Editorials

Eagle endorsements

The following are The Eagle editorial board’s recommendations for the Nov. 4 general election. We offer these recommendations as information to consider as you make up your own mind about the candidates and issues.

Governor

Democrat Paul Davis is the best choice for governor because he would help restore balance, common sense and fiscal responsibility to a state government that has jumped off an ideological cliff.

The biggest issue facing the next governor is pulling the state out of its budget hole. Because of large tax cuts, the state is spending more than it collects. According to current projections, it will burn through its remaining cash reserves this fiscal year. Balancing next year’s budget and restoring the statutorily required ending balance could require more than $700 million in additional tax revenue, budget cuts or a combination of both.

As a first step, Davis proposes freezing future tax cuts. That makes sense; when you are in a hole you need to stop digging. Davis won’t specify what spending cuts also might be necessary, other than saying he wants to protect public education funding.

“Schools have taken all the cuts they can,” he said.

Davis wants to restore as soon as possible the state base aid that was cut to public education, arguing that good schools are important to growing the state’s economy. He also hopes to develop a multiyear funding plan for higher education that includes performance goals and commitments to limit tuition increases.

Davis intends to conduct a “top-to-bottom” review of KanCare, the state’s privatized Medicaid program that has been plagued by complaints. He also wisely supports allowing the federal expansion of Medicaid, noting its importance to low-income Kansans and hospitals. And he would re-establish the Kansas Arts Commission, arguing that arts are a quality-of-life issue, particularly in rural communities.

As House minority leader, Davis showed a willingness and ability to work with others to find practical solutions. He pledges to continue that bipartisan outreach and cooperation as governor.

But this election is less about Davis than about the bad policies and hostile attitudes of the current administration.

This editorial board endorsed Republican Gov. Sam Brownback four years ago, hoping for the best. That’s not what Kansas got.

Brownback pushed through fiscally irresponsible tax cuts on the blind faith that they would act like “a shot of adrenaline into the heart of the Kansas economy.” As many warned, the trickle-down economics hasn’t worked.

Though Kansas has seen some job growth, it trails the nation and most surrounding states (which didn’t cut taxes). And the growth has not been nearly enough to replace the lost tax revenue – leaving Kansas with deficits at a time when nearly every other state has surpluses.

Brownback won’t admit his tax cuts aren’t delivering as promised (“The sun is shining in Kansas and don’t let anybody tell you any different,” he says in one of his campaign commercials), and still insists that job growth will cover any future shortfalls.

But wishful thinking won’t balance the budget. That’s why the nation’s two leading bond-ratings agencies downgraded Kansas’ credit rating – which should be an embarrassment to Kansans and an authoritative judgment on Brownback’s “real-live experiment.”

In addition to wrecking the state’s finances, Brownback also enacted policies that punished the poor. His administration raised eligibility requirements for receiving welfare and food stamps and turned down federal funds aimed at helping needy Kansans. It pushed out dedicated social-service professionals, replacing them with inexperienced ideologues.

Brownback and his administration also rejected the desperate pleas of families to keep developmentally disabled Kansans out of KanCare. And his refusal to allow an expansion of Medicaid is costing Kansas hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funding (our tax dollars) and denying needed health insurance to more than 75,000 low-income Kansans.

Because of the elimination of certain tax credits, Brownback’s tax cuts financially harmed some low-income Kansans – particularly after he pushed the Legislature to make permanent part of the state’s temporary sales tax increase.

Brownback also supported some of the worst ideas of the Legislature – including signing and endorsing a plan for the state to take control of Medicare.

Brownback pushed for more control of the judicial branch and sought to undermine its independence – leading 14 past presidents of the Kansas Bar Association, Republicans and Democrats, to endorse Davis. And former Sedgwick County District Attorney Nola Foulston is correct: Brownback’s campaign commercial trying to link Davis to a Kansas Supreme Court decision regarding the Carr brothers is “beyond disgraceful.”

In his quest to gain control of the Legislature, Brownback led an ugly campaign to purge moderate GOP state senators. Given this hostility and the wreckage caused by his policies, it’s no wonder so many former GOP officials endorse Davis.

