Kansas is electing a governor this year, a pick that'll go a long way in deciding what direction the state goes on school funding, health care, gun control, taxes and spending.
The Republican primary field tilts to the right, with the contenders tussling over whose credentials and attitude would be the most effective in fulfilling a conservative agenda. Democrats voting on Aug. 7 have to wrangle with whether to go moderate or hold tight to a progressive platform.
Host Steve Kraske interviewed the leading candidates from both parties on KCUR’s Up To Date.
Choice quotes and full audio files are below.
Jim Barnett, former state senator
On health care: “If you don’t have access to health care, you wait until it’s too late, you lose a limb, lose a life. Then, if you lose your hospital, it’s like losing your school. It’s also nursing homes. Long-term care facilities now won’t accept patients on Medicaid because they know they’re not going to get paid, or they’re going to have to eat the many months that they take care of someone. So anybody in Kansas who has a senior in their home or family that may be close to outliving their resources, they should be worried about that.”
On guns: “I’m a local control person. I respect people’s elections and local differences (concerning gun control).”
On taxes: “The mantra of the Republican Party is, you solve all problems by shrinking government and lowering taxes. It didn’t work. We’re going to have to invest in the state and recreate a functional state government.”
Jeff Colyer, Governor
On school funding: “I believe that we’re probably in a very good position where we’re not going to have to see schools closing. It may be that the people of Kansas may need to vote on this sometime, on a constitutional amendment. We can do that. I believe the purview is of the legislature and the governor on what the amounts (allocated for education) are.”
On unemployment: “It’s not that we have unemployment, it is that we’re underemployed. How do we move our skill set up across the state? I think there’s some tremendous things that we can do there. A lot of it is reorienting where schools are going and teaching, and working with that local school district on how to best see the outcomes. I want to see our kids stay in Kansas.”
On taxes: “Where we are today is we’re financially stable. We’re paying our bills. I think we can lower taxes, make them simpler overall and meet our obligations.”
Kris Kobach, Kansas Secretary of State
On school funding: “I would have vetoed the (education spending bill) this past year that Colyer signed. The $500 million-plus increase in spending was way more than was justified … What I would like to do is kind of change the focus. If I’m governor and say I would like a hard requirement of 75 cents of every dollar goes into the classroom, that would actually make sure that the money goes somewhere.”
On guns: “I’d like to see Kansas be No. 1 in terms of protecting the rights of law-abiding gun owners to keep and bear arms … I think we should reduce the concealed carry age to 18.”
On government spending: “If you’re going to cut taxes, which I want to do, and that is one of my top priorities, I’m going to cut spending … If we can shrink government spending in these multiple agencies and trim the fat there, then we will be not be needing to rob the bank of K-DOT (Kansas Department of Transportation).”
Ken Selzer, Insurance Commissioner
On government spending: “I have always said we need to lean in on cost so that we don’t need more taxes. Part of the issue that we’ve had over the last several years when we’ve had the tax increases is that we haven’t been leaning in on cost … It’s easy to call for tax cuts, but unless you’re calling for specific expense cuts to go with that, that’s rather irresponsible.”
On guns and abortion: “I am rock solid on the Second Amendment, just like I am rