Responses are from the candidates and have not been edited.
Much of my life has been devoted to education. I served on the local school board for 20 years, and I taught high school language arts and journalism for nine years before retiring from education. I am a journalist who has been a writer and editor for award-winning local newspapers and for national agribusiness publications. In addition, I am co-owner of an agri-tourism business. Other experience includes operating a construction business and employment as a program manager for a not-for-profit housing organization.
My wife and I have lived on a farm north of Parker for more than 40 years. We have been involved in several community service projects during that time.
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Do you think KanCare should be expanded? Why or why not?
Yes, KanCare should be expanded. The expansion would serve an estimated 150,000 low-income Kansans who would otherwise go without health care or be forced to resort to emergency-room visits. While the state must pay for 10 percent of the program, expansion in other states has led to an increase in tax revenue that has made up those costs. In addition, expansion would help keep rural hospitals solvent and add jobs for healthcare workers.
What is your stance on the legalization of medical marijuana?
There is substantial evidence that marijuana therapy is useful for a number of diagnoses. Medical marijuana should be legalized and adequately controlled.
Do you support any changes to abortion laws in Kansas? If so, what changes?
The state needs to work on eliminating the need for abortions rather than making them illegal. Despite what we hear from anti-abortionists, the number of abortions is steadily decreasing. More families are accepting births by single daughters, and more women are using contraceptive methods. A recent proposed amendment to ban abortions in the state did not make exceptions for rape, incest and instances where the mother’s life would be threatened. That goes too far, and it doesn’t address instances of violent domestic situations and unreported sexual assaults where the woman does not want to undergo the humiliation of a trial. The result of the amendment would be to revive a back-alley abortion industry as in the days before Roe v. Wade. That led to improperly performed procedures resulting in injury, sterility and even death. By continuing to keep abortions legal, the state could collect information about why an abortion is being sought and take steps to make those abortions unnecessary.
What are the issues you would address for farmers and ranchers?
Between the COVID crisis and trade wars with China, the Kansas farmer has been caught in a pinch of low demand and economic uncertainty. However, empty shelves in grocery stores has prompted many shoppers to go directly to the farmer for meat, eggs and other commodities. At the same time, the demand for locally grown products and farmers markets has given rise to opportunities for younger producers and smaller operations, The state should assist in developing and building those markets. The state should also promote the investment in value-added enterprises that take locally grown commodities such as corn and create products. That would provide jobs for rural communities and a better market for farmers.
What are the key education issues in Kansas for K-12? For universities?
The public education system is under so much stress because of COVID that it may take years for it to fully recover. In addition to trying to manage online and classroom learning, schools are losing teachers and other staff who don’t want to risk exposure to the virus. And student counts are down because parents choose to home school instead of exposing children to the virus. That means less money for schools based on student enrollment. Universities are facing the same problems, with students balking at tuition and housing costs for online classes.
Are you satisfied with DCF? With the foster care system?
The privatization of the state’s foster care and adoption program has created problems since it was initiated in 1996. While Social and Rehabilitative Services, the forerunner of DCF, was more focused on the welfare of children, the private contractors under the program had to focus more on costs reimbursed on a per-child basis by the state. As a result, those agencies often skimped on services to meet budget. Of course, under both models of operations, the high number of children needing foster care has risen beyond the amount that has been budgeted to the program. The state should look at bringing services back in house and increasing the budget for DCF.
What is your response to the Black Lives Matter movement?
Black Lives Matter is a legitimate reaction to the disproportionate number of deaths of unarmed African-American men and women at the hands of law enforcement officials. At the same time, it is a reminder that our work to ensure that all citizens have equal rights and opportunities in this country is not finished. It is unfortunate that the violence and destruction unfairly associated with those protests was caused by a few people, including white supremacists, determined to give the movement a bad name. It is also an understandable reaction to President Trump’s overt support of white supremacist groups.
What do you think needs to be done to promote social and racial justice?
Elect people who are willing to explore ways to make social and racial justice happen. The Black Lives Matter movement is largely in response to the recent lack of focus on addressing equality issues. And while many African-, Hispanic- and Asian-Americans have made individual strides in overcoming racism, many obstacles remain. Those include subtle discrimination in employment, banking, housing and more overt discrimination in law enforcement.
Are you in favor of police reform? If so, what should it look like?
Law enforcement, including police and sheriff’s departments, are an integral part of our public safety network. There are many things that can quickly help make officers more in tune with the communities they serve, such as community policing. But a more long-term solution is better training for officers – including more in-depth training in aspects of social work – and weeding out those who are prone to initiating unwarranted conflict.
Did you or do you support business shutdowns to control the spread of the coronavirus?
It is difficult to know the exact impact of this spring’s shut down, but given the increases in cases as businesses reopened this summer, it is likely that it prevented more people from contracting the virus. We now know that most businesses can conduct business relatively safely if management takes precautions. However, if hospitals reach ICU capacity or businesses fail to take safety measures, a shutdown would be indicated.
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?
Shutdowns should only come as a last measure. However, from our experience we already know how to keep the state open: masks, hand-washing, keeping social distance. Mandatory face coverings and other safety measures, such as plexiglass shields between work stations, should be implemented in cities and counties where cases are on the increase. Schools that are unable to prevent outbreaks must be shut down until measures are taken to control the spread.
What do you think should be done to help the Kansas economy recover?
I’m a firm believer in providing people at the low end of the income scale first. Provide some financial relief for low- and middle-income families and they will spend it quickly for goods necessary to survive. That includes food, rent/mortgage, health insurance premiums and car payments.Where that money is going to come from will be key, particularly given the stalling by the U.S. Senate on passing legislation passed by the House to give the average American some relief. The state is already struggling with soaring unemployment claims and the sooner the Senate can pass that relief bill, the sooner the state can begin to recover.
Would you cut money for social services if it means lower taxes? Would you favor higher taxes for more social services?
The answer is balancing taxes versus the good that social service programs provide. Which social service programs should we cut? Help for the elderly? Help for struggling young families? Unemployment benefits? Mental health services? The fact is that having these safety nets is necessary. Kansas is still struggling with financial difficulties resulting from the disastrous Brownback administration tax cuts to corporations and wealthy individuals just a few year ago. The goal now should be for all Kansans to pay their fair share of taxes.
What should Kansas do to balance its budget? Will you support budget cuts for schools?
Given the problems that the COVID crisis has created, it may be difficult for the state to balance the budget for the foreseeable future. Left with few reserves after the Brownback administration’s tax cuts, the state is dealing with higher unemployment payments; schools, cities, and counties needing help to provide services; and more dependence on safety-net programs. School districts in particular are caught between providing safe on-site education, parents who are adamantly opposed to masks or overreact to student quarantines, and teachers who are juggling on-line and classroom learning. Schools were shortchanged under Brownback, and education spending should not be cut.