Brownback has done good work developing a long-term plan for water usage in the state, and he deserves praise for expanding technical-training programs and reforming the state’s pension plan. But his road map has led Kansas down the wrong path. Davis would provide a desperately needed course correction.

Libertarian Keen A. Umbehr is also on the ballot.

U.S. Senate

Based on his positive agenda and commitment to reject partisan politics, independent Greg Orman is the best choice for U.S. Senate.

Like most Kansans, Orman is sick of the gamesmanship and gridlock in Washington, D.C. Too many senators are more concerned about getting re-elected and scoring political points than moving our country forward. He correctly faults both parties and their leaders for the dysfunction – pledging, if elected, not to vote for either Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., or Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., for majority leader.

“We need to get Washington back in the business of solving problems,” said Orman, a successful investor and businessman.

Contrary to the claims in the millions of dollars’ worth of negative ads run against him, Orman is candid and a centrist. National conservative political columnist George Will marveled that Orman “discusses policy problems with a fluency rare among Senate candidates and unusual among senators,” adding that “the Senate’s intellectual voltage would be increased by Orman’s election.”

Orman’s priorities include lowering the nation’s debt ratio, improving health care affordability and reducing regulations on small businesses. Kansas priorities include avoiding some of the military cuts mandated by the budget sequester, reforming the Department of Veterans Affairs, and reauthorizing federal transportation funding.

He supports the Senate immigration reform bill that was endorsed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Kansas farm organizations and many Kansas mayors. Last week he announced a plan to ease student debt and limit college tuition increases.

“I do not intend to be a silent soldier for either the Democrats or Republicans,” Orman said last week. “I am going to stand for a better way, a new course in the Senate, and work with senators of any party who are willing to stand for commonsense real solutions to our problems.”

That’s what is needed in Washington.

Republican Pat Roberts has had a long and distinguished career in Congress, serving in the U.S. House from 1981 until 1997 and in the Senate ever since. He chaired the House Agriculture Committee and has been a go-to member of the delegation when Kansas needed something done. That’s why The Eagle editorial board has endorsed him over the years.

But Kansans aren’t sure who Roberts is anymore. In an unsuccessful attempt to fend off a tea party challenge, Roberts veered to the far right this year, even voting against the farm bill and funding for the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility in Manhattan. He has pandered to the ugly extreme on immigration and betrayed former Sen. Bob Dole in voting against a disability rights treaty.

Though Roberts has been known for his good-natured wit, he now seems mean-spirited. When asked at a recent debate to say something nice about Orman, Roberts didn’t. Many of his campaign ads – both in the primary and general election – have been downright awful.

Even worse, Roberts can’t seem to communicate why he should be re-elected, other than to repeat – as he did ad nauseam during debates – that he will oppose Harry Reid and President Obama. Shouldn’t Kansans expect more than that?

Recent reports that Roberts missed nearly two-thirds of the Senate Agriculture Committee hearings during the past 15 years also raise doubts about how committed he is to the job.

The best argument for sending Roberts back – and it’s compelling – is that there is a strong possibility he could become chairman of the agriculture committee. That would be very valuable to Kansas, particularly after Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Fowler, got kicked off the House Agriculture Committee.

But being a senator is not an entitlement, and voters shouldn’t reward the ugliness and shallowness of Roberts’ re-election campaign.

Kansans should thank Roberts for his long service but choose Orman.

The third candidate is Libertarian Randall Batson.

U.S. House

4th Congressional District

Two-term Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Wichita, survived a surprising primary challenge from predecessor Todd Tiahrt and remains the best choice for his district for the general election. A true believer in a free market and smaller government, he is among the House Republicans who have helped the country get serious about curbing federal spending and debt since 2011. He has emerged as an informed, influential voice on intelligence gathering and foreign policy matters including Syria, and was named to the panel investigating the Benghazi incident. Pompeo stands out in his caucus and the Kansas delegation for actually getting a bill passed and signed by the president – a new law that will help Wichita’s economy by streamlining the certification process for general aviation. In a third term, he hopes to similarly work across the aisle and Capitol on natural-gas pipeline permitting and genetically modified food labeling. Pompeo’s constituents would be well-served by more of that pragmatic consensus building and less of his Obama- and Democrat-bashing. He deserves more time in Congress.

