EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the third in a series of stories on the League of Women Voters of Great Bend Public Forum Tuesday night at the Crest Theater. This part covers the Kansas Senate race for District 33. The series will conclude Sunday with candidates for several Barton County offices who are unopposed.
Two Republicans and one Democrat are seeking election to the 33rd District of the Kansas Senate this fall. The Republicans, Larry Salmans and Mary Jo Jaylor, Ed.D., will face each other in the August primary. The winner will face Democrat J. Matt Bristow in the November election. Incumbent Mitch Holmes is not seeking re-election.
All three introduced themselves and answered questions last Tuesday at the Great Bend League of Women Voters Candidates Forum. A dozen questions were prepared by the LWV. These questions were not shown to candidates prior to the forum. Candidates drew their first question from a bowl. They could draw a second question or use their time to answer one of the questions posed to other candidates.
Here are some highlights from the program:
Bristow was a registered Independent until he decided to run for the Senate. “I know this is a conservative area,” he said. “This election is about Kansans requiring accountability from elected officials who have brought us to the brink. This election is about the change we need to bring about.”
Salmans has spent eight years in the Senate. “I think we’ve got some real concerns in Topeka,” he said. “We’ve got a concern with Pawnee County; it could be really serious what happens in Pawnee County, and many of the people here in Barton County also work in Pawnee County. If I see people in need and I feel a compulsion to help.”
Taylor mentioned her 30 years in various aspects of education; “you see it from all different perspectives.” She is concerned about the future to education in Kansas, but said, “ I don’t want to come across as a one-agenda person.” Her husband is a hospital administrator in Stafford County. “I’m very concerned about health care, especially rural health care, and I’m very concerned about economic development in our district at large.” Her main reason for running: “I’m so very concerned about the state of the economy in Topeka.”
Salmans: Should the State of Kansas expand Medicaid to help provide health insurance to more Kansans and provide additional funding for hospitals?
“You see, the pot is so big, and the big concern is, if you take and add to Medicare, you take away from Medicaid. Or vice versa. So the question is, how do you want to shuffle that?” He mentioned his background in mental health in private practice and at Larned State Hospital, and added, “Mental health has always been a big concern, and it’s always the one that draws the least, because of the stigma toward it. So yes, there are several things that need to be readjusted. But where does the money come from? Who is going to pay for it? These are questions you need to answer because someone is going to suffer if you take too much from one group.”
Taylor: Do you favor the idea that state government can control whether local school districts can build new facilities?
“The short answer is ‘no.’” Local school boards are people in the community, elected by people who know them. “They are very accountable and they are very in tune to what the community needs.”
Bristow: Do you support Kris Kobach’s law that voters must provide proof of citizenship when they register to vote?
“Obviously you should have to prove who you are to some degree to vote. ... (But) ladies and gentlemen, always be very careful of the people who tell you they are excluding votes. Look at them with double and triple suspicion. Whenever someone’s telling you reasons why we shouldn’t be counting votes, keep an eye on them, because more often than not it’s to subvert the political process. I meant to say it earlier, I am a Democratic candidate, and I know the local people I’ve met are not appreciative of the partisan politics that have brought about our situation.”
Salmans: (Chooses earlier question) Do you favor the idea that state government can control whether local school districts can build new facilities?
“For many years I was on a school board; for many years we had control of many things. Then they instituted at the state level that they would take a certain amount of money local and take it into the general fund and spread it out to everybody, making it ‘equal’ for everybody. ... That is the reason why, when the state takes a certain amount of money, they feel like you ought to be grateful when they give it back to you. It’s your money. Why should you have to kiss their hand, because they’ve taken your money and give it back to you? Then they tell you how you ought to spend the money. So, no.”
Taylor: Do you support the proposed idea that only couples who have been married for seven or more years should be able to adopt children?
“I have to say this is a new question for me. My gut answer is to say no. I work in at situation where there are children in need. There are situations where children should be taken from the situation, put in foster care, should be adopted, and we need opportunities to do what to the best of our ability. So, to put a number on it – to say seven is a magical year that makes a solid marriage – seems a little absurd to me. We need to do our best to provide for the children who are in need.”
Bristow: (Chooses to answer the last question) Do you support the proposed idea that only couples who have been married for seven or more years should be able to adopt children?
“You heard earlier tonight from Amy Shartz Mellor, the next county attorney. I work with her office quite a bit ... taking on what are called Child In Need of Care cases. What we’re dealing with right now is this attempt to, with a machete from Topeka, make these broad policies, that the boots on the ground, the people who are working the cases, disagree with. We should not have arbitrary and capricious rules from people who aren’t there.” Local social workers and judges should make recommendations. “To let Topeka have too much say in the matter is again them overstepping their bounds.”