House candidates’ differences becoming fewer

Leo Delperdang and Susan Osborne are vying the for the District 94 seat in the Kansas House of Representatives.
Leo Delperdang and Susan Osborne are vying the for the District 94 seat in the Kansas House of Representatives. The Wichita Eagle

The Eagle is profiling legislative races for open seats in Sedgwick County. Today’s report focuses on Kansas House District 94 in west Wichita. To learn more about these candidates or to find out about the candidates in your area, go to The Eagle’s voter guide at Kansas.com/politics.

The race

Republican Leo Delperdang and Democrat Susan Osborne are vying to succeed state Rep. Mario Goico in Kansas House District 94, which sits in far west Wichita.

The candidates

Leo Delperdang: Delperdang, 54, was born in Sioux City, Iowa, and has lived in Wichita for 27 years, working most of that time for AT&T. Previously he worked for the company in Dodge City, Pratt, Omaha, Chicago and New York. He has a degree in electrical engineering and a master of business administration degree. After taking early retirement in 2012, he worked for a smaller telephone company. He left it shortly after winning the Republican primary against attorney Scott Anderson in August.

Delperdang and his wife have two sons, a law enforcement officer and a Wichita State University student. He has been active in the Kansas Patriot Guard and his west-side home owners association. He has been endorsed by Kansans for Life, the National Rifle Association, the Wichita Chamber of Commerce and the Wichita Builders Association.

He says he has changed his stance on a couple of key issues during the course of the election, noting that flexibility should be seen as a positive.

“It’s not all about me,” he said. “I’m not set in stone. I’m going up there with the agenda of the 94th District and west Wichita, and what’s best for them.”

Susan Osborne: The retired professor of business and associate dean, 70, taught at Wichita State University, Newman University and Friends University. She was also director of the Kansas Small Business Development Centers during part of the 1980s and later outreach liaison for Catholic Charities. She is a Wichita native. She and her husband have a married daughter and two grandchildren.

Osborne has served on the Wichita Metropolitan Area Planning Commission, the Wichita Board of Zoning Appeals, the Wichita Parks Foundation and as a precinct committeewoman for the Democratic Party. She’s been endorsed by the Kansas National Education Association, the AFL-CIO and the Sierra Club.

She acknowledges her district and the Legislature have been controlled by Republicans and says her stance as a “conservative Democrat” means she can work with members of the other party.

“I am used to working for resolution and compromise,” she said. “It’s not about the party, it’s the person.”

The issues

There are fewer clear-cut differences between the candidates than there were a couple of months ago. Delperdang said he has dropped support of Gov. Sam Brownback’s 2012 income tax exemption for many businesses because of comments from voters. “I’m hearing overwhelmingly ‘let’s restore the 2012 tax code, let’s do away with the exemption,’ and I have no problem with that.” Osborne has said she will push to repeal the exemption “from day one.”

Delperdang said he also no longer believes that the current level of funding for K-12 schools is adequate after talking to area educators. “We’re going to have to funnel some more money into it. There’s no way of getting around it.”

Osborne has advocated for more spending on schools since starting her campaign.

There still are numerous issues on which the candidates disagree. Delperdang says voters should oust four of the five Kansas Supreme Court justices up for retention this year, mainly based on their overturning death penalties in the Carr brothers’ multiple-murder case. He also wants to give the governor more power in selecting justices. Osborne supports keeping the current justices. She also supports the current selection method, which she says will keep justices politically independent.

Osborne wants the state to expand Medicaid to cover more residents. She points to Arkansas as an example of a state that created thousands of jobs and better health care for its citizens by doing so. Delperdang opposes expansion, saying the “Obamacare crisis” has already hurt businesses and the state.

Osborne says the state’s abortion laws are fine as is, while Delperdang favors more restrictive laws. Delperdang says the state should pass religious freedom legislation, while Osborne supports anti-discrimination measures for sexual orientation and gender identity.

Both candidates say the state should do more to help create jobs and economic growth. They agree on one more issues, too: The most recent Legislature did a really lousy job.

“They’re not meeting their deadlines, they’re not talking across the aisle,” Delperdang said. “It’s disgusting.”