Taxes, spending top issues in District 96 GOP primary

Taxes and spending are big concerns in the Republican primary race for the District 96 House seat.

"Jobs and the economy are the most important issues at this time," said Phil Hermanson, who defeated his Republican challenger, Mark Gietzen, in 2008. "Tax increases must stop to create jobs and help the economy. We have $10 billion in state assets that we could sell to gain revenue for the state."

Hermanson voted against the temporary sales tax increase that was approved by the state Legislature and took effect July 1.

Although he feels strongly about other issues, including abortion and growing electrical energy needs, Gietzen said taxes and spending are important, too.

"Our state and our nation is at a critical point in our history," he said. "We must regain control of an out-of-control state government, one that, in some cases, is operating outside the boundaries of the Kansas Constitution, and in many cases, outside the parameters of common sense and good judgment, particularly on tax and spending issues."

Both candidates say the state should have a rainy day fund as a cushion against lean years. Both say the state's smoking ban is flawed because it exempts state-owned casinos.

The winner of the Republican primary election will run against a newcomer, Democratic candidate Brandon Whipple.

District 96 serves parts of southwestern Wichita and parts of the surrounding townships of Riverside and Waco.

In 2008, Hermanson won 315 votes, or 55.4 percent, to Gietzen's 253 votes, or 44.5 percent. He went on to defeat Democratic incumbent Terry McLachlan.

He said he feels he is the best candidate for the job once again.

"I actually vote for this district, and not for my own interests," he said.

Hermanson recently pleaded no contest to a charge of driving under the influence of prescription drugs. He said he had taken prescription medications for high blood pressure and never had any problems until he was in an accident last November. Two women in another car were injured in the accident.

Hermanson last week was ordered to pay a $500 fine and spend 48 hours in custody of the city's intervention program. He will spend the next year on probation.

Hermanson has said he believes his DUI should not be a factor in the race.

Gietzen said the only information he has learned about the DUI is from reading the newspaper.

Hermanson also has faced two civil court cases — a mortgage foreclosure and an income tax warrant — since 2008. He said both have been taken care of.

"My house was not foreclosed on, and the income tax warrant was settled by payment," he said.

Gietzen said he filed to run in 2008 as a means of getting Hermanson to run. "When he did so, as agreed, I supported him openly."

This year is different, Gietzen said. Two years ago, he said, he was protesting daily at George Tiller's abortion clinic, making it difficult for him to have time to serve in the Legislature. Tiller was shot to death last summer and the clinic closed.

Gietzen strongly opposes abortion and supports the Kansas Coalition for Life.

He said Kansas should pass a law similar to Nebraska's new abortion law, if it is upheld by the Supreme Court. That law prevents abortion after 20 weeks, based on the assertion that a fetus can feel pain.

Hermanson also said he thinks the state's late-term abortion law should be more strict.

Gietzen said he feels he is ready to make changes in the Legislature.

"I would be an active and enthusiastic advocate for all citizens in the 96th District," particularly for those who have problems with state agencies and social services, he said.

Hermanson said his experience should help set him apart from Gietzen and Whipple.

"I... feel very confident about winning," Hermanson said.