The following are The Eagle editorial board’s recommendations for the Nov. 8 general election for the Kansas House, Districts 93-105. Endorsements for Kansas Senate will be published on Friday.
In many past years, the recommendations tended to be evenly split between Republicans and Democrats. This year, the combination of quality Democratic candidates and the gross mismanagement of the state by GOP incumbents tipped the balance in favor of Democrats in House races.
Additional candidate information can be found in The Eagle’s online Voters Guide at Kansas.com/politics.
Democrat Deb Shepard is the best pick in this district that includes Cheney, Clearwater and Viola and parts of Goddard, Haysville, Mulvane and Wichita. Shepard has worked as a maintenance analyst at Boeing, a city clerk in Clearwater and as an assistant manager of a branch bank. She has also served on several local and state boards. She is a problem-solver who will bring a commonsense approach to lawmaking. Her priorities include repealing the tax exemption for pass-through business income and adequately funding public schools. She says that Gov. Sam Brownback’s experiment isn’t working and it is time to do something different. She’s right.
One-term Republican incumbent John Whitmer is best known in Topeka for crying on the House floor before voting last year to raise the statewide sales tax. He thinks state government has a spending problem and that the level of taxation needs to be much lower. He also says that the level of state spending on education is fine as it is.
Democrat Susan K. Osborne is highly qualified and the better of two good candidates vying to replace outgoing Rep. Mario Goico, R-Wichita, in this northwest Wichita district. Osborne’s impressive work background includes being a professor of business and associate dean at Friends University, serving as state director of the Kansas Small Business Development Centers and owning a marketing consulting company. She also has served on the Metropolitan Area Planning Commission and the Wichita Board of Zoning Appeals, as well as numerous local boards and associations. She supports repealing the tax exemption on pass-through business income, increasing support for public education and expanding Medicaid. “I’m committed to make decisions in the best interest of Kansas,” she said.
Republican Leo Delperdang is a retired telecommunications executive who also owns rental properties. He is an enthusiastic and eager candidate who is also willing to change his mind on issues. During the primary, he opposed any tax increase. He now supports repealing the tax exemption on pass-through business income. He also no longer believes that the current level of funding for K-12 schools is adequate and now thinks more state funding will be needed.
Incumbent Democrat Tom Sawyer is the best choice in this central Wichita district. Sawyer has extensive political experience, including having served as House majority leader and as the Democratic nominee for governor in 1998. He works across party lines to reach solutions – the type of lawmaker we need in Topeka. He would deal with the budget shortfalls by cutting waste and improving efficiency and by eliminating the tax exemption on pass-through business income. “We need all Kansans to pay their fair share,” he said.
Republican Michael Capps is a capable candidate who ran unsuccessfully for the Wichita school board last year. He thinks the state needs to identify more innovative and efficient ways to do more with less.
Democrat Stan Reeser is the clear choice in this district that includes parts of southwest Wichita and Delano. Reeser is a former Wichita City Council member and a current member of the Wichita Transit Advisory Board. He is running to “restore fiscal responsibility and to be a strong voice for strong schools.” Reeser supports repealing both the tax exemption on pass-through business income and the statewide sales tax increase. “I am the true fiscal conservative in this race,” Reeser said, “because I believe in balanced budgets.”
Incumbent Republican Leslie G. Osterman has backed most of the tax and spending policies that got the state in fiscal trouble. He has not been a particularly effective lawmaker.
Democrat Steve Crum is the best choice in this southwest Wichita district that includes Haysville. Crum, who ran for this seat two years ago and narrowly lost, has extensive community and public service experience. He teaches and coaches in the Haysville school district, has been a Special Olympics coach for more than 20 years and served on the Haysville Planning Commission. He is a member of the Haysville City Council. Crum objects to how the state shifted the tax burden onto the working class and the poor. He believes “the only way to get this state back on track is by representatives working together.”
Two-term incumbent Republican Steve Anthimides is also a good candidate. He joined the Legislature after it passed Brownback’s tax plan, but he voted for the statewide sales tax increase and voted this session against repealing the tax exemption on pass-through business income. He says the exemption needs to be reviewed but isn’t sure whether it needs to be repealed or revised. He supports more funding for education and expanding Medicaid.
Republican incumbent Daniel Hawkins is the better candidate in this northwest Wichita district. Hawkins is chairman of the House Health and Human Services Committee and the House Republican caucus. He also was the recipient of the most lobbyist spending so far this year. Hawkins helped block Medicaid expansion, but he said the public spoke loudly on this issue in the August primary. He now expects hearings on an expansion bill next session. Hawkins has been a leading champion on other Medicaid issues, including strongly objecting to Brownback’s reimbursement cuts. Hawkins also opposes the tax exemption on pass-through business income.
Democrat Glen Shafer is also a good candidate. He supports either repealing or revising the tax exemption on pass-through business income. He also supports Medicaid expansion and is concerned about legislative attacks on public school teachers.
Democrat Clifton Beck is the pick in this western Sedgwick County and southeast Reno County district that includes Garden Plain and parts of Goddard and Wichita. Beck, a manager at a technology company, wants to revise the tax exemption on pass-through business income. He also wants to look for ways to make state government more efficient. He is reform-minded and says he would work with others to find good compromises.
Republican incumbent Joe Seiwert has largely been a reliable supporter of Brownback’s agenda. He voted for the 2012 tax cuts and the 2015 increase in the statewide sales tax. However, he now is willing to reconsider the tax exemption, and he supports Medicaid expansion. He recently commented on an anti-black meme on Facebook that an African-American woman who knelt while singing the national anthem needed to “go back” to where she claims as home.
Democrat Cammie Funston is the best choice of two quality candidates vying to replace outgoing Rep. Mark Hutton, R-Wichita, in this west Wichita district. Funston, a recently retired para-educator with the Wichita school district, is concerned about the direction the state is headed. She wants to help resolve recurring budget shortfalls by closing the business tax exemption. She also wants to invest more in public education and expand Medicaid. Funston worked in special education and serves on the executive committee of the Starkey Advisory Council, so she also understands the needs of vulnerable Kansans. She is a thoughtful, concerned citizen who would be a valuable voice for change in Topeka.
Republican Brenda Landwehr is seeking to return to Topeka. She served in the House from 1995 through 2012, when she was defeated after her district was redrawn. She moved into this district last year. During her time in the Legislature, Landwehr was a valuable watchdog of the state’s foster care system. She voted for the 2012 tax cuts and wants to deal with the budget shortfalls by getting state spending under control.