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Candidates Speak At Event For League Of Women Voters

Carla Eckels

Key political issues were on the minds of attendees at a League of Women Voters membership drive in downtown Wichita Saturday. Some candidates were invited to share what they see as priorities during this election season.

Seated at round tables with white linen tablecloths and steaming cups of coffee, League members and guests wait for three politicians take to the podium in Larkspur's banquet room. Kenya Cox is running for State Senate district 29. Cox says generating jobs is essential.

"We have to be committed to really, really growing and cultivating a pro-growth environment," she says.

"One, that we concentrate on job training, job retention, attracting new businesses here, giving businesses that are here the access to capital so that they can grow."

Cox also focused on the state budget and the governor's controversial tax bill signed earlier this year.

"While the verdict is still out on whether Brownback's fair, flatter, simpler, pro-growth tax plan will reap the intended results, I do believe that we are moving in the right direction because data shows that states with zero personal income tax significantly out perform states with the higher personal income tax rates," says Cox.

Retired school teacher and former President of the United Teachers of Wichita, Paul Babich says he agrees with Cox that the budget is a key issue.

"But I kind of disagree with her on our current budget and our current governor's plan," he says.

"I don't think it's going to work I mean we have to hope it's going to work otherwise our state's  going to be in big trouble but I don't think it's going to work to give away all that tax money and I understand we have to encourage businesses and so forth and so on."

"We talk about budget, we talk about jobs," says Sally Dewey of the League of Women Voters.

"But we aren't going to have any of that stuff if we don't educate our children, our youth - We won't have tomorrow.  Education is the single most important thing."

Republican Jo Ann Pottorff agrees education is a top priority. She's State Representative for the 83rd district.  Pottorff, is retiring after 27 years. She's the longest serving woman in the legislature.

"There are many people that," she says, "and I think especially many people in the legislature that were not educated in public schools and I think that's happening more all the time and they don't feel the commitment to public education that many of us do that were educated in public education."

"There will be a real push," she continues. "I think next year to have vouchers and those kind of things and money for parents to send their children to private schools or other kind of schools. The chairmen of both the education committees will not be there, so there will be different kind of bills, I think, that will be heard and come up."

There are more than 350,000 or 13 percent of Kansans that are uninsured. Governor Brownback is waiting until after the November elections to decide the state's next step in implementing provisions of the Affordable Care Act, what he calls Obamacare.

Democrat Gail Finney is the State Representative for the 84th District who's running for re-election. Finney shared a personal story about her battle with Lupus and the importance of being able to access healthcare.

"I'm a strong proponent for not only health care for everybody, I just believe that that is a God-given right," says Finney.

"We talk about liberties and freedoms, What about my freedom? What about my liberty? What about your health, your kid's health?  I just thought that that should be the minimum that we should be able to provide for the citizens of the United States and for the state of Kansas," she says.

Diana Cubbage is running for State Senator in the 87th district.  Cubbage believes there is a broad range of women's health care issues to be considered.

"I mean this whole discussion that we have in our state and in our country in some areas about the abortion issue, I'm concerned about breast cancer, I'm concerned about the kinds of things that are needed to be checked that are not checked that are really women issues," says Cubbage.

"We get pigeon-holed and the pigeon hole is causing a real negative effect for women and for the general population.  For people with money you know they can get their healthcare any place but when you have to decide on food or health care what are the women going to decide?  They're going to feed their kids."

League of Women Voters' Carol Neal says the budget affects everything as far as livability in the state, including social programs.  Neal says it's going to be critical for Kansans to pay close attention when voting.
"Really read and don't just pull the lever as an R or a D behind it really read to see what the people stand for, that's the main thing and I think if we all do that, then we will all have a better representation," she says.
Advance voting is underway at the Sedgwick County Election office in downtown Wichita. Remote sites across the county will open October 30 at noon.
Election day is November 6. 

Carla Eckels is Director of Organizational Culture at KMUW. She produces and hosts the R&B and gospel show Soulsations and brings stories of race and culture to The Range with the monthly segment In the Mix. Carla was inducted into The Kansas African American Museum's Trailblazers Hall of Fame in 2020 for her work in broadcast/journalism.