Democrat Perry L. Schuckman, who has extensive experience in the nonprofit sector, decries the wealth gap and names social and economic justice as a top priority. He is right that Congress is not looking at 21st-century issues including global warming, cloning, privacy and other government intrusions, but his low-key bid doesn’t justify unseating Pompeo.

1st Congressional District

Voters in Kansas’ “Big First” should put their interests ahead of party loyalty and choose Democrat James Sherow, a professor of history at Kansas State University and a former Manhattan mayor and city commissioner. Sherow is a problem solver who is tired of Congress’ ineffectiveness, and well-informed about district needs relating to agriculture, water, environmental regulation, immigration reform, wind power, Fort Riley and the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility. Most urgently for Kansas, he’s a reasonable guy.

Sherow would be a vast improvement over two-term Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Fowler, whose uncompromisingly bad attitude got him thrown off the House’s agriculture and budget committees, leaving Kansas without a seat on the ag panel for the first time in nearly 100 years. Whatever Huelskamp is doing in Washington, D.C., it isn’t lawmaking.

Secretary of state

This contest is the easiest call on any Kansas ballot this year: Vote for Democrat Jean Schodorf. Please.

Formerly a respected state senator and Wichita school board president, Schodorf was a Republican until after the 2012 election, when she fell victim to Gov. Sam Brownback’s purge of legislative moderates. Now she is the state’s only hope of getting rid of Republican Secretary of State Kris Kobach, the well-known national crusader against illegal immigration who has dangerously politicized the job of Kansas’ top record keeper and elections officer over the past four years.

Fortunately, Schodorf also happens to be someone with a record of dedicated public service who could return the office to its proper role of overseeing elections in a nonpartisan manner and handling business filings as efficiently, quickly and quietly as possible. Schodorf also could be trusted to work to improve voter participation.

Kobach’s tenure has been all about promoting himself, as well as what appears to be a national GOP agenda of trying to win elections by suppressing registration and turnout. Though Schodorf voted for the 2011 legislation that newly requires voters to show photo ID and those registering to vote to prove citizenship, she is rightly appalled by the consequences – including more than 22,000 people who’ve tried to register since 2013 but can’t vote Nov. 4 unless they get over the burdensome paperwork hurdle, which can mean tracking down and paying for birth, marriage and divorce records in other states. Then there is Kobach’s ridiculous two-tiered voting system, under which those Kansans who used the federal voter registration form will see their votes for state and local offices thrown out. “We’ve got to fix it,” Schodorf says of the state’s voting mess.

Sedgwick County has a particular interest in this statewide race, because of the election problems and erosion of trust that have surrounded the tenure of Election Commissioner Tabitha Lehman, a Kobach appointee. Meanwhile, there remains little credible evidence to support Kobach’s fearmongering about illegal immigrants voting.

What’s undeniable, though, is that Kansas needs a secretary of state who will focus on the important work of the office, rather than constantly inject himself into legislative debates and federal fights that have nothing to do with the job.

Attorney general

One-term Republican Derek Schmidt is the best choice in this race, having provided good leadership in criminal prosecutions around the state; targeted consumer and Medicaid fraud; and promoted public safety by pushing for new laws on human trafficking and drug and gang violence, a “Hard 50” repair and a new KBI lab. In a second term, Schmidt needs to be less eager to sue the federal government and less shy about steering his fellow Republicans in the Legislature away from bills that will invite lawsuits and big legal costs. His $8 million-plus in costs for outside counsel seem excessive, and Kansas media view his office as unresponsive and uncooperative – unacceptable for the chief enforcer of Kansas’ open government laws.

Topeka employment attorney A.J. Kotich brings decades of relevant experience in state government and some fresh ideas to the challenge, but no issue that justifies ousting Schmidt. Where the Democrat comes closest is in Schmidt’s liberal use of outside counsel and reluctance to step in when the Legislature is about to pass something unconstitutional (“I won’t be a lapdog,” Kotich says). Kotich is also right about the need for more transparency in the office, including regarding tobacco settlement money, and consistent speed in processing concealed-carry permits.

