Responses are from the candidates and have not been edited.
James Todd was born in Shawnee, KS. After his parents divorce during his childhood, he spent time living in Lawrence, KS; Cullman, AL; and Kansas City, KS. In 2000, he graduated high school from Maranatha Academy in Shawnee, KS. After which James studied for two years at Johnson County Community College earning his Associate’s degree before transferring to the University of Kansas to complete the last two year of his Bachelor’s degree graduating in 2004.
Starting in 1999, James helped with a church plant his father, Jim Todd, started in Kansas City, KS called Pathway Ministries. From his senior year of high school until just after graduating with his Bachelors degree from KU, James volunteered as the worship leader, youth pastor, and associate pastor at the church and was ordained in 2003. James stepped down from those responsibilities in order to pursue his legal education.
James attended the University of Kansas School of Law and graduated with his Juris Doctor in 2009. While in law school he completed the International Trade & Finance certificate program.
Campaign website/Facebook/Social Media:
Do you think KanCare should be expanded? Why or why not?
I support Medicaid (Kancare) expansion in Kansas. My mother had Multiple Sclerosis. This horrible disease left her disabled and dependent on Medicaid and Medicare for her health insurance. I have seen how Kancare can help an individual. The current pandemic has shown the cracks that exist in the current healthcare system and how important healthcare access is. I will work to increase healthcare access in Kansas.
What is your stance on the legalization of medical marijuana?
States across the country, including almost every state surrounding Kansas, have been moving toward a legalized marijuana regime. It is reasonable for Kansas to move toward legalization as well and focus tax payer money on addiction counseling instead.
Do you support any changes to abortion laws in Kansas? If so, what changes?
I support passing a Constitutional Amendment in Kansas to clarify that Abortion is not a right in the Kansas Constitution. This amendment will keep the current status quo on abortion in Kansas. All access requirements and regulations currently allowed under the US Constitution would still apply in Kansas.
What are the issues you would address for farmers and ranchers?
Quality roads are vital for the agricultural community as they work to get their products from the farm to the market. I support the Eisenhower Legacy Transportation Program passed in the last session and I’m disappointed my opponent was absent from the vote on the bill.
What are the key education issues in Kansas for K-12? For universities?
Currently the most important education issue in Johnson County is in-person learning for students. I believe that our schools should provide students and parents a choice on attending classes in-person. Closing in-person learning has a regressive impact. Lower income families do not have the financial means to send their kids to private schools that are open. They cannot afford private tutors, and, if both parents work, do not have financial means for one parent to stay home with a kid to assist with the distance learning. If it is a single parent household (which is a large portion of low-income household’s) a parent staying home is usually not an option at all.
Opening schools should be approached with an abundance of caution. Reasonable safety measures should be implemented. But, other communities have in-person learning, and private schools in our county have successfully opened. I think our public schools should as well.
Are you satisfied with DCF? With the foster care system?
No. Kansas was sued in a class action lawsuit for it failure to properly protect and place kids in the foster care system this year. We need to make big changes to the foster care system in Kansas.
What is your response to the Black Lives Matter movement?
As Kansans we can take pride in the fact that we are the Free State. The baptism by fire that was our State’s founding ensured that slavery did not gain a foothold here. Our record on civil rights is not without blemish though. In Topeka sits a relic of “separate but equal”, the segregated schoolhouse of Brown V. The Board of Education. While great strides have been made, the journey to achieve and protect the founding principle that “all men are created equal” is not over. We need to work to make sure every Kansan is treated equally under the laws of Kansas.
What do you think needs to be done to promote social and racial justice?
My nephews are mixed-race. I have always wanted them to be treated fairly and equally. The road forward on race relations is for us to disregard our incidental difference in skin tone and treat everyone with respect and equal dignity. Race is a social construct, there is no race but the human race.
One area I think can improve social justice in Kansas is including LGBTQ individuals as a protected class under Kansas law. This has been done in Overland Park, at the federal level, and should be done at the state level as well.
Are you in favor of police reform? If so, what should it look like?
Police officers are a strong pillar of our community. Any efforts on police reform should include them as partners. They have a strong interest in seeing improvements to law enforcement. We should bring them into the conversation about qualified immunity, civil asset forfeiture, and no knock warrants.
Did you or do you support business shutdowns to control the spread of the coronavirus?
With the information that was available in March, I think a shutdown was reasonable. As information on the outbreak in our area became available it became apparent that Kansas was not experience an outbreak like the one experienced in New York City and was not experience the hospitalization or death rate that was predicted in the models. At that point, the state should have moved toward reopening, approaching the reopening with an abundance of caution and with orders on safety precautions (such as a mask mandate) for businesses to follow. The Governor continued with a shutdown after the scientific evidence no longer justified it and Kansas has suffered the consequences with the worst job recovery rate in the nation.
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?
If the hospitalization and death rate rise then another shutdown could be justified. Currently, higher infection rates have not resulted in an increase in deaths and hospitalization. It is important for the leaders of Kansas to remain responsive to changes in the data should they arise.
What do you think should be done to help the Kansas economy recover?
Long-term economic growth can be encouraged with predictable tax rates, sound budgeting, efficient courts, good roads, and quality education. In the short-term, our state government needs to be responsive to the specific needs of Kansas businesses. The state government should work to allow as much of the economy as can safely be open to open up and work to keep it open so that small businesses will have the opportunity to try to survive and grow.
Would you cut money for social services if it means lower taxes? Would you favor higher taxes for more social services?
Kansas was recently ranked as having the 5th highest (47th Worst) effective tax rate in the United States. I do not believe Kansas families can handle another tax increase. We need to live within our current means.
What should Kansas do to balance its budget? Will you support budget cuts for schools?
Kansas is currently operating under a Supreme Court order regarding education and it is my current understanding that any cut to education would be unconstitutional under the most recent Gannon case. Given that education accounts for around 60% of the budget and Kancare spending accounts for the majority of the rest, I am not sure where spending reductions can be found. I promise do my best to represent the interest of the Overland Park community as difficult decisions are made on the budget.