The following are The Eagle editorial board’s endorsements for the Nov. 8 general election. We offer these recommendations as information to consider as you make up your own mind about the candidates. Additional candidate information can be found in The Eagle’s Voters Guide.
Incumbent Republican Jerry Moran is the clear pick and deserves to return to the Senate. Moran is dependable and responsible and has never lost his connection to Kansas. He is a voice of calm and reason in an increasingly partisan and polarized Congress.
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Democrat Patrick Wiesner is making his third run for the Senate. A tax attorney and CPA, Wiesner’s priorities include reducing the national debt and simplifying the tax code.
Also running is Libertarian Robert D. Garrard.
4th Congressional District
Incumbent Republican Mike Pompeo is the best choice for this south-central Kansas district that includes Sedgwick County. Pompeo is a true believer in a free market and smaller government, yet he is also pragmatic enough to know that change sometimes requires incremental steps. He stands out as one of the few lawmakers to actually get legislation through both chambers and signed into law. That’s a testament to his diligence and preparation, and his willingness to find common ground. Pompeo also has emerged as an influential voice on intelligence gathering and foreign policy matters. Unfortunately, that has also made him appear partisan and strident at times. Pompeo is at his best when he is methodically working to pass legislation and solve problems important to Kansas.
Democrat Daniel B. Giroux is also a capable candidate. An attorney who serves on a number of local boards, Giroux is frustrated with gridlock in Congress and the failure to deal with long-standing problems, such as entitlement reform. He isn’t in lockstep with the Democratic Party and could be a valuable independent voice in Congress.
Independent Miranda Allen is also frustrated with a system paralyzed by partisan bickering. “Fighting with each other is not helping America,” she said. Also running is Libertarian Gordon Bakken.
1st Congressional District
Republican Roger Marshall is the top candidate vying to represent this vast district that includes most of western, central and north-central Kansas, including Hutchinson and Salina. He defeated incumbent Tim Huelskamp in the GOP primary. Though Marshall is as conservative as Huelskamp on many issues, he pledges to work with others to get things done. Marshall has a wide range of business and public service experience, including managing a medical practice, serving as board chairman of the Great Bend Regional Hospital and serving on the Kansas Wildlife, Parks and Tourism Commission. He is hopeful that he would be appointed to the House Agriculture Committee, if elected. Other priorities include reducing the national debt and adequately funding and supporting national security.
Independent Alan LaPolice ran for this office two years ago as a Republican, losing a close primary race to Huelskamp. He initially filed again as a Republican before switching to an independent. He is smart and earnest and describes himself as an Eisenhower conservative. He says that not having the “shackle of the party label” would help him bridge the partisan divide.
Libertarian Kerry Burt is also on the ballot but has suspended his campaign.
Sedgwick County Commission
Incumbent Democrat Tim Norton is the clear choice in this district that includes south Wichita, Haysville and Clearwater. Norton has extensive experience in both the private and public sectors. He served nine years on the Haysville City Council and four years as mayor of Haysville. He managed a Wichita Target store for 19 years before resigning in 1999 to devote himself full time to the cleanup and recovery of Haysville after a devastating tornado. He has been a dedicated and effective Sedgwick County commissioner for the past 16 years. Norton is a leader on many issues, including public health and child abuse prevention. He is particularly skilled at working with other stakeholders to find solutions. Lately, he has been a voice of reason on a sometimes unreasonable commission. His voice and experience are still needed.
Republican Michael O’Donnell served part of one term on the Wichita City Council and one term in the Kansas Senate. His short tenures have included controversies about whether he lived and paid rent in the district he represented and how he provided alcohol for a party attended by underage Wichita State University students. He is ambitious but lacks the maturity and proven record of Norton.
Republican David Dennis is the better choice of two excellent candidates in this district that includes northwest Wichita and most of western Sedgwick County. Dennis, who defeated incumbent Karl Peterjohn in the August GOP primary, is a retired colonel with the U.S. Air Force who has extensive experience in managing people and budgets. He also has worked as a public school teacher in Wichita, was chairman of the Kansas State Board of Education, and has served on a city of Wichita district advisory board and on the Metropolitan Area Planning Commission. His priorities include better management of the county budget and economic development. He would provide pragmatic, responsible leadership to the commission.
Independent Marcey Gregory, who ran for this seat eight years ago as a Democrat, also would be a good commissioner. She is mayor of Goddard and has served on numerous boards and commissions, including the Regional Economic Area Partnership. She believes the biggest issue facing the county is sluggish economic growth, and that public and private partnerships, such as Wichita State University’s Innovation Campus, are a key to business growth and retention.
