Archive for Thursday, June 12, 2008

Legislative races assured

June 12, 2008

De Soto voters will have a choice in November to vote for both representatives in the Kansas Legislature.

The race for the 38th District Kansas House seat will pit two-term incumbent Republican Anthony Brown of Eudora against Democratic challenger Stephanie Kelton of Lawrence. Vying for the 9th Senate District will be incumbent Republican Julia Lynn of Olathe and Ron Wimmer, former Olathe school district superintendent.

Brown and Kelton differ on key issues but both said they were motivated to run because they recognize the need to make tough decisions in hard economic times.

Kelton, an economic professor at the University of Missouri at Kansas City with affiliations with two public policy research institutes, said she was running with hope of more directly influencing public policy.

"I am an economist; we have a economy teetering on the brink of recession," said Kelton. "As important as some of these programs are we can't say we're going to have to increase taxes to keep them going. Families are strapped."

"We are getting into an area where the economy is tight," Brown said. "State revenues are down $81 million. We're going to be forced into tough decisions."

Brown said he was equipped to make those decisions because he understands the people of the 38th District, which snakes along Kansas Highway 10 from western Lenexa, western Shawnee, through northern Olathe, De Soto, Eudora and neighborhoods in southwest and northern Lawrence.

"We do have to have people (in Topeka) who are engaged in the community," he said. "I'm someone who is willing to answer phone calls and e-mails and meet people."

As an economist, she has written numerous public policy papers on health care, taxation, energy policy with the hope they would influence policy makers, Kelton said.

"After doing that for the last decade, I'm hoping to do that on the next level," she said.

Brown and Kelton differ on two prominent issues of the last two legislative sessions. Kelton said she would have voted for the third year of the school finance plan approved in the 2007 session and wouldn't have voted to grant permits for two coal-fired electrical plants in Holcomb that Brown voted for this year.

"We have a number of challenges in education," she said, citing coming teacher shortages, "We've got to have people who place a very high premium on education, and I do."

Coal plant differences

Kelton said Gov. Kathleen Sebelius was right to veto legislative attempts this last session to permit the construction of the coal-fired electrical plants because most of the power produced was destined for out-of-state use and because of concerns to the environment and public health.

"There is a great deal of research that families living hundreds of miles downwind from these plants suffered adverse health effects," she said. "There was a compromise plan that seemed reasonable. Voters in the district seemed to support the governor on this one."

In his campaign two years ago, Brown ran on the need to develop potential in the state for alternative energy. The governor's veto of the Holcomb plants was a missed opportunity to move forward in that area, he said.

One of the alternative energy sources he supports is wind, Brown said. The best place in Kansas to operate wind powered generators is near the southwest Kansas town of Montezuma, a place so remote utility companies are unwilling to extend high tension transmission lines there to eastern Kansas consumers. That would have happened had the coal plants been built in Holcomb, about 35 miles to the northwest, he said.

As for his vote against the third year of the school finance plan, it was the right thing to do for the district, Brown said.

Under the plan, Eudora and De Soto got the second and third lowest per pupil aid in the state and Johnson County taxpayers continued to get an 80 percent return on the education dollars they send to Topeka, Brown said.

"That education plan benefits one school district in the (38th) district, and that happens to be Lawrence," he said.

To help the De Soto and Eudora districts, he has carried a bill that would change how at-risk per pupil aid is distributed from a method that counts only the number of free and reduced lunches to one the considers actual factors like academic performance, absenteeism and behavior problems at-risk students display, Brown said.

Senate race

Although Kelton announced her decision to run for the 38th House seat in late May, the two candidates in the local Senate race have been known for 11 months.

When he announced his entry in the race last July, Wimmer said he would run on his experience as superintendent of the Olathe school district and what he could do in the Senate and stay away from negative campaigning.

Wimmer touted his sound management of Olathe district budgets that earned high marks from bond rating firms but offered opportunities for students. He also cited his support and experience in the economic development arena, which included stints on the Olathe Chamber of Commerce Economic Development Council and the Commerce to Business Advocacy Council and serving as the local chairman of the Kansas Research Triangle.

When she filed for re-election last month, Lynn said she would continue to support policies that promote local job creation, ensure quality schools, lessen regulations on business and decrease the tax burden on families.

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