The following are The Eagle editorial board’s recommendations in the contested area races for Kansas House. We offer these recommendations as information to consider as you make up your own mind about the candidates.
Former one-term Rep. Joseph Scapa is the best choice in this southeast Wichita district. He would like to evaluate all current state regulations and sunset some of them, and promote innovation over standardization in schools. If voters return him to Topeka, Scapa should show more initiative. Like most of the Republicans in House races this year, Scapa is too unconcerned about the state’s self-inflicted shortfall and the budget choices it will force.
The other Republican is Jim Price.
The winner will face incumbent Democrat Patricia M. Sloop in November.
Rep. Gene Suellentrop wins endorsement in this district spanning northwest Wichita, Maize, Valley Center, Park City and Kechi for his experience as a business owner and his legislative leadership, which landed him the influential chairmanship of the House Appropriations Committee this year. As the state’s budget problems mount, it will be crucial to the Wichita area that its lawmakers are in the room for fiscal negotiations. If re-elected, Suellentrop should be guided more by the educational needs and budget realities of his district than by conservative fealty.
His challenger is Eric Henderson, a former real estate broker who has had legal and financial problems.
No Democrat filed for this seat.
The best choice in this north-central Wichita district is Jeremy Alessi, a financial adviser who serves on the Arts Council and the city’s cultural funding committee. Alessi, who describes himself as a problem solver and passionate about education, holds conservative views and makes it sound as if Kansas can easily cut its way out of its coming budget crisis, but he would bring good experience in financial matters and nonprofit organizations to the job.
The other primary candidate is Jason Paul Dean, a substitute teacher and landlord who ran for the Legislature as a Democrat in 2000 and 2002. He would like to see more per-pupil base state aid and higher teacher salaries, and would find more revenue by raising the sales tax on unhealthy food.
The winning Republican will challenge Rep. John Carmichael, a Democrat tapped for the seat last year after Rep. Nile Dillmore’s retirement.
Challenger John Whitmer is the preference in this district, which includes Cheney, Clearwater and Viola and parts of Goddard, Haysville, Mulvane and Wichita. His diverse business background and political and civic involvement, including on Wichita’s District 4 Advisory Board, give him a good understanding of the issues and would help make him leadership material in Topeka. Whitmer is critical of the Legislature’s habit of passing big bills at 3 a.m., would stream committee hearings online, calls for more constructive bipartisanship and would like to help plan for the state’s water needs.
Though both Republicans in the primary are like-minded conservatives who even favor a Fair Tax, incumbent George F. (Joe) Edwards II has had an unimpressive first term, also generating some troubling headlines.
The winner will face Democrat Sammy K. Flaharty in November.
Rick Lindsey is the clear pick in the south Wichita district. Lindsey has worked in security and retail management and has served in the Navy Reserves. An anti-abortion fiscal conservative, Lindsey wants to make sure Kansas has a sound budget in coming years. Though he supports income tax reductions, he is open to reconsidering some business incentives to make sure they are affordable. He is also interested in eliminating the sales tax on food. Lindsey says he is willing to listen to all sides of issues and thinks there is too much destructive politics.
His opponent is Christopher K. Brown.
The primary winner will face Democratic incumbent Brandon Whipple in November.
Incumbent Leslie G. Osterman is narrowly the better choice in this southwest Wichita district. A retiree and Vietnam veteran, Osterman has been a reliable conservative vote during his two terms in office. He is particularly proud of a technology training bill he helped champion in a previous session and wants to increase its funding so that more high school students can get in the program. He favors dealing with budget shortfalls by cutting state spending.
His opponent is Michael E. Walker, a retired small-business owner, Vietnam veteran and substitute teacher. His priorities include smaller government, less spending and state rights. “We’re going to have to work smarter and tighten our belts,” he said.
There is no Democrat running for this seat.
Steven G. Crum is the best pick in this southwest Wichita district that includes parts of Haysville. Crum teaches and coaches in the Haysville school district and has served on the Haysville Planning Commission and is currently a member of the Haysville City Council. He has also been very active in community organizations, including Special Olympics. He is concerned about the lack of give and take in Topeka and wants to help solve problems. He thinks recent tax changes are burdening the middle and lower classes, and he wants to fully fund education.
Eric Bell is also a good candidate. He works for an oil and tire distributor and is a representative on the Wichita City Council District 3 Advisory Board. His priorities include fully funding education, restoring due-process rights for teachers, and enacting a more progressive tax code.
The winner will face Republican Steven Anthimides, who was appointed to the seat after Phil Hermanson resigned last year.
Randy J. Banwart is the best candidate in this district that includes east Wichita and Andover. An operations manager at SpiritAeroSystems, Banwart is “disappointed in the road the Legislature has taken us down.” His priorities include job growth and properly funding education. “I want to get back to the basics of government,” he said. Banwart also supports the state’s renewable energy standards, noting that wind energy is “creating a lot of jobs in Kansas.” He argues that he will be “a stronger voice for our district” in Topeka.
Incumbent Dennis E. Hedke, a geophysicist, may be most known for his efforts to repeal the renewable energy standards. He argues that it is not just an issue being pushed by Koch-backed groups but that it also matters to businesses and people on fixed incomes, though there is strong public support for the standards. Hedke wants to close state budget shortfalls by focusing first on improving efficiency. He supported eliminating state-mandated due-process rights for teachers and thinks the state will benefit long term from this change.
No Democrat is running for this seat.
Thursday: Kansas House
Friday: Sedgwick County Commission, District Court
Saturday: Kansas governor, secretary of state, insurance commissioner
Sunday: U.S. Senate, U.S. House