7th congressional district primary, ahead of the August 3 election day.