Newcomers seek District 82 GOP nomination

TOPEKA — Three political newcomers are jockeying to replace eight-term Derby Republican Rep. Don Myers, who announced his retirement this spring.

Joseph Ashby, Jim Howell and Van A. Willis, all of Derby, said they would not have run in the Republican primary for House District 82 had Myers filed. The winner of the primary will face E.L. Lee Kinch, a Democratic national committeeman, in the November general election.

The district encompasses Derby and parts of Gypsum, Riverside, Rockford and Salem townships.

Financial consultant Willis, 54, said his campaign is putting into practice advice he has given his children: "You can't affect the score of the game by sitting in the stands yelling at the umpire."

Willis said he wants to help make government more accountable. "I feel like our government officials are too detached."

The solution to the state's financial problems is to create more jobs in the private sector, he said.

"We need to get people back to work, we need to get people putting money back into the tax base," he said.

That would give the state more money to cover expenses and make funding state programs easier, he said.

Willis said he also wanted to make government more accountable and open to voters.

"If I go up there and I do nothing else but open up the government to the people where they have more access and know what is going on, then I've accomplished something," he said.

Willis served in both the Air Force and Army, retiring from the Army as a sergeant first class.

Ashby, 28, a Spirit AeroSystems engineer, moved to Wichita with his family in December 2008.

Ashby said he has been politically active by speaking at Tea Party events, writing for several conservative publications and working with the local Americans for Prosperity chapter.

He described himself as a "constitutional conservative." If elected, Ashby said, he would work to repeal the three year, 1-cent state sales tax increase that started July 1. He also would fight the growth of government and work to change the state's school funding formula.

"While we tend to be much smarter with our funds (in Derby) school-wise, we pay for other less efficient districts," he said.

Ashby also plans to create what he called a list of the most damaging regulations in Kansas — those that prevent business owners from growing their companies, he said — and work to eliminate them.

By breaking down government barriers, Ashby predicted, businesses in Kansas could be 20 to 30 percent more productive.

Howell, 46, tests the instrumentation on the Boeing 767 international tanker and has helped supervise local polling places during elections.

He called the sales tax increase "irresponsible at this time."

"It is exactly the wrong thing to do when we have over 100,000 people unemployed in our state. It is going to hurt the people who can least afford to pay it," he said.

Howell said the Derby school district did a good job managing its money, but the same could not be said for all districts in the state.

He would like to see the school spending formula changed so local school districts keep more of their own money.

He also favors parents having the right to choose the best education options for their children.

He wants more information quantifying the benefits of more spending on the educational system.

"I do understand that it is very important and must be funded adequately. ... The question is what is adequate?" he said.

Howell served in the U.S. Air Force, working on the avionics and flight controls for the F-111.