Sedgwick County Sheriff
Incumbent Republican Jeff Easter is the clear choice and should remain as sheriff. Prior to being elected in 2012, he served 27 years with the Wichita Police Department and the Sheriff’s Office, including 15 years in management. He has been a steady, capable and accessible leader. He deserved to be re-elected.
Democrat Jefrey Weinman, a retired Wichita police officer, first ran for this office in 2012, saying that God asked him to run. He lacks the background for this top law enforcement job.
Kansas Supreme Court, Court of Appeals
Ballot questions on whether to retain Kansas Supreme Court justices and Kansas Court of Appeals judges normally draw little attention. But this year, these decisions are among the most important and contested.
All of the justices and judges should be retained.
Most of the focus has been on the five Supreme Court justices on the ballot – Carol A. Beier, Dan Biles, Marla Luckert, Lawton R. Nuss and Caleb Stegall. Four of them have been portrayed by some as “activists” who put their personal biases above the law. But all these justices have performed their difficult jobs with care and integrity. The same is also true of the six Court of Appeals judges on the ballot – Steve Leben, G. Joseph Pierron Jr., David E. Bruns, G. Gordon Atcheson, Karen Arnold-Burger and Kathryn A. Gardner.
That’s also the conclusion of legal professionals in the state. The Kansas Judicial Evaluation Committee surveyed attorneys who have practiced before the appellate justices and judges, as well as law professors and other legal experts. Respondents overwhelmingly supported retaining the justices and judges.
Most of the organized opposition has centered on the Supreme Court’s order to hold separate sentencing trials for the Carr brothers (which the U.S. Supreme Court overturned). But well-financed groups are also hoping to use this emotional case to reshape the courts so that they will, as Gov. Sam Brownback once reportedly remarked, “vote the way we want them to.”
Brownback and his allies in the Legislature already changed how the Court of Appeals judges are appointed, and the Supreme Court Nominating Commission now appears to have a majority of members who are loyal to Brownback and his agenda. Enabling Brownback to pack the courts would undermine the independence of the judiciary and be bad for Kansas.
The Eagle editorial board has long held that the Kansas Constitution should be amended only for the most serious and pressing of reasons. The proposed amendment to establish a constitutional right to hunt and fish does not rise to this level. Though the editorial board strongly supports hunting and fishing, there is no threat to these pursuits and no need to amend our constitution.
Democrat Gabriel Costilla is a long-shot candidate in this district spanning Butler County and east Wichita. But he has the right temperament and skills to be an effective lawmaker, if voters give him the chance. Electing him also would send a needed message of accountability, as his opponent is a chief architect (and denier) of the state’s fiscal problems. Costilla, a teacher at Wichita West High School, wants to roll back the 2012 tax cuts, expand Medicaid and adequately and equitably fund public education. He knows that climbing out of the budget hole will be difficult. “There are going to be some tough decisions,” he said. But he is willing to face reality and change course, unlike his opponent.
Republican incumbent Ty Masterson helped create the state’s fiscal mess. He supports the tax cuts, including the tax exemption on pass-through business income. As chairman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, he shepherded an unbalanced budget to passage this year. He also co-authored the unconstitutional school funding block grant law in 2015 and other bad bills. He dismisses reports of state budget problems and blames the media for the public’s frustration. If voters are dissatisfied with the direction of the state, don’t re-elect the person who help place the state on its current course.
Democrat Lynn Rogers is the clear choice to succeed outgoing Sen. Michael O’Donnell in this near-west and south Wichita district. Rogers is most known for his 15 years of service on the Wichita school board, including several stints as board president. He may understand school finance better than any current lawmaker, and his expertise is needed as the Legislature considers a new funding formula. Rogers is also very active in the community, volunteering on several boards and associations. He favors repealing the tax exemption on pass-through business income but recognizes that the state may also have to cut spending to climb out of its budget hole. “We’re broke as a state,” he said.
Republican Jim Price ran unsuccessfully for the Kansas House two years ago and for the Wichita City Council last year. He was convicted in an armed robbery in Texas in 1990 and for interfering with law enforcement officers investigating his son’s small marijuana-growing operation in 2012.
Republican incumbent Dan Kerschen is narrowly the better choice in this southern Sedgwick County district that includes Cheney, Garden Plain, Haysville, Mulvane and parts of Goddard, Wichita and Derby. Kerschen is a valuable voice in the Legislature, particularly on agriculture issues. Though he voted for the 2012 tax cuts, he is willing to reconsider the fairness of the tax exemption on pass-through business income. He also is open to considering a revenue-neutral expansion of Medicaid, and he thinks school funding should be increased. Kerschen describes himself as a balanced Republican who votes for the interests of citizens in his district as well as the state.
