FORT SCOTT -- Before the candidate forum got under way, Bourbon County Clerk Joanne Long noted the changes brought about by redistricting, holding up maps for those in the audience. But once the formalities and rules of the forum were established, the candidates got down to business. And business, in this case, is politics.
Contenders for the U.S. House, Kansas State House, Kansas State Senate and various Bourbon County seats shared their views, thoughts, positions and platforms at a candidate forum at Fort Scott Community College's Danny and Willa Ellis Family Fine Arts Center.
Those without primary competitors were given a five-minute address, while those with primary competitors were given one-minute opening statements, then a series of questions from the audience, then a three-minute closing statement.
State Senate District 13
Bob Marshall and Jacob LaTurner competed four years ago for the Republican nomination for state Senate. Marshall won that contest and eventually won the general election.
But Tuesday night was one of the few moments to catch both Marshall and LaTurner on the same stage for this year's campaign go-round.
LaTurner went first, noting his experience working for the office of U.S. Rep. Lynn Jenkins (R-Kan.).
"In this case, I am the conservative Republican," LaTurner said. "I am running endorsed by the Kansas Chamber of Commerce. I am proud of that. I am endorsed by the NRA., and I am endorsed fully by Kansans for Life."
Marshall spoke of his history in the Marine Corps and as athletic director at Fort Scott Community College.
"All of those show a little insight into my background and life experience," Marshall said. "Some of those positions you don't achieve without some leadership talent."
In response to a question about base state aid per pupil, Marshall said he did not believe the current funding was adequate and had voted greater increases than that which actually passed both chambers. LaTurner, on the other hand, said that he doesn't believe an increase to the base state aid per pupil "is very likely in the economic climate we're in."
LaTurner then said that he would not support the Affordable Care Act (referred to by some as Obamacare). He also pointed out that Marshall voted for the Health Care Freedom Act.
"I support free-market solutions when it comes to health care. For instance, people should be allowed to buy insurance across state lines," LaTurner said. I will fight every step of the way against Obamacare."
Marshall said he was opposed to Obamacare as well and said that he "would continue to vote against that program." He said that if the health care plan stays in place, then the state will have to set up an exchange, and that federal funds, which were turned down by the state, would be needed.
Marshall said that the tax cut bill passed by the Kansas Legislature (and which he voted for) may cause major deficits, but that a compromise bill, which he "could probably have lived with and not end up with a $2.7 billion deficiency" was not given a vote. LaTurner on the other hand, said he supported the bill as written, and that the projected deficits are based around static modeling. He said that he would continue cutting taxes, such as gas, business and property taxes.
"We need a change in leadership. My message is I understand Marshall is your hometown guy, and I respect that. But if you're looking at the message, I think many of you would make different decisions," LaTurner said in his closing statement.
Marshall summed by reviewing "not the things I'm going to do, but the things that I have done over the last four years." He described his time on various Senate committees, including being the vice chairman of the transportation, being "instrumental in crafting" the 10-year transportation program. He also spoke about forming Project 17 with three other southeast Kansas legislators.
The Democrat in the race, Gene Garman, used his time to talk about the poverty levels in the area, citing data from a Morning Sun article from this summer.
"Perhaps what this state needs is to increase the minimum wage to a living family wage for everyone. Do unto others what you would have them do unto you," Garman said.
State Senate District 12
Caryn Tyson, John Coen will face a primary battle for the Republican nomination for the right to face Denise Cassells, the Democratic contender.
Cassells used her time to both establish her own credentials and attack Tyson's for voting to eliminate the earned income tax credit.
"I sat back and looked at politics most of my life," she said. "I consider myself a Reagan Republican. I've heard a lot of things from my opponent that said she is a Reagan Republican. She introduced an amendment to eliminate the earned income tax credit. In our area, there are about one in two people who count on that rebate. Reagan actually touted that bill when it came out of Congress and said it was one of the best bills to pull the lower class into the middle class."
Coen and Tyson went back and forth, with Coen supporting the more moderate Republican position and Tyson taking a more conservative Republican position.
Coen said he did not believe base state aid per pupil was adequate at this stage, that the tax cut bill passed was "criminal" and "Las Vegas economics," while Tyson said that base state aid per pupil has been raised by $40 million, the budget was balanced and left with a 7.5 percent surplus, and major tax cuts were also passed. The two agreed, however, that "Obamacare" was not a positive program and that they would fight it.
Tyson ended by saying she would seek "common sense solutions to help all Kansans."
"There is a clear choice. The time is here and now. From freedom comes opportunity. From opportunity comes growth. From growth comes propserity," Tyson said.
Coen said that this is a "watershed election" and that he would not be another vote for the governor.
"I understand what the citizens and the people are about, and what the needs are," he said. "I want to take that to Topeka. I never thought Kansans were against taxation. They're against wasteful spending."
State House District 2
Incumbent Bob Grant (D-Frontenac) faces a return challenge from Republican Jeff Locke for his seat in the state House.
Grant spoke about continuing work on U.S. 69 and using some of the state's surplus to restore funding to schools, senior citizens and more.
"I'll work with both Democrats and Republicans to accomplish results benefitting the people of SEK," Grant said. "I will work across party lines and that counts for a hell of a lot."
Locke continued his push for a flat tax plan, which would involve cutting deductions out and reducing the corporate and personal income taxes as low as possible. He also said he would fight the ACA's provisions.
"We know what we need is competition for health insurance across state lines," Locke said. "I will look right at the problems, solve them, and once looked at, you can solve what the problem is."