The following are The Eagle editorial board’s recommendations for the Aug. 7 primaries for Kansas House, districts 91 through 103. We offer these recommendations as information to consider as you make up your own mind about the candidates.
Robin Salem Clements is the clear pick in this redrawn district formerly represented by Brenda Landwehr that now spans north Wichita, Park City and Valley Center. Clements is a small-business owner and a “true believer in public service” with vast experience in research and advocacy on public policy issues including child welfare, juvenile justice and education. She has a real understanding of how things work at the Statehouse. She wants to revise the recent tax reform to be fair to C corporations while looking out for state and local governments’ bond ratings. Clements, who views education as economic development, would fight to fund social services and make decisions issue by issue rather than by ideology.
The other candidate is Gene M. Suellentrop, a business owner who has represented District 105 since 2009. He has a conservative record of voting with business and anti-abortion groups and with the governor, and raised eyebrows with a proposal to study selling the University of Kansas Hospital and a proclamation to honor his family’s bank.
The winner will face Democrat Katelyn A. Delvaux in November.
Sammy K. Flaharty is the choice in this large district in southwest Sedgwick County that spans Haysville and her hometown of Garden Plain. A former salon owner now retired from the Kansas Corporation Commission and doing substitute teaching in rural schools, Flaharty is tired of what’s going on in Topeka and thinks the recent tax cuts unfairly favor some taxpayers and will hurt the schools, the indigent and the elderly. She has a good grasp on the issues and would make a good lawmaker.
The other candidate on the ballot, Pamela Frieden, is not campaigning.
In the general election, the winning Democrat faces Republican George F. (Joe) Edwards II, who seeks to succeed incumbent Dan Kerschen.
Rick Lindsey is the better candidate in this south Wichita district, where the court’s new map displaced incumbent Phil Hermanson. Lindsey has worked in security and retail management, and has spent 13 years in the Navy Reserves. An anti-abortion fiscal conservative, he thinks the governor’s tax-cut plan will be positive for the state and wants to simplify the tax code, limit corporate welfare and work with educators on reforms.
His opponent, Craig Gabel, is an outspoken businessman and libertarian crusader whose past tax and legal problems would make him a poor representative of Wichita at the Statehouse.
The primary winner will compete against Democrat Brandon Whipple in November.
The pick in this southwest Wichita district is Jeff Blubaugh, who is challenging incumbent Leslie Osterman. A former employee at Cessna Aircraft, Blubaugh is a real-estate broker and investor and a conservative whose year as a Goddard school board member has schooled him on how decisions made in Topeka affect locals. He would have preferred a “tax package more fair for everyone,” would not support cutting schools to offset the tax cuts, and believes students should receive the same quality education wherever they live in the state. Blubaugh’s experience and perspective would make him effective in Topeka.
Osterman, a retiree and Vietnam veteran, switched parties in the past but has been a reliable vote for the far-right House leadership on abortion, taxes and more. He likes the recent tax-cut plan and names education, public safety and KanCare as his budget priorities.
In November, the Democrat on the ballot will be former Rep. Dale Swenson, who lost his seat to Osterman two years ago.
Daniel R. Hawkins is the better of two conservative choices in this northwest Wichita district now that redistricting has landed incumbent Mario Goico in District 94. Hawkins’ strengths are his experience working with small businesses as owner of an employee benefits insurance agency, his service in the Kansas Army National Guard, and his extensive civic work, including as president of the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Kansas and board chairman of Higher Ground. He wants the state to reduce regulation of business and stop raiding the transportation plan to fund other areas of the budget.
The other Republican is Bridget Schneider, a mother and former teacher. She would like to see more state income-tax cuts, fewer business regulations, and more education decisions made locally.
The Democrat on the November ballot will be John Wallace Willoughby.
Jamey Blubaugh of Goddard is the best choice in this former Reno County district, which the judges redrew to extend as far east as west Wichita. A real estate agent (and a brother of District 97 candidate Jeff Blubaugh) who would take a business approach to issues, he cites property taxes as a prime concern and wants to ensure schools get adequate funding.
The two-term incumbent is Joe Seiwert of Pretty Prairie, an agribusiness owner with a fiscally and socially conservative voting record. He was pleased with the tax cuts and the rest of the past session, which he gave an A grade. Seiwert drew criticism in 2010 for forwarding and initially defending an anti-Muslim e-mail.
Also on the ballot in this race is Mark E. Holick, a Wichita pastor best known for his public protests against Islam, abortion and gays.
The winner will not face a Democrat in November.
Ponka-We Victors took office in 2011 in an uncontested election, but has been an engaged, knowledgeable representative of this north Wichita district. The first Native American woman elected to the House, she established a Native American Day at the Capitol. She takes pride in having helped knock down eight Arizona-style anti-immigration bills in committee, and believes even in the minority party she can be an effective advocate for jobs, schools and tax fairness. A community support worker at Behavioral Link, she is concerned about the effect of budget cuts on the elderly, young people and those with disabilities in her district.
Her opponent, Angela Martinez, is a life skills coach who works at the Wichita Children’s Home and is dedicated to her underrepresented community and especially young people. Martinez’ priorities are education, economic development and affordable health care, but she lacks Victors’ knowledge of issues. She would make a good candidate in another race or year.
As there is no Republican candidate, the Democratic primary will decide whether Victors returns to Topeka. She should.