State treasurer

Republican Ron Estes, a former two-term Sedgwick County treasurer who was elected to the statewide job in 2010, has earned four more years. He takes pride in being part of improving the state employee pension system, which now looks to be on a solid (though long) path to solvency, and making changes to get more unclaimed property into Kansans’ hands. Estes is at the mercy of the misguided income tax cuts that have been part of the reason for the downgrades in Kansas’ credit ratings – and he is too certain of their ability to deliver the promised economic growth. But he has worthy ideas for how to make the office more efficient and the state’s college savings plan better used by Kansas families. Kansans should re-elect Estes.

Though there is no pressing need to replace the incumbent, Democrats have a strong and qualified candidate in Carmen Alldritt, formerly director of vehicles in the Kansas Department of Revenue and longtime Harper County treasurer. She would like to “take the Treasurer’s Office to the people,” evaluate the college savings program’s earnings performance, and advocate for repealing the unnecessary new law requiring that local school property tax revenues be rerouted through the state treasurer.

Insurance commissioner

Both candidates running to replace Sandy Praeger as the state’s insurance regulator are uncommonly qualified and knowledgeable about the industry, but Democrat Dennis Anderson is the best choice for his commitments to protecting consumers, maintaining a wide range of carriers in Kansas, and keeping politics out of the office. Anderson has a family business based in Overland Park that trains prospective insurance agents across the country on licensing and regulations. He wants to keep the department and staff strong and provide a “good, predictable regulatory environment.” He shares the belief of Praeger (and the editorial board) that Kansas should help the uninsured and hospitals by expanding Medicaid and that the health care compact bill, which could turn Medicare into a state-run program, is bad legislation that should be repealed. Rather than joining the GOP chorus of “repeal” regarding the Affordable Care Act, Anderson advocates that it be repaired and improved.

The Republican is Ken Selzer of Leawood. A certified public accountant, he is executive managing director of insurance brokerage firm Aon Benfield. His background in business and insurance would benefit the office, as would his goal of ensuring the regulatory environment is balanced and predictable. But his views seem more political than productive on issues where the insurance commissioner can be an effective advocate, including Medicaid expansion, implementing the ACA and fighting the health care compact.

Sedgwick County Commission

District 4

Democrat Melody McCray-Miller is the clear choice to represent District 4, which includes north Wichita, Maize, Park City and Valley Center. A former county commissioner and four-term state representative and a business owner, McCray-Miller understands government at both the state and local levels and how it affects communities, families and businesses. Her priorities include economic development and community livability and engagement. “I would like to put the public back in public policy,” she said, accusing her opponent of representing his ideological views and not the full district. McCray-Miller believes in a balanced, collaborative approach to dealing with issues and people, focusing on “what’s best for the county.” She also would not turn down federal funds, as her opponent has voted to do, and supports using economic incentives to attract and retain businesses.

Republican incumbent Richard Ranzau is completing his first term, which has not been productive. Though he has done some good work watchdogging county spending, Ranzau frequently badgers county staff and other presenters at commission meetings. He also has used his position as an ideological platform to rant about the federal government, including by claiming that a federal planning grant was an attempt by President Obama “to circumvent the will of Congress, the states and the people.” McCray-Miller would be a better, more-constructive commissioner.

District 5

Republican Jim Howell, who has served two terms in the Kansas House, is the best choice to represent this district that includes Derby, Mulvane and southeast Wichita. Howell works hard and researches the issues. One of his priorities as a lawmaker and, if elected, as a commissioner is the Judge Riddel Boys Ranch, which closed earlier this year because of state funding problems. Howell would like to reopen the ranch on Jan. 1, calling it a core function of government. Though he is an advocate for the free market, Howell doesn’t rule out the use of economic development incentives.

Democrat Richard Young could also be a good commissioner. Young served as mayor of Rose Hill in the early 1990s and also has served on its City Council and planning commission. He is concerned about cuts to public services and thinks it is too expensive to reopen the Judge Riddel Boys Ranch.

Sedgwick County 18th Judicial District

Division 5

Judge Gregory L. Waller deserves re-election for his unmatched experience on the district bench since 1993. In the past decade he earned praise for his careful handling of high-stakes criminal cases, including the sentencing of BTK serial killer Dennis Rader and the case of Wichita sisters repeatedly raped by their brother and father. A former Sedgwick County prosecutor, Waller also is highly regarded by local attorneys for his professionalism, legal knowledge, preparation and ethics. Democrats have an unreasonably hard time joining and staying on the Sedgwick County bench, but as former Kansas Attorney General Vern Miller recently wrote, Waller “has a great reputation for fairness and justice.” He has earned another term.

His Republican challenger, Seth L. Rundle, offers a thoughtful demeanor and fresh perspective, having served as a public defender and an Air Force and Kansas Air National Guard attorney. But he cannot match Waller’s qualifications.

Kansas appellate courts

As the only two members of the Kansas Supreme Court up for retention this year, Justices Lee Johnson and Eric S. Rosen are being targeted by critics of the high court’s recent decision overturning the death sentences of Wichita murderers Jonathan and Reginald Carr. But the court’s obligation is to the state’s constitution and laws, and by that measure the justices have ruled responsibly – even as the governor and other politicians have tried to intimidate them regarding school finance, judicial funding and otherwise. Johnson and Rosen were recommended for retention in a statewide judicial survey, as were Kansas Court of Appeals Chief Judge Tom Malone and Court of Appeals Judges Stephen D. Hill, Patrick D. McAnany, Kim R. Schroeder, Henry W. Green Jr., Anthony J. Powell, Michael B. Buser and Melissa Taylor Standridge. All deserve more time on the bench.

Wichita sales tax question

The editorial board recommends a “yes” vote on the question, which asks voters to impose a 1 percent citywide sales tax for five years to fund a long-term water supply, improve bus service and street maintenance, and support job creation. As we said in our Sunday editorial, the needs are clear and well-supported by the community and a “no” win will invite higher water rates, more potholes, even fewer buses, and worse prospects for a local economy that has 20,000 fewer jobs than in 2008.

Constitutional amendment

The editorial board recommends a “yes” vote, which would amend the state constitution to allow charities to conduct raffle fundraisers legally. Many religious, charitable, fraternal, educational and veterans’ nonprofit organizations already use raffles to raise money, either because they are unaware of the prohibition or counting on lack of enforcement. A majority “yes” vote will enable the Legislature to set the framework for regulating and licensing nonprofit groups’ raffles.

Kansas House

District 81

Democrat Lynn Wells is the most qualified candidate for this southeast Sedgwick County seat, which is open because Jim Howell is running for County Commission. Wells, who retired from what was then the Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services, has “had enough” of the Legislature, calling last spring’s education bill “disgraceful” and the health care compact “horrific.” She knows the issues and wants a fair tax structure, Medicaid expansion and full funding for education.

The other candidate is Blake Carpenter, a Republican college student who wants to see lower taxes and fails to acknowledge the state’s fiscal crisis. He’s bright and could be a quick learner in Topeka, but likely would be another GOP yes-man.

District 82

Democratic challenger Danette Harris is the best candidate for this district, which includes parts of Derby and Mulvane. A physical therapist and a company commander in the Army National Guard, Harris is understandably frustrated with the Legislature’s decisions, including its failure to fund schools at a constitutional level. She would like to see the state do more for veterans, and promises not to represent an ideology or special interests. “I’m an independent thinker,” she said.

By contrast, Republican incumbent Pete DeGraaf is part of the conservative bloc that has led the state astray fiscally and otherwise. He infamously pushed passage of the state law barring insurance companies from covering abortions (even resulting from rape or incest) by likening a woman’s purchase of abortion-only insurance to having a spare tire.

District 83

One-term Democrat Carolyn Bridges was an effective representative for this east Wichita district on education issues – not surprisingly for someone who spent 25 years as a principal. She wants to fund schools adequately and leave policymaking to the state school board and local boards, and to expand Medicaid and do more for the poor and disabled. Voters should send her back.

Her conservative GOP challenger is James Thomas, a self-described “supply-sider” who owns and runs an energy company and wants more K-12 reforms and tax cuts and less activism by the courts. Thomas’ intelligence and business experience could make him a skilled lawmaker, but his philosophy would further the state’s fiscal mess. And his talk of Bridges’ “government school background” exemplifies her complaint about a lack of respect in Topeka for public education.

District 84

Democratic incumbent Gail Finney is the clear pick in this district, which includes parts of central and east Wichita. In her three terms, she has been guided by her support for public schools and small businesses, also pushing her colleagues to consider legalizing medical marijuana. She wants to restore classroom funding, return to annual state budgeting, revisit tax credits and expand Medicaid.

Her challengers are Ray “Grizzly” Racobs, an independent-thinking Republican who names the environment and improving criminal justice among his priorities, and Libertarian Gordon Bakken.

District 85

Republican incumbent Steven Brunk is the choice in this district in northeast Wichita and Sedgwick County, not for his extreme voting record – which makes him part of the problem in Topeka – but for his experience, knowledge of tax policy and leadership, including as chairman of the Federal and State Affairs Committee. Too bad his worthy proposals for a rainy day fund for revenue shortfalls and a disaster relief fund for emergencies won’t be enough to counter the effects of the 2012 income tax cuts, which he supported and will dog every decision the Legislature makes for years.

His challenger is Democrat Patrick Thorpe, an insurance agent and college student who would expand Medicaid, better fund schools and improve the state’s infrastructure.

District 86

Longtime lawmaker Jim Ward is an outspoken advocate in the Legislature for public education, vulnerable Kansans and common sense, and deserves another term in this southeast Wichita district. An attorney, Ward is needed in Topeka to watchdog the troubled KanCare privatization and to fight for constitutional school funding and Medicaid expansion.

The other candidate is Libertarian James Pruden.

District 87

Voters in this east Wichita district have two unusually strong candidates to consider, but Democrat Charles Jenney is the choice for his commitment to funding public schools constitutionally and to putting the state back on a responsible fiscal path. The award-winning middle school science teacher, who also has experience in rural economic development, is rightly concerned about the imbalanced tax policy in Topeka pushing local property taxes higher. He would expand Medicaid and reverse the phase-out of the mortgage interest deduction.

One-term Mark Kahrs is an influential, knowledgeable lawmaker, especially proving his value as the Legislature deals with legal matters. “They’ve starved the judiciary, which I’m adamantly opposed to,” said Kahrs, an attorney. His leadership, however, largely has served the governor’s damaging fiscal and social agenda. And it’s no comfort to seniors worried about Medicare that Kahrs believes the health care compact, which he supported, is “never going to happen.” (Then why vote for it?)

District 88

Democrat Patricia M. Sloop proved a commonsense advocate for public schools, vulnerable Kansans, tax fairness, local control and renewable energy in her first term serving this southeast Wichita district. The retired clinical social worker proposes freezing the income tax cuts, restoring education funding, and repealing the “scary” health care compact and the due-process and other policy reforms in the schools bill. Voters should give her another two years.

The Republican challenger is real-estate agent Joseph Scapa, whom Sloop unseated in 2012. Scapa’s one term saw him in lockstep ideologically on issues including the disastrous tax cuts, and he is too unconcerned about their consequences.

District 89

Incumbent Democrat Roderick A. Houston has been a dependable voice for Wichita and public education during his first term in office. As a lifelong resident of this northeast Wichita district and pastor of Mt. Olive Tabernacle of Praise Church of God in Christ, Houston understands the struggles facing many working families. He is concerned about how the state’s tax plan favored the wealthy and is resulting in revenue shortfalls, and he wants to seek a “bipartisan solution that will strengthen the economic future for all Kansans.” He deserves to be sent back to Topeka.

His opponent, Republican Frank Chappell, has impressive credentials. He is a former president of KSN, Channel 3, and has served on the boards of several community organizations. He thinks the tax cuts were the best decision the Legislature made, and he supports a state takeover of Medicare. He is also concerned that “just throwing money at” public education won’t solve its problems.

District 92

Democrat John Carmichael is outstanding and is the clear choice in this north-central Wichita district. Carmichael, who is an attorney, was appointed last year to replace Nile Dillmore, who resigned. Though he has served only one session in the Legislature, Carmichael is remarkably informed, in part, he says, because he has “spent a lifetime watching and learning about the political process.” He is appropriately worried about how tax cuts have strained the state’s finances – “I’m still waiting for the shot of adrenaline,” he said – and favors freezing future tax cuts as a needed first step. He has been a valuable watchdog on the state’s privatization of Medicaid, noting that “it’s coldhearted what they are doing there.”

Republican Jeremy Alessi is a financial adviser who serves on the Arts Council and the city’s cultural funding committee. He describes himself as a problem solver but can’t match Carmichael’s grasp of the issues facing the state.

District 93

Republican John Whitmer is narrowly the better choice in this district, which includes Cheney, Clearwater and Viola and parts of Goddard, Haysville, Mulvane and Wichita. Whitmer, who defeated incumbent Rep. Joe Edwards in the GOP primary, has a diverse business background and has been involved in civic groups, including serving on Wichita’s District 4 Advisory Board. He is conservative but favors more constructive bipartisanship and is critical of the Legislature’s habit of passing big bills at 3 a.m. One concern about Whitmer is that he has had personal financial problems, which were triggered in part by a large medical bill.

Democrat Sammy K. Flaharty, who is making her second run for this office, says she is “flipping tired” of what has been going on in Topeka. If elected, her priorities include making the tax structure fairer, rescinding the health care compact, and restoring state funding to schools and due-process rights for teachers.

District 95

Democratic incumbent Tom Sawyer is the clear 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 is also active in the community, having served on many civic boards and committees. He thinks the biggest state issues are the budget problems and improving funding for education. Sawyer is a respected and needed voice for common sense in Topeka.

His opponent is Benny Boman, who served one term in the Legislature but has run several times.

District 96

Incumbent Democrat Brandon Whipple is a smart, enthusiastic lawmaker who deserves a second term representing this south Wichita district. He argues that the biggest issue facing the state is “the unbalanced Brownback budget, which irresponsibly cuts services while putting the state further into debt.” He is also concerned that the state’s budget problems could lead to higher property taxes.

Republican Rick Lindsey ran unsuccessfully for this seat two years ago against Whipple. If elected, he wants to make sure the state has a sound budget.

District 98

There are two good candidates vying to represent this district that includes southwest Wichita and parts of Haysville and Oaklawn, but Republican Steve Anthimides is narrowly our choice because of his admirable independence and moderation. Anthimides, who owns a jewelry store in downtown Wichita, was appointed to this seat after Phil Hermanson resigned last year. During his first year in office, Anthimides refused to support the GOP bill that eliminated due-process rights for teachers (“It was a little heated but I held my ground,” he said) and opposed a state takeover of Medicare. Topeka needs more GOP lawmakers who refuse to jump off an ideological cliff. His legislative priorities in a full term would include jobs, education and public safety.

Democrat Steven G. Crum would also be an excellent choice. Crum, who teaches and coaches in the Haysville school district, has served on the Haysville Planning Commission and is currently a member of the Haysville City Council. He is concerned about the lack of give and take in Topeka and wants to help solve problems. Crum could be a dynamic, effective state lawmaker.

District 100

Incumbent Republican Daniel R. Hawkins, who has served one term in the Legislature, is the best choice for this northwest Wichita district. An employee benefits consultant, Hawkins brings real-world business experience to Topeka. Though he took office after the state passed its reckless tax cuts, Hawkins has tended to follow the lead of GOP leaders and needs to show more independence and balance if re-elected.

His opponent is Democrat John Wallace Willoughby, who also ran for this seat two years ago. He wants to make water conservation a top priority of the Legislature.

District 105

Incumbent Republican Mark E. Hutton is narrowly the better choice for this near-northwest Wichita district because of his business background and his willingness to broker compromises. Hutton, CEO of Hutton Construction Corp., has served one term in the Legislature. Though he voted to eliminate due-process rights for teachers and supported a state takeover of Medicare, he has also proved pragmatic at times and solution-oriented. For example, he has been working with the Kansas Hospital Association on possible options for expanding Medicaid. He also is interested in greatly reducing the number of sales-tax exemptions.

Democrat Sherry Livingston, a management consultant, would also be a good choice. She is concerned that the voice of citizens isn’t being heard in Topeka and was disappointed that the Kansas Supreme Court had to tell the Legislature to fund schools properly. She said the Legislature is too interested in ideology instead of making the state a better place. She’s right.

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