It was the largest forum ever held at Missouri Western State University.
Ten candidates vying for at-large seats on the St. Joseph City Council met for a public forum to discuss the issues.
"They all have enough initiative to run, to get the petitions submitted to run to get on the ballot," said John Euchner, a political science professor at MWSU and organizer of the event.
"We welcome them here to talk about the issues," Euchner said.
For Euchner and the rest of the MWSU staff, a crowded stage was a good problem to have.
"I think it's a good sign. I always like to see contested races," he said.
Among the ten candidates were incumbents, others who have been active in community activities in the past and several newcomers to politics.
"Candidates deserve a forum in a public arena to talk about issues of the day," Euchner said.
Topics ranged from economic development to jobs to public safety and the future of downtown. One of the most spirited topics of the night was the smoking ban St. Joseph voters will decide this spring.
"If the casino is going to lose 30% revenue, then a small bar or restaurant will too," said incumbent Jeff Penland, who said he will vote against the ban because it unfairly exempts the gaming floor of the St. Joe Frontier Casino.
"There are God given rights and then there are government rights, and this is not one of them," said Byron Myers, who supports the ban.
For some, it was not an issue of smoking, but one of property owners rights.
"If you don't frequent the place, if you don't go to the business, you have no right to force your preference and your opinions on somebody's business," said Kent "Spanky" O'Dell, who is running for political office for the first time.
Of the ten candidates, seven said they will vote against the smoking ban, with only one voting for. Two others refused to say how they would vote.
"I think it's healthy for a city to have choices," Euchner said. "We have ten candidates with varying levels of experience in local government."
There will be another candidate forum scheduled for contested district races Thursday night.
Primary elections will be February 4 with the general election scheduled April 8.
While it is too late for residents to register to vote for the primary, March 12 is the deadline to register to vote in the general election.
Here are the candidates running for at-large seats and their stance on the smoking ban:
Gary S. Wilkinson (No)
Dennis Weisenburger (No)
Thompson E. "Ramadhan" Washington (No)
Byron Myers, Sr. (Yes)
Kenneth Reeder (Declined)
Jeff Penland (No)
Robert Hart (No)
Kent "Spanky" O'Dell (No)
Donna Jean Boyer (Declined)
Ken Beck (No)
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