In anticipation of the 2018 Primary Election coming up on Tuesday, Aug. 7, the League of Women Voters of Great Bend hosted a forum for political candidates Tuesday night, at the Great Bend High School Auditorium. Included were candidates for Great Bend City Council, Barton County Commission, and the U.S. House of Representatives.
Rose Kelly, voter service leader for the local LMV, acted as moderator. She introduced forum participants: candidates for U.S. Representative Alan LaPolice and Nick Reinecker; candidates for Barton County Commission Alicia Straub and Randy Suchy; and candidates for Great Bend City Council (Ward 1) Bobby Lee Roller, Alan Moeder, Bradley McCune, Josh Ellis and Jessica Milsap; (Ward 2) James Breitenbach and Chad Summers; (Ward 3) Dana Dawson and Jacob R. Davis.
Congressman Roger Marshall was unable to participate in the forum, as he was at work in Washington.
Kelly also introduced uncontested candidates, but in the interest of time they were not invited to answer forum questions. They included Rep. Tory Marie Arnberger in her bid for the Republican nomination as Kansas House of Representatives, 112th District, and Brock McPherson, seeking reelection to the Great Bend City Council. According to Great Bend League of Women Voters President Rebecca Dudrey, state law prohibits candidates for judge from campaigning in public forums.
The forum differed from a tradition debate. Rather than taking questions from the floor, each candidate drew a question from a hat containing questions on a variety of subjects.
House of Representatives candidates
First up were candidates for U.S. Representative. Reinecker and LaPolice each provided a short bio before Kelly invited them to pick a random question from the candy dish.
LaPolice pulled the first question, “As the population ages and medical costs increase, Medicare will need to be changed. What changes would you make to ensure that individuals continue to get promised benefits?”
More than once, LaPolice made reference to his previous campaigns running as a Republican, but now as a Democrat. He favors of protecting Social Security by returning it to the figurative “lock-box,” it was in prior to the Reagan administration, he said.
Candidates had the option of choosing a new question, or responding to the question asked their opponent. Reinecker opted for the latter, and was asked, “What do you think the role of renewable energy is in Kansas and nationally? Explain.”
The Republican candidate opined U.S. Farmers, and Kansas farmers in particular, should be allowed access to the cannabis market, noting the plants various uses, from various forms of THC to cellulose used in ethanol production.
Two more questions were asked before LaPolice and Reinecker gave their one-minute summations. Then, Kelly introduced candidates for District 4 on the Barton County Commission, a non-partisan race.
Commission District 4
Incumbent Alicia Straub and Randy Suchy were introduced. After a brief bio each, Suchy pulled the first question. Kelly asked, “Explain the Kansas Open Meetings Act as it applies to the county commission.”
Suchy explained the body requires a quorum in order to take action during a meeting and uses parliamentary procedure to conduct a meeting. He also expressed his appreciation that the Barton County Commission opens each meeting with the Pledge of Allegiance and a prayer, which, he added, the Great Bend City Council does not do, but that he felt it should.
Straub then pulled her question, “should term limits be imposed on those serving on the county commission? Explain.”
Straub, who is running for her second term on the commission, said she was in favor of term limits, but that the statute would need to be changed at the state level. Complacency and becoming known by name rather ant by actions was the danger in serving multiple terms she said, adding that she would not serve more than two terms if re elected. She added that by limiting the number of terms served to two, it would help move younger people into public service, something important in an area where the population continues to decline.
Suchy was asked to comment on the county’s failure to reduce taxes following the creation of the Cottonwood Extension District, to which he opted to praise the Extension District as a valuable resource available to all in the county. Straub was asked a recurring question that has come up in several past forums concerning whether or not it is fair that those living outside the city limits of Great Bend in the three-mile territorial zone are not included in the election of Great Bend City Council members. Straub noted that those constituents are able to vote for representation of county commissioners, and that there was very little the commission could do, that it is in the power of voters to make changes at the state level.
Straub and Suchy gave their one-minute summaries, and then Kelly called an intermission, inviting the audience to visit with candidates.
When the intermission was over, Kelly took a few moments to thank audience members and candidates for taking part in the forum. She also expressed frustration that more had not made it a priority to get to know the people who would be representing them.
“When we have a burning issue, you can’t find a room big enough to hold all of Great Bend, but when things are going well you can hardly get 70 people to attend,” she said.
She then moved on to introduce candidates for Great Bend City Council, Wards 1, 2 and 3. She noted that Jessica Milsap, a Ward 1 candidate, was unable to attend due to illness before she introduced the other seven candidates. Each was allowed to present a their short bio, and were asked two questions each, and then given a minute to summarize before the forum was concluded. (See story in Thursday’s edition.)
The Great Bend Tribune streamed the forum in its entirety on facebook, and two Live videos will remain available at www.facebook.com/gbtribune for those unable to attend the forum.
The League of Women Voters is a non-partisan organization dedicated to informing the voting public about national, state, and local issues of importance. The Great Bend chapter has a new website, lwvgreatbend.org, and is also on facebook.