Responses are from the candidates and have not been edited.
I was a 1975 graduate of Washburn University and I hold a master’s degree in Special Education from Kansas State University. Outside of my legislative duties, I was a public school teacher for 43 years, before retiring in 2018 from my high school alma mater, Highland Park High School in Topeka.
My wife, Deborah, and I have been married for 43 years. We are lifelong residents of Senate District 19. Our daughter, Katie, is an elementary principal in the Shawnee Heights school district. We are proud grandparents to three granddaughters: Brighton, Lily, and Parker.
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Do you think KanCare should be expanded? Why or why not?
Yes, expanding Medicaid provides up to 150,000 Kansans with access to healthcare with coverage of pre-existing conditions, creates jobs, and helps keep hospitals and clinics open. When Kansans are healthy, they can get back to work and they can get back to living. This helps grow our economy and it provides stability to their families.
What is your stance on the legalization of medical marijuana?
I support allowing Kansans access to safe and legal medical marijuana. Some 70% of Kansans support it as well. It provides an option for pain management that isn’t addictive like prescription opioids, and it helps treat a number of medical conditions including PTSD suffered by Veterans.
Do you support any changes to abortion laws in Kansas? If so, what changes?
I support changes that would ensure women have access to affordable healthcare with coverage of pre-existing conditions, including family planning services and prenatal and maternal care.
What are the issues you would address for farmers and ranchers?
The pandemic has shown just how much our country relies on Kansas farmers and ranchers. We must be working to provide them with the support they need to recover from the economic downturn related to COVID-19. I support restoring tax fairness in order to reduce the burden on Kansans, including farmers and ranchers. I also support protecting investments in the transportation plan, which includes expanding rural broadband. Lastly, I support ensuring Kansas farmers and ranchers have access to affordable healthcare – both physical healthcare and mental healthcare – with coverage of pre-existing conditions.
What are the key education issues in Kansas for K-12? For universities?
I was a key negotiator in the bipartisan school funding plan that fully and fairly funds Kansas schools, and put an end to nearly a decade of litigation. Public schools provide safety, stability, and sustenance to so many Kansas children. It is critical that we protect that funding, and that we reject any and all proposals that are anticipated from extreme Republicans, who will point to COVID-19 as justification to try to dismantle public schools by diverting funding to private schools.
We must continue to move Kansas forward in recovery by working to restore cuts to higher education that were made as a result of Sam Brownback’s failed tax experiment, and we must continue to invest in career training and technical education programs.
Are you satisfied with DCF? With the foster care system?
I believe Governor Kelly and Secretary Laura Howard have made good progress in improving DCF and the foster care system. There is still room for improvement, though. I supported their proposal to consolidate and streamline services with DCF and the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services. I believe this would have allowed these agencies to better serve Kansas families. Unfortunately, the proposal was rejected by the Republican majority.
What is your response to the Black Lives Matter movement?
I believe Black Lives Matter.
What do you think needs to be done to promote social and racial justice?
I believe we should be looking into doing what Oklahoma did with early release of non-violent offenders. I also believe we should address systemic issues by working to implement recommendations made by Governor Kelly’s Kansas Commission on Racial Equity and Justice.
Are you in favor of police reform? If so, what should it look like?
As State Senator, I have a proven track record of supporting and ensuring adequate funding for state law enforcement agencies – the Kansas Highway Patrol, the Kansas Bureau of Investigation, the Capitol Police, and Corrections officers. I also support protecting investments in community mental health services, which I believe would help reduce some of the burden on local law enforcement officers.
When it comes to local law enforcement agencies, locally elected officials should remain responsible for those local budgets. I believe there needs to be clear lines of communication open between the agencies and their communities as well as their locally elected officials. The appropriate groups need to come together and talk to one another, rather than shout at one another, so they can come to a compromise on the improvements that could be made.
Did you or do you support business shutdowns to control the spread of the coronavirus?
I believe Governor Kelly made the right call back in March in shutting down businesses to control the spread of COVID-19. At that time, we were still learning about the virus and needed to take quick action to keep Kansans safe and healthy. Now that we know more about controlling the spread, I don’t believe it will be necessary to have another shutdown.
Would you support another statewide shutdown if coronavirus cases continued to rise? If so, what are the factors that would lead you to that decision?
I would not support another statewide shutdown. Given how much more we know about controlling the spread of the virus and that we now have established channels for receiving and distributing proper PPE and supplies, I don’t believe it would be necessary.
What do you think should be done to help the Kansas economy recover?
I believe we need to continue supporting the extensions of the emergency declarations as needed to ensure federal funding is coming into our state to provide necessary resources to Kansas workers and small businesses.
I also believe we need to continue practicing fiscal responsibility with the budget and keep working to restore tax fairness so that we can reduce the burden on hardworking Kansans.
Lastly, we need to expand Medicaid. This will invest Kansas taxpayer dollars into our state, create jobs, keep hospitals and clinics open, and allow Kansans to see a doctor when they’re sick. Kansas businesses rely on healthy employees, and healthy employees provide stability to their families and help the economy grow.
Would you cut money for social services if it means lower taxes? Would you favor higher taxes for more social services?
I am in favor of restoring tax fairness and ensuring fiscal responsibility with the budget. I do not support cutting critical social services for our most vulnerable Kansans.
What should Kansas do to balance its budget? Will you support budget cuts for schools?
I was a key negotiator of the bipartisan school funding plan that put an end to nearly a decade of school finance litigation by fully and fairly funding schools. I will continue to fight to protect this critical investment, and I will not support cuts to schools. They are a key to economic growth, and provide too much for their surrounding communities.