Candidates focus on deficit in U.S. Senate race

U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran, center, is facing a challenge from Libertarian Robert Garrard, left, and Democrat Patrick Wiesner.
U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran, center, is facing a challenge from Libertarian Robert Garrard, left, and Democrat Patrick Wiesner. Courtesy photos

The race

Democrat Patrick Wiesner and Libertarian Robert Garrard are challenging Republican Sen. Jerry Moran for one of two Kansas seats in the U.S. Senate.

The candidates

▪ Jerry Moran is completing his first term as a U.S. senator. Before he was elected to the Senate in 2010, he served seven terms in the House of Representatives representing the western Kansas 1st District.

Prior to that, he was an eight-year member of the Kansas Senate, including two years as majority leader. He holds a law degree and worked as a banker before his career in politics. Moran chaired the Republican National Senatorial Committee for the 2014 election cycle, a year that saw the GOP pick up nine seats and seize the majority from the Democrats.

▪ Patrick Wiesner, a Democrat, is an attorney and certified public accountant who owns the Wiesner & Frackowiak firm in Overland Park. The firm specializes in tax, bankruptcy and business law. Wiesner also served in the military reserves for 21 years, retiring in 2014 with the rank of major in the Judge Advocate General Corps of the Army Reserve.

Wiesner won the August Democratic primary to advance and challenge Moran. He also ran for the Senate in 2014, losing in the primary to Shawnee County District Attorney Chad Taylor, who ultimately dropped out of the race to allow independent Greg Orman a clear shot at Republican Sen. Pat Roberts.

▪ Robert Garrard is an electronics technician with military and civilian experience. He holds the position of Libertarian Party 2nd Congressional District coordinator and ran for the House of Representatives in 2008 and 2010.

The issues

Wiesner is a hard-core deficit hawk who says he wants to remake the federal tax code and eliminate subsidies.

“I’m a get-us-out-of-debt candidate,” he said. “There are no get-us-out-of-debt Republicans.

“I want the Congress to quit giving out our tax dollars to the clients of well-connected lobbyists. I want us to have budgets done on time and in surplus, so that we have money to pay off our national debt and do it before us baby boomers all die.”

Wiesner is hoping to tap into voter anger to try to unseat Moran.

“They (voters) are madder than hell at nothing getting done and being lied to by the Republican establishment in Washington. Donald Trump is a manifestation of the anger at Washington Republicans – which our entire congressional delegation and our two senators are a big part of. They are a big-government clique.”

Wiesner also says the Affordable Care Act, colloquially known as Obamacare, “needs reworking as soon as possible.”

He said his clients regularly complain to him about the rising cost of health insurance. “Operationally, it (the ACA) has not been successful,” he said.

But while Wiesner is conservative on fiscal and health issues, he holds some liberal social-issue positions more in line with traditional Democratic views.

He favors same-sex marriage and abortion rights.

“Everybody in the world should have a right to a happy marriage,” he said. “It’s the greatest event that can happen in your lifetime.”

Abortion is a woman’s decision, he said. “People in Washington cannot have the knowledge, the experience or the empathy to stick their nose into the most personal decision a woman would ever face.”

Moran also cited fixing deficit spending as a top priority.

“Revenues and spending need to come together and this country needs to get out of this deficit and debt cycle we are in,” he said.

A big part of that would be a national conversation on what Americans want and expect from the federal government and what they’re willing to pay for.

“Those two things need to come into balance,” he said. “I’m of the view that we do too much in Washington. More should be done by local government, by state government (because) local decisions are better than decisions far away.”

Moran said another priority would be to rein in regulation.

“Part of that is so the economy can grow and help pay down the debt,” he said. “We have a constant battle with various agencies and departments in that regard.”

For example, he cited a situation in 2012 when Congress and farmers got the Labor Department to back off regulations that would have restricted the types of work that children under 16 could perform on family farms.

“It’s an example of where you stay at this, you can occasionally have a victory,” Moran said.

Moran said he also wants to work to ensure continued federal investment in Kansas, including medical research at the University of Kansas, which has a prestigious National Cancer Institute; the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility at Kansas State University; and Wichita State University’s National Institute for Aviation Research.

“It’s continued investment in the things that will grow our economy,” he said.

He also wants to continue federal funding for the KC46-A tanker program. The nation’s next-generation refueling aircraft is scheduled to arrive at McConnell Air Force Base near Wichita next year.

Garrard’s platform mostly follows the standard Libertarian Party doctrines of limited government.

He opposes intervention in foreign conflicts and favors withdrawal of most U.S. troops around the globe.

He opposes government intervention in business beyond courts to enforce contracts and prosecute crimes such as fraud.

Garrard opposes paper “fiat currency” printed by the government and prefers an economic system where transactions would be made using gold, other valuable metals and “any other nonmonopoly money that can be privately produced and successfully traded on a free market.”

He wants government to stay out of religious and moral issues.

Dion Lefler: 316-268-6527, @DionKansas