Jake LaTurner and Bob Marshall squared off again Monday night in a debate put on at the Homer Cole Senior Citizens Center.



In the debate, Marshall, R-Fort Scott, attempted to paint himself as the twin of LaTurner, except with more experience, while LaTurner, R-Pittsburg, tried to play up the two’s differences.

Jake LaTurner and Bob Marshall squared off again Monday night in a debate put on at the Homer Cole Senior Citizens Center.

In the debate, Marshall, R-Fort Scott, attempted to paint himself as the twin of LaTurner, except with more experience, while LaTurner, R-Pittsburg, tried to play up the two’s differences.

Each candidate was given two minutes for an opening statement, then received three minutes apiece for five questions ranging from transportation to immigration. They then followed those up with a two-minute closing statement. They rotated who fielded each question first.

LaTurner gave a brief opening, thanking the crowd for coming out and giving themselves the best possible chance for an informed decision. Marshall used his statement to touch on his experience and his family.

The first question asked whether the candidates would be in favor of supporting an extension of the current State Transportation Plan or enacting a new one. LaTurner went first, and said U.S. Highway 69 had always been a big issue for southeast Kansans. He went on to say the area paid for improvements throughout the state through the fuel tax.

“And we failed to see results for ourselves,” LaTurner said.

He said the plan could be funded through the collection of back taxes and by cutting wasteful spending.

Marshall said he was in favor of a new plan, and said the impression he received from KDOT was that they were looking for a shorter plan with more flexibility.

“This is a critical issue for us to get together,” Marshall said.

He said a critical step was to get all the local communities agreed on an alignment. After that point, he said there could be money at the federal level. He said partnering with each community, or bonding, were other ways to finance the plan.

Marshall and LaTurner were similar on the energy question that followed. Both said they supported the Holcomb Power Plant, which would add jobs and money to the Kansas economy, while reducing energy costs. Both also said they would support expanding Wolf Creek to generate more nuclear power in the state. Lastly, both said they wanted to look at alternative energy, such as wind, to break reliance on foreign energy.

When asked about education, LaTurner said it was one of his most important issues. He said southeast Kansans “weren’t asking for the moon,” but deserved the same opportunities as everywhere else in the state. LaTurner said the area needed a senator who understood poverty-stricken school districts. He said he was a product of the poorest district in the state in Galena and touted the need for vocational programs.

Marshall agreed that education was one of the most important issues. He said education accounted for 63 percent of the state budget and said the programs already had a strong start. He said Kansas high school graduates scored in the top 10 percent in national testing, despite not placing in the top half of states for funds. Marshall said the state had to fund K-12 education by law and agreed with Marshall that vocational programs were needed.

On the next topic, Marshall said immigration solutions needed to be found on a federal level.

“Having said all of that, we have to do what we can to seal the borders,” Marshall said.

He said he was pro-business and said businesses needed to have the tools necessary to spot illegals.

LaTurner said he disagreed.

“We can’t afford to wait on the federal government for much of anything,” LaTurner said.

He said it was “a real problem” in Kansas, and one that needed to be dealt with in a “smart or humane way.” He mentioned an article talking about a program called eVerify, which would help businesses identify illegal immigrants.

For the final question, the candidates were asked what the most important issues facing southeast Kansas were. Both said they received a number of questions about abortion, and both said they were pro-life.

LaTurner said he wanted to represent the area’s interests, which included competing with neighboring states and keeping people home to buy goods and services.

Marshall talked about the economy, taxes and jobs. He said the state needed to provide a more “business-friendly” environment to attract business and grow the tax base with higher-paying jobs. He said the state needed to provide better infrastructure, and for southeast Kansans, that included U.S. Highway 69.

After the final question, both gave their closing remarks. Marshall said his three main issues were economic development, education and enabling safe communities through support of law enforcement. He said he and LaTurner were “on the same page” on most of the issues and referred to his leadership and service background.

LaTurner said it was an exciting election ahead, one where people would have a chance to make a difference. He spoke about his roots in southeast Kansas, how he would raise his children and retire in the area, and how southeast Kansas needed a long-term worker, not one who would “be sucked into the Topeka vacuum.” He then pointed out the differences between he and Marshall, stating that they differed on immigration, and said Marshall would raise taxes, whereas he would not.

“If you look deeper,” LaTurner said. “There are some big differences.”

Pittsburg Mayor Pam Henderson served as moderator. After the two were finished, Henderson gave Jeffrey Locke, R-Arma, and Michael Gayoso, R-Pittsburg, five minutes apiece to speak about their races. Locke is running against incumbent Rep. Bob Grant, D-Cherokee, for the Kansas House, while Gayoso is running against incumbent Crawford County Attorney John Gutierrez in the general election.

Rob Lessen, Crawford County Republicans chairman, said it was an advantage to put LaTurner and Marshall on a stage together.

“I think it’s very important to get as many people to see the candidates as possible, so they can compare and contrast the two,” Lessen said. “It helps them decide who to vote for.”

Kevin Flaherty can be reached at kevin.flaherty@morningsun.net or by calling 231-2600 Ext. 134.