Primary Contenders Make A Case For Their Candidacy In Local Forum
Dozens of people attended a primary political forum at St. Paul AME Church Sunday night. The event was supported by the Voter Empowerment Committee, which is made up of churches, civic groups and other organizations.
The forum included candidates running for Sedgwick County Commission, U.S. Congress, judicial office and seats in the Kansas Legislature.
Moderate Republican Roger Elliott is running for state representative in District 87. He says the state of Kansas has to have money in the bank.
"We have to quit shifting money around," Elliott told the audience. "Our KDOT fund is basically broke, our proud infrastructure of highways is beginning to deteriorate. I am advocating for bringing back a fair tax policy, to watch our debt load, which is extremely high – it’s over a billion dollars, currently."
Dan Giroux is a Democrat running for Kansas' Congress 4th congressional district, a seat now held by Republican Rep. Mike Pompeo. Giroux says we’re at a point in our country where we need true leadership.
"Folks, we are on the edge of the precipice," Giroux said. "We are looking down. We are looking down into a dark abyss. If we don’t do anything about it right now, if we do not change it in November, we are never going to change it. Congress wants to take you over that cliff, don’t let them do it. In Kansas, we’re down. We have been kicked by what’s going on in Topeka, but you know what, we have been kicked from the other side in Washington, that’s not right."
Robert Tillman is Giroux’s Democratic opponent. One of the two men will face Pompeo in the fall.
"In 2014, 70 percent of the people did not vote. Thirty percent of the people made our choices, and they elected the Tea Party group," Tillman said. "They’re in office right now. Mike Pompeo is one of those, and I’m running again. What we gotta do in 2016, we gotta vote these people out of office. When you go to the booth, you gotta cast your vote for someone who thinks of you as a person, you as an independent thinker, and we don’t have that."
David Dennis is running against Karl Peterjohn for Sedgwick County Commissioner in District 3. He’s proposed creating a district advisory board made up of community members.
"I call it the Citizen Advisory Board and I’ve already got a co-chair named, Mike Hill, as one of them, and Juvetta Slane is the other one, and we’re going to identify people in my district to serve on a community forum that can go and talk about the issues that impact our community," Dennis said.
"We’ve been trying to make Sedgwick County more accessible by everyone because most folks are working during the week and we started having evening meetings within the last year," said incumbent Sedgwick County Commissioner Karl Peterjohn. "In addition to that, you can just come down, sign up and we’ve work very hard to take public input on each question, which is a change from the way the county has operated in the past."
The state's food tax was another issued raised at the political forum, by 25-year-old Democrat Anabel Larumbe, who is running for Kansas State Senate in District 30. She says other states don’t pay taxes on food, and neither should Kansas.
"Robin McAlpine is my campaign manager, and she was very surprised when she had to pay taxes on food, so that’s something we really shouldn’t do," Larumbe said.
Gene Suellentrop, a Republican lawmaker running for Kansas State Senate in District 27, says he introduced legislation a few years ago for a bifurcated sales tax, but it did not pass.
"We had a process where we were going to lower the sales tax on food over a period of time," Suellentrop says. "The only way I think we can accomplish that is we need to take a look at internet sales. The internet sales tax is not being collected to the extent that it needs to be."
"Is there any way that you, as Republicans and Democrats, can see your way to stop being so partisan and work together on solving problems?”
Republican William Eveland is running for Kansas State Senate in District 25. He says he wants to repeal the tax breaks small business have received.
"Through this process, I’ve heard from Republican counterparts that the average business that benefits on that makes $60,000 a year," Eveland says. "Sixty thousand dollars a year, at the lowest tax rate of 3 percent, is $1,800 a year per business. According to Mr. Brownback, when he started this, there was 191,000 businesses that this was supposed to effect. That's a total of over $320 million, and that’s just if you go by those numbers. Now, to me, you look at what we've been short the last few years. Well, it’s been hundreds of millions of dollars, two or three to the exact amount. We should be able to repeal that. We should be able to give food tax relief and accomplish a few things, but we’ve got to work together."
Eveland’s opponent, Republican Jim Price, highlighted the importance of fiscal responsibility.
"Too many times I keep hearing about, 'Well, you're a conservative so you don't care about my problems,'" Price said. "The problem is if I get the money right, I've got all kinds of money for your problems and if we keep throwing money at the wall then it will never get better and that's where I want to start that with me is I want to make sure the money is going where it should."
And getting something accomplished at the Statehouse in Topeka and in Washington, D.C., was on the mind of attendee Harold Miller.
"Is there any way that you, as Republicans and Democrats, can see your way to stop being so partisan and work together on solving problems?" Miller asked. "I have not seen this happen."
"We spend too much time on divisive issues," responded District 91 Republican candidate JC Moore. "They make great press, they keep people stirred up, they build your voter base, but they really don’t get anything done in the legislature, and we have lots to do, and we don’t really need to be spending time on that."
Carla Eckels is assistant news director and the host of Soulsations. Follow her on Twitter @Eckels.
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