BACKGROUND: One of my favorite rituals during an election season was traveling up U.S. Highway 63 to cover U.S. Ninth District debates at Truman State University.
I went to three. The first one featured a three-way clash between U.S. Rep. Kenny Hulshof, Democrat Duane Burghard and a Progressive Party candidate. While the 2006 race was an interesting match-up in theory, it was never really in doubt because the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee decided not to invest any funds. It also didn't help that Hulshof seemed to be adept at running a campaign across the congressional district.
But the following election cycle was much different. Hulshof decided to run for governor, opening up the floodgates to new challengers from both parties. I actually ended up traveling twice in a week to the Adair County metropolis. Both debates were relatively tranquil, although the answers to one question garnered quite a bit of attention. For whatever reason, the moderator decided to ask each Republican candidate about their favorite founding father. First of all, that is a waste of a perfectly good question. But both Brock Olivo and Danie Moore stumbled when they answered Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan, respectively.
WHY IT MADE THE LIST: I didn't include my trips to Kirksville because of the aforementioned gaffe. Rather, the excursions were a chance to roam away from Columbia and experience another slice of the Missouri state. And it certainly helped that the debates showcased the intricacies of participants in a highly-competitive congressional election.
FUN FACT: There's a more personal reason why I included the Kirksville debate on my list. Before going to Kirksville, some cleaning supplies wrapped in a plastic bag spilled in my trunk. While driving back from a debate, I began to smell a very pungent odor. Apparently, residue from the cleaning materials managed to leak through the bag and stay inside the trunk. Before long, the fumes from the cleaning supplies melted plastic components, making the trunk impossible to open.
It's worth noting that the mechanic at a local Honda dealership questioned how I was still alive after spending a considerable amount of time in a thick chemical haze. I shrugged at the time, but know the real answer is magic.