The following are The Eagle editorial board’s recommendations for area Kansas House districts 81 through 88. We offer these recommendations as information to consider as you make up your own minds about the candidates:
Voters in Clearwater, Mulvane and Belle Plaine should stick with Republican Pete DeGraaf, the personable financial counselor and former Air Force helicopter pilot who has held the seat since the death of Rep. Ted Powers in 2008. In a second term, the conservative would like to safeguard funding for prisons and public safety, promote vocational education and work to get more dollars to K-12 classrooms.
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Wichita State University student Zach Ketteman, a libertarian running as a Democrat, questions DeGraaf’s support to public schools but takes an unrealistically hard line on state spending, taxes and economic development.
In a choice between two sharply different but capable candidates in this southwest Sedgwick County district including Derby, our pick is attorney E.L. Lee Kinch, a Democratic National Committeeman with a long record of civic engagement who understands the issues, the district and the lawmaking process. He believes in public-private partnerships such as those the state has used to try to safeguard its aviation jobs, and he wants to protect school funding and infrastructure investment. Republican Jim Howell, a political newcomer who works in flight test instrumentation at Boeing, could be effective as part of the area’s conservative delegation in Topeka but lacks Kinch’s credentials and pragmatism. The winner will succeed longtime Republican Rep. Don Myers, who is retiring.
District 83 Having survived a primary challenge from her right, moderate Rep. Jo Ann Pottorff more than deserves a 14th term representing east Wichita and Eastborough. Pottorff has never been shy about putting her constituents’ best interests ahead of her party, and she stood alone among Wichita-area House Republicans in voting for the 1 percent sales-tax increase — rather than force further cuts to schools and social services — and nearly alone in voting for the statewide smoking ban, also taking pride in her efforts to expand passenger rail in the state.
Her Democratic challenger, Sean Amore, is an appealing candidate and shares many of Pottorff’s balanced views on the issues. He would make an good legislator someday — whenever Pottorff retires. Libertarian Gordon Bakken also is running for the seat.
Voters in this northeast Wichita district would do well to re-elect first-term Rep. Gail Finney, a small-business owner whose voting record has followed her priorities of good schools and job creation and who has a wealth of ideas relating to child welfare, corrections, entrepreneurship and more. She already has shown courage in taking the lead on the legislative debate about medical marijuana.
Republican Dan Heflin, a laid-off aeronautical engineer, was motivated in part to run because of the salestax increase, which he would repeal, and his desire to promote the Fair Tax.
The clear choice for voters in this south-central Wichita district is five-term Democratic Rep. Judith Loganbill, whose 31 years of teaching experience, strong advocacy for public education and independent thinking have made her a valued lawmaker. She wants to help the Wichita area develop itself as a medical mecca, including in composites research, and proposes a one- or two-year moratorium on most of the sales-tax exemptions during which the recaptured revenue would be used to pay down state debt and officials could assess the impact of repealing exemptions.
Her second-time challenger, Republican John Stevens, has done some important civic work locally, in addition to his conservative GOP activism. But he has a skewed view of K-12 schools, including USD 259’s spending habits.
For voters looking to replace Rep. Raj Goyle, D-Wichita, in this southeast Wichita district, the slightly better choice is Republican Joseph Scapa, a real-estate agent who also has worked as a substitute teacher. His priorities are those of the conservative majority of the House delegation — repealing the tax hike, encouraging hiring and entrepreneurship through fewer regulations and lower taxes, and mandating a standardized budget reporting system for school districts. Scapa also would like to strengthen financial literacy education in our schools and see the state create a rainy-day fund.
Democrat Om Chauhan has an inspiring personal immigration story and impressive experience related to the Defense Department procurement systems. His more recent career, as an owner of rental properties in Wichita, has led to code compliance cases at City Hall that raise concerns about his candidacy.
Not only is this southeast Wichita district well-served by four-term Democrat Jim Ward, the House’s assistant minority leader, so is the entire region. That’s because of Ward’s rare understanding of the issues, strong advocacy on behalf of Wichita’s priorities, and breadth of experience as an attorney and former member of the Wichita City Council and school board. He believes in public-private partnerships and sees support for education as crucial to the state’s economic future. “That’s our silver bullet,” he said.
In his second run at the seat, Republican Emanuel Banks lists his priorities as family, education, economics and state sovereignty and rights.