The following are The Eagle editorial board’s recommendations for the contested races for Kansas House, districts 81 through 90. We offer these recommendations as information to consider as you make up your own mind about the candidates.
Republican Jim Howell is the best choice in this race because of his analytical approach to lawmaking and because he seems to be a good fit for this southeast Wichita and Sedgwick County district, which includes McConnell Air Force Base and several aircraft manufacturers. The Air Force veteran works at Boeing and shares the conservative principles of many people in this district. Howell, who currently is the representative for District 82, wants the state to operate more like a family on a budget.
His opponent is Democrat Barbara Lynn Wells, who is a retired case worker supervisor with the Kansas Department for Children and Families. She thinks the tax plan passed last session is a disaster and wants to restore funding to public schools. She is concerned about listening to and helping people in the district, not promoting an agenda.
Democrat Carolyn Bridges is hands down the better candidate in this east Wichita district. Bridges – a retired USD 259 teacher and administrator, who was principal at South High School and Pleasant Valley Middle School – says she listens to both sides of an argument and then makes a decision. Her priorities include reversing funding cuts to education and returning more civility to the Legislature. She is smart and experienced and would be a good replacement for retiring Republican Rep. Jo Ann Pottorff.
Her opponent, Republican Tim Garvey, is inexperienced and not a good candidate. He received national attention recently for a Facebook rant against President Obama that included the f-word and bad grammar. He wants to “be on the front line fighting tooth and nail” to eliminate all abortions in Kansas, and he wants to look into arresting federal officials who try to implement the Affordable Care Act.
Democratic incumbent Gail Finney is the clear choice for this northeast Wichita district and should be sent back to Topeka for a third term. Finney is a small-business owner who advocates for good schools and services for seniors and the disabled. She also has taken the lead in supporting medical marijuana.
Republican Dan Heflin didn’t answer questions for The Eagle’s voter guide. When he ran for this position two years ago, he advocated for the Fair Tax. Libertarian Gordon Bakken also is running for the seat.
Republican incumbent Steve Brunk is the better of two good candidates for this northeast Wichita district that includes Bel Aire. Brunk, who was first elected in 2002, has been an effective, capable lawmaker who describes himself as a “practical conservative.” He supports the tax cut passed last session and thinks it will stimulate the economy and create jobs.
His opponent is Democrat Barry Stanley, a retired school administrator and psychologist. Stanley lost the Democratic primary to Rebecca Armstrong but was picked by a Democratic precinct committee to be on the ballot after Armstrong officially dropped out of the race. He favors property-tax cuts instead of the income-tax plan approved by the Legislature.
Democrat Jim Ward is the clear choice in this south Wichita district. Ward – an attorney who has served on the Wichita school board and Wichita City Council, in the Kansas Senate and, since 2003, in the Kansas House for District 88 – has strong analytical and communication skills. He has served as assistant minority leader of the House and chairman of the south-central delegation. He is particularly effective and needed on education issues.
His opponents are Republican John Stevens, who is making his fourth run for this seat, and Libertarian James Pruden.
Republican Mark Kahrs is the best candidate in this newly configured far-east Wichita district. Kahrs is an attorney and small-business owner who has been active in GOP politics for years. He is smart and savvy, and will be a valuable addition in the Wichita delegation.
His opponents are Democrat Chris Florquist, who is no longer campaigning, and Libertarian Santana Marie Talbert.
Democrat Patricia Sloop is the better choice in this southeast Wichita district. A retired clinical social worker and college instructor, Sloop would focus on restoring funding to education, which she considers a key to economic development. She wants to be a “voice of reason” in Topeka and is concerned about the struggles of regular Kansans.
Her opponent is Republican Joseph Scapa, a first-term representative for District 87 who was shifted to District 88 by redistricting. Scapa has grown during his first term but doesn’t match Sloop’s experience and insight.
Democrat Roderick Houston, pastor of Mt. Olive Tabernacle of Praise Church, is the clear pick to replace retiring Rep. Melody McCray-Miller in this northeast Wichita district. Houston is well-connected to the district and community, and would take a balanced approached to governing. His priorities include reversing funding cuts to education and protecting services for seniors and the disabled.
His opponent is Republican Emanuel Banks, who ran twice for the District 88 seat and wants to push for lower taxes.
Republican incumbent Steve Huebert is the better candidate in this large north Sedgwick County district that includes Valley Center. Huebert, who was first elected in 2000, wants to rework the state school-finance formula to give schools more flexibility. He supported the tax cut approved last session but thinks lawmakers may need to revisit it.
His opponent is Democrat Merry Matthews. Her primary focus is restoring school funding, but she lacks knowledge about many of the other issues facing the state.
Thursday: State House districts 81-90
Friday: State House districts 91-105
Saturday: State Senate
Sunday: U.S. Congress, Sedgwick County Commission, sheriff, District Court judge, Kansas appellate courts, fluoridation and watercraft ballot questions