Democrat Benjamin Poteete, a former U.S. Army paratrooper, is also a good candidate. He wants to repeal the tax exemption on pass-through business income. He also wants to fully fund education at all levels, though he expects that could take several years due to the state’s budget problems. Poteete is enthusiastic and wants to help “turn the state around.”
Democrat Tony Hunter is the better candidate to succeed outgoing Sen. Les Donovan in this district that includes west Wichita, Andale, Colwich and parts of Goddard and Maize. Hunter is an oil and gas attorney who was motivated to run in part to help ensure the state has good-quality public schools. He wants to repeal the tax exemption on pass-through business income and calls Medicaid expansion a “no-brainer.” Though Republicans dominate this district, Hunter hopes voters will recognize the need to change course, saying he is “ready to stand up for what is right and not for what is acceptable to the governor’s mansion.”
Republican Gene Suellentrop is a current state representative known for his ties to Gov. Sam Brownback. He narrowly won the August GOP primary. As a member of the House Appropriations Committee (including a brief stint as chairman), Suellentrop bears considerable responsibility for the state’s financial mess. He backed the tax cuts in 2012, voted in 2015 to raise the statewide sales tax and opposed an attempt last session to revoke the tax exemption on pass-through business income. He now opposes any tax increase to help solve the state budget shortfalls. Suellentrop also irresponsibly called last session for the Legislature to let the Kansas Supreme Court close schools.
Democrat Keith Humphrey is an outstanding candidate and an excellent choice for this south Wichita district that includes Oaklawn, Planeview and part of Derby. This race is a rematch of a close 2012 contest. Humphrey, a Navy veteran who is president and CEO of Jet AirWerks and Jet AirParts, brings a strong business background and commitment to public service. He objects to how recent tax policies – which were supported by the incumbent – benefited wealthy Kansans at the expense of the lower and middle class. For example, Humphrey wants to lower taxes on groceries and reinstate the homestead property tax refund for renters. “It’s time to hold Brownback and his allies accountable for the mess they’ve made, and I plan to do just that,” he said.
Republican incumbent Mike Petersen is chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee and a conscientious lawmaker. But he has mostly been in lock step with Brownback and GOP legislative leaders, which puts him out of step with the demographics of his districts.
Republican incumbent Susan Wagle is the strongest candidate in this district that includes Eastborough and parts of east Wichita and Andover. As Senate president, Wagle shares much of the blame for the state’s fiscal problems. But she also is in the best position to do something about it. Wagle has hinted that she supports changing the tax exemption on pass-through business income. She also has expressed some openness to Medicaid expansion. If re-elected, she needs to show more independence from Brownback and start dictating the agenda. “I will work to offer pragmatic solutions to fix the state’s budget and get Kansas back on the right track,” Wagle said. Kansans are counting on it.
Democrat Anabel Larumbe is a community activist who has been involved in grassroots efforts on poverty, voting rights and immigration. She is passionate and motivated but lacks Wagle’s experience and understanding of state government.
Republican incumbent Carolyn McGinn is an excellent senator and the top pick of two good candidates in this district that includes Harvey County and northern Sedgwick County. McGinn has stood out – and often nearly alone among Republicans – in resisting the damaging policies of Brownback and GOP leaders. She opposed the unconstitutional school block grant bill, the statewide sales tax increase last year and the unbalanced budget this year. McGinn has previously served as Senate budget chairwoman and has been a leader on water and land issues. As a former Sedgwick County commissioner, she also is mindful of how state decisions can affect local governments. Kansans need more lawmakers like her.
Democrat J. Michelle Vann could also be an excellent lawmaker. A retired Wichita school teacher, Vann is concerned about inadequate education funding. She wants to repeal the tax exemption on pass-through business income, though she realizes it will take time for the state to climb out of its budget hole. She also is concerned about economic and health care disparities in African-American and Hispanic neighborhoods. “I want to make a difference,” she said.
One-term Republican incumbent Blake Carpenter is narrowly the best choice in this district that includes parts of southeast Wichita and Derby. Carpenter may be most known for casting the deciding vote last year to increase the statewide sales tax. But to his credit, he also co-sponsored a bill last session that allows legislative committee hearings to be broadcast over the internet. Carpenter is young and enthusiastic and believes “in less government and more personal freedom.”
His challenger is Democrat James W. McCluer, who is retired from the U.S. Air Force. He says the Legislature has been too focused on corporate interests and needs “to get back to what the citizens want and need.”
Democratic challenger Danette Harris is the best candidate in this district that includes parts of Derby and Mulvane. Harris, who also ran for this seat two years ago, is a physical therapist and a decorated combat veteran who served multiple deployments in Iraq. She is a captain in the Army Reserves and trains Brigade and Battalion staff. She blames Gov. Sam Brownback’s tax policies for producing budget shortfalls that have resulted in cuts to essential services. “We must restore a fair and balanced tax policy,” she said. Harris describes herself as “an independent and analytic thinker” who is “committed to representing Kansas values, not political ideology.”
Republican incumbent Pete DeGraaf is known for his fiscally and socially conservative views. His solution to the state’s budget shortfall is to significantly cut state spending, not revisit the tax cuts he supported that created the fiscal mess. Both spending cuts and more tax revenue likely will be needed to climb out of the state’s budget hole. DeGraaf has had his season in Topeka. It’s time for a new voice and new representation.
Democrat Henry Helgerson is the clear pick in this east Wichita district. He served in the Kansas House from 1983 to 2000 and the Kansas Senate in 2004. He was chosen in December to replace Rep. Carolyn Bridges, who resigned. Helgerson says that the “financial mismanagement by the Brownback administration and current legislative leadership is the biggest issue” facing the state. He supports closing tax loopholes that benefit the wealthy and developing a bipartisan three-year master plan for education and health services. Helgerson is an independent thinker and problem-solver who sees both the big picture and important details.
Republican M. Lewis Ackerman wants to decrease both state income taxes and state spending. He thinks the Legislature needs to be more responsive to voters and not rely on the governor or the courts to make decisions.
Democrat Patty Beamer is the best choice in this northeast Sedgwick County and western Butler County district that includes Benton and parts of Wichita, Bel Aire and Kechi.
Beamer is a clinical educator in the nursing program at Wichita State University and a retired member of the military, having served in both the U.S. Air Force and the Navy. She supports increased education funding, Medicaid expansion and repealing the tax exemption on pass-through business income. She believes politics are too divided between “us and them” and that state lawmakers must do better at working together to get things done.
Republican Chuck Weber was chosen in January to replace Rep. Steve Brunk, who resigned. After many GOP conservative incumbents lost in the August primary, Weber accused Democrats and moderate Republicans of buying Topeka. He also complained: “Everything happening in Topeka these next two years will be driven by Big Education and for Big Education. Not for teachers, and certainly not for students.”
Incumbent Democrat Jim Ward is a leading advocate in Topeka for public education and vulnerable Kansans. He is the clear pick in this southeast Wichita district. His priorities include ending the tax exemption for pass-through business income, investing more in education and expanding Medicaid. Ward, who has also served on the Wichita City Council and Wichita school board, is a strong voice for rational and responsible state government.
Libertarian James Pruden, who also ran for this seat two years ago, supports repealing state tax cuts and returning money transferred from the highway fund. Also running is Republican Christopher Drake, who didn’t complete The Eagle’s Voter Guide questionnaire.
Republican Roger A. Elliott is the best choice among three good candidates vying to replace outgoing Rep. Mark Kahrs, R-Wichita, in this east Wichita district. Elliott is a retired banker who also worked in economic development. He served on the Andover school board for 12 years, so he understands the needs of public education. He supports ending the exemption on pass-through business income, expanding Medicaid and investing more in education – as do the other two candidates. Elliott’s experience and pragmatism are needed in Topeka.
Democrat Tonya Howard is a middle school teacher who says she would be “a fresh and new voice who is not afraid to stand up for our values.” Marco Giorgi, a retired Navy flight officer, is running as an independent.
Democrat Elizabeth Bishop is the clear choice in this southeast Wichita district. Bishop has extensive community and public service experience, including serving on the Metropolitan Area Planning Commission and as executive director of Wichita Independent Neighborhoods. She supports repealing the tax exemption on pass-through business income and wants the legislative decision-making to be more thorough and transparent. “I hold a strong value for citizen engagement and participation in our democratic processes,” she said.
Republican incumbent Joseph Scapa championed an effort to block state education standards and backs other misguided causes. He won this seat six years ago, lost it in 2012 and then won it in 2014 by only 28 votes. Voters should continue this cycle by electing Bishop.
Democrat Lou Cicirello is an excellent candidate and the best pick in this north Sedgwick County district that includes parts of Wichita, Valley Center, Maize and Park City, along with Andale, Colwich and Mount Hope. Cicirello, who has served on the Valley Center City Council since 2007, wants to put state finances back in order. He supports repealing the exemption on pass-through business income and ending annual raids on the state highway fund. He also objects to the Legislature’s interference with local government decisions. He describes himself as a realist and also a fighter.
Incumbent Republican Steve Huebert has served eight terms in the House. He backed the tax cuts that created the state’s budget problems, voted to increase the statewide sales tax and voted against an attempt this year to repeal the exemption on pass-through business income. It’s time for new representation.
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.