The following are The Eagle editorial board’s recommendations in the contested races for the U.S. House, Sedgwick County Commission, sheriff and District Court judge; on retaining members of the Kansas appellate courts; and on the ballot questions on fluoridation and watercraft taxation. We offer these recommendations as information to consider as you make up your own mind about the candidates and issues.
4th Congressional District
Republican incumbent Mike Pompeo is the most qualified and best candidate in this redrawn congressional district that includes Sedgwick County and all its bordering counties except Reno County. Pompeo, a free-market conservative, has made an impact during his first term in office, pushing to rein in spending and regulatory overreach. His effort to end tax credits for wind energy has put him at odds with Gov. Sam Brownback and the state’s U.S. senators and was blamed in part for Siemens’ mass layoff in Hutchinson. But Pompeo argues that the market, not government, should determine the best energy solution.
Democrat Robert Tillman is making his second run for this office. A retired court services officer, Tillman supports President Obama and Democratic positions on tax reforms, regulating industry and health care reform.
Also on the ballot is Libertarian candidate Thomas Jefferson.
Sedgwick County Commission
Commission Chairman Tim Norton more than merits re-election to a fourth term representing this district spanning south-central Wichita, Haysville and Clearwater, for his solid record of leadership during a difficult time for the county budget and local economy. Norton functions as a voice of calm and reason on what can be a contentious board. He takes a thoughtful, collaborative approach to issues, and has been key in advancing big projects such as the downtown arena and the National Institute for Aviation Research and in delivering better roads, bridges and drainage to his district. A founding member of the Regional Economic Area Partnership and the Greater Wichita Economic Development Coalition, he understands how targeted government involvement and incentives can work to spur economic development. Norton was the only Democrat to be endorsed this fall by the Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce political action committee. As he says, “experience counts.”
Republican Ben Sauceda, who is an associate pastor and a first-time candidate, advocates smaller government and less regulation.
Sedgwick County sheriff
Republican Jeff Easter is the clear choice for sheriff. Easter, who defeated incumbent Sheriff Robert Hinshaw in the GOP primary, has served 23 years with the Wichita Police Department. He is currently captain at Patrol North and has done extensive field service work. He is well-qualified to lead the Sheriff’s Office and oversee the county jail.
Democrat Jefrey Weinman, a retired Wichita police officer, has said that God asked him to run for sheriff.
18th Judicial District
Judge Richard Ballinger deserves re-election because of the knowledge and professionalism he exhibits on the bench, as well as his vast experience. The Democrat was rated highly in the latest survey of local attorneys by the Wichita Bar Association and The Eagle, especially for treating people respectfully and fairly and for his work ethic and ethics. The last point is key in this race – suggesting improvement since ethical lapses on his part, both personally and as chief judge at the time, drew a 2006 cease-and-desist order from the state Commission on Judicial Qualifications. Ballinger, who is presiding probate judge, knows every facet of the court and can draw on his psychology degree and eight years as a prosecutor. It also reflects well on Ballinger that he went 20 years on the bench without drawing a challenger.
Republican Zoe Newton, vice president and general counsel for the Hartman Companies, is an impressive person with a strong resume who could make a good judge. But her limited legal and especially courtroom experience in Kansas are concerns, as are the poor ratings she received in the survey of local attorneys.
Kansas Supreme Court, Court of Appeals
Kansans should vote to retain state Supreme Court Justice Nancy Moritz and Kansas Court of Appeals Judges Steve Leben, G. Joseph Pierron Jr., David E. Bruns, G. Gordon Atcheson and Karen Arnold-Burger. Another judge on the ballot, Court of Appeals Chief Judge Richard Greene, died earlier this month. These courts have their critics, and likely face an effort by Gov. Sam Brownback and the Legislature to alter how their future members are chosen. But both courts treat people respectfully and make good-faith decisions about how the law should be applied. These judges should be retained.
The Eagle editorial board advocates a “yes” vote on Nov. 6 to fluoridate Wichita’s water system. The opponents are sincere in their safety concerns about the proposal to increase the naturally occurring fluoride level to .7 parts per million. But more than half a century of peer-reviewed scientific research is on fluoridation’s side – along with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the past five U.S. surgeons general, the American Dental Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and 533 local dental and medical professionals. In addition, a 2012 state report concluded that populous Wichita’s “lack of community water fluoridation is a probable causal factor” in why 58 percent of third-graders have cavities in south-central Kansas, compared with only 44 percent in northeast Kansas (home of fluoridated Topeka, Lawrence and the Kansas City area). Cost concerns have merit, especially with the city water system’s financial challenges. But fluoridation saves money on dental treatment. More waiting will only mean more unnecessary tooth decay in Wichita.
Kansans should vote “yes” on the lengthy ballot question about taxing watercraft. If the constitutional amendment passes, the Legislature will be able to classify and tax watercraft on a different basis from other personal property. As it is, many Kansans avoid the crazy-high taxes by registering their boats (unlawfully) in the nearby states with no property tax on watercraft. That’s bad for the state’s budget, lakes and parks, as well as boat sales.
Thursday: State House districts 81-90
Friday: State House districts 91-105
Saturday: State Senate
Sunday: U.S. House, Sedgwick County Commission, sheriff, District Court judge, Kansas appellate courts, fluoridation and watercraft ballot questions
Endorsements can be read online at Kansas.com/opinion.