Two out of three candidates for the House seat in District 87 are looking for a job — and not just in Topeka.
Democrat Chris Florquist suspended his campaign Oct. 4 to look for work. Libertarian candidate Santana Marie Talbert is also searching for a job, although her campaign remains active.
Meanwhile, the Republican candidate — Wichita lawyer and businessman Mark Kahrs — says Florquist’s status won’t change a thing about his own campaign.
“Unfortunately, unemployment is a common problem, which is why I’m running,” Kahrs said. “I’m going to try to meet as many people as possible between now and Election Day, urging people to go to the polls."
District 87 is in east Wichita, roughly bounded by Woodlawn, 127th Street East, Harry and 21st Street. The incumbent, Republican Joseph Scapa, is running in District 88 as a result of redistricting. The election is Nov. 6.
Florquist, who had been working for Bavarian Automotive, said in a statement that his employment “came to an unexpected end last month, and I may not find another job in my field without returning to Los Angeles," where he graduated from the University of Southern California.
Florquist’s name remains on the ballot. If he’s elected and has left the state, Florquist said, he will let the Democratic Party choose someone to fill his seat.
“Voters need an alternative to false economic policies that will be harmful to Kansas, both to business and our public schools," Florquist said. “The Republican candidate in this district would be a (Gov. Sam) Brownback loyalist."
On the last part, Florquist gets no argument from Kahrs. His brother Jeff works for Brownback’s administration, and Mark Kahrs has a long record of conservative Republican activism.
Kahrs said he absolutely supports Brownback’s signature achievement, the tax cut he successfully pushed through the Legislature.
“I think it’s going to help grow our economy, create jobs and broaden our tax base," he said.
Kahrs, 50, was born in California but grew up here.
His grandfather, Bill Kahrs, was a prominent lawyer and state senator who died in 1989. Mark’s sister, Laurie, is a former assistant state attorney general and assistant U.S. attorney who now practices law with him. Another brother, Greg, is a Park City doctor and Kansas state air surgeon with the National Guard.
“My grandfather probably instilled in us the responsibility of giving back to the community," Kahrs said.
Kahrs is Republican committee chair for the 4th Congressional District, a former Sedgwick County Republican chair. He worked as field director for then-U.S. Rep. Todd Tiahrt’s campaign in 1996.
Asked why he’s running, Kahrs said, “The easy answer is the seat came open" when districts were redrawn to reflect population shifts in the past 10 years.
“In addition to that, these are very tough times. I think we need leaders who know how to get things accomplished. As a small businessman, I know how to balance a budget and create jobs."
Kahrs’ law firm specializes in debt collection law. He also owns the Recheck collection agency, which he said employs about 15 people.
Kahrs describes himself as a “free market/social conservative." He opposes implementing the federal Affordable Care Act, would like to cut property taxes and supports further restriction on abortions in the state.
Talbert, a 38-year-old accountant with no previous political experience, described herself in a written questionnaire as “socially tolerant, fiscally responsible." She is married to Thomas Jefferson, the Libertarian candidate for the 4th Congressional District seat who changed his name to honor the former president.
“I run on the Libertarian ticket as the other two major parties seem too bent on fighting amongst themselves to stop finger pointing and do the job they are elected to do," Talbert said in the questionnaire.
Talbert said she believes the state should help stimulate sustainable energy technology as a way of creating jobs, provide vouchers for private schools and increase penalties for drunken driving. She thinks gambling would help the county’s economy and supports allowing grocery stores to sell liquor and wine.
Jefferson said this week that his wife was trying to find a job and did not have time to do an interview.
Florquist, 35, in a questionnaire completed before suspending his campaign, described himself politically as “on varying sides of many debates."
He said Brownback’s tax cut will create a large budget deficit and will not increase private sector investment, but he believes the state should offer other, unspecified incentives for business owners to do so.
Florquist likes the existing system for picking appellate and Supreme Court judges and does not think people should be allowed to carry guns on campuses. He opposes Brownback’s plan to privatize Medicaid and further restrictions on abortions, but would vote to allow grocery stores to sell liquor, wine and full-strength beer.
Sedgwick County Democratic Party chairman Terese Johnson said Wednesday that her party had no plans to mount a campaign for a write-in candidate in Florquist’s place, although she didn’t rule out that happening. “Chris is still on the ballot," she said.
Kahrs sympathized with Florquist, saying, “I want to wish my opponent all the best."
As for Talbert, Kahrs said, “It’s pretty exciting to run against Thomas Jefferson’s wife."