Candidates for Kansas Senate, county commission and sheriff presented their views at a forum Thursday evening organized by the Chanute Area Chamber of Commerce.
District 3 Neosho County Commission candidates Gail Klaassen, Mark Ping and Eddie Rosenberger, sheriff candidates Greg Taylor and David Starr, and District 15 Kansas Senate candidates Dan Goddard and Virgil Peck met on stage at the Memorial Building for a televised forum. Each candidate had opening and closing remarks and each answered, on a rotating basis, questions prepared by a non-partisan Chamber committee.
Tuesday’s Republican primary will effectively decide the county commission and state Senate seats, since there are no Democratic opponents in the general election. The sheriff candidates will face Democrat Kelly Standley in November.
Kansas Legislature District 12 Representative candidates Kent Thompson and Armando Hernandez were unable to attend the forum.
Chamber President Jon Burchett moderated the county commission forum and Chamber Legisla
tive Chair Betsy Barney moderated the senate and sheriff forums. The Chamber has scheduled another candidate forum Oct. 29, prior to the general election.
Video of the forum will be available on the city’s website www.chanute.org, the city’s Facebook page, and the Neosho County Courthouse Facebook page.
Commission candidates were asked how they would stabilize and improve funding for the county, about their plans for leadership and team building within county departments, whether they would support an annual tax sale for delinquent properties, whether they are for or against county zoning, and how to address road upkeep.
Ping said he would improve funding by not farming out jobs so that the county pays twice. Rosenberger said he would make sure the county is efficient, and Klaassen said there were two sides, revenue and spending, and strong jobs are important.
Rosenberger said he supported annual tax sales.
“That is a no-brainer,” he said.
Klaassen said officials hope to have a sale in the fall for properties delinquent from 2009 to 2014. She said turnover at the county caused a delay in the sales, and Ping said the time period between delinquency and sale should be shortened.
Klaassen said there has been a lot of division among county departments in the past, but it was a positive that department heads presented their budgets this year. Ping said he would have an open policy so it is easier to look up information, and Rosenberger emphasized structure and continuity.
Ping said county zoning is an issue he will have to learn more about. Klaassen said the county is studying whether people want zoning. Rosenberger said he favors zoning to protect areas.
On road upkeep, Rosenberger said that the way in which the road and bridge department is funded should be on the ballot. Ping said the county has outsourced road grading in the past, and Klaassen said she would prioritize what the county can do. She mentioned the current focus on the intersection of 21st and Plummer in Chanute.
In closing, Klaassen cited her experience and the commitment in time.
“I’ll work for all the taxpayers,” Ping said.
“It just needs continuity and structure so bad,” Rosenberger said.
Senate candidates were asked about the expansion of Medicaid, whether the five-year education plan to increase Base Aid for Student Excellence should be maintained, elevated or changed, their plan to meet the anticipated state budget shortfall, about the legalization of medical marijuana, and their top priority as senator.
Peck said he couldn’t answer Medicaid expansion in a brief time because of misinformation put out by Liberals and Democrats. He asked if people want to go down the road of supporting Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton for Medicare for all.
“No hospital would be saved,” he said.
Goddard said southeast Kansas has lost hospitals in Independence, Oswego and Fort Scott, but Medicaid is not a savior.
“It will certainly help solidify their financial position,” he said. “All Kansans need access to healthcare.”
On education funding, Goddard said the budget has increased by mandated costs and he wants to make sure funding improves the classroom. He said the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has impacted the budget.
“Everybody is going to have to tighten their belt,” he said.
Peck criticized the Kansas Supreme Court decision mandating education funding, along with other decisions related to the Carr brothers, the right to abortion, and one he said allows illegal aliens to steal someone’s identity.
On the budget shortfall, both candidates said they oppose tax increases.
“Absolutely I am willing to cut government spending,” Peck said.
“We need to solve it at the state level,” Goddard said.
Goddard said he has heard from veterans on the medical marijuana issue who feel it will help, but medical marijuana should be tightly controlled.
“That is a slippery slope,” Peck said, adding that the state would next see legalizing recreational marijuana.
“Are we really willing to go down that road?” he said.
Both candidates said the state budget would be their top priority.
“We cannot discuss more money for education,” Peck said, and he wants a cap on state spending and on property taxes.
“We have to be able to do the budget, but we can’t ignore the other issues,” Goddard said.
Neosho County Sheriff
Sheriff candidates were asked how they would reduce the crime rate, if they supported training to deal with community mental health issues and de-escalation tactics, about low wages, how to strengthen collaboration with other agencies, and about drug crimes and use.
Taylor said law enforcement needs to be visible and well-trained.
“Our goal is that all our deputies are investigators,” Taylor said. “We’re not just report-takers.”
Starr said the department needs to be proactive. He said he supports training on mental health and he has talked to other agencies that want it.
Taylor said de-escalation is different for sheriff’s officers than police officers, and deputies have seldom had to go to a combative position.
Taylor said officer wages are controlled by the county commission and having stability keeps staff. Starr said he needs to look at other agencies to see what the competitive wages are.
Starr said he would create collaboration by deputizing all law officers, but Taylor disagreed because it would lose accountability and is not necessary.
“We’ve strived to build great relationships,” Taylor said.
Taylor said many violent, person and property crimes are drug-related, while nearby states are loosening regulations.
“There needs to be some sort of standard there,” he said.
Starr agreed with Taylor that drug use is a big concern, and said he would do anything he can to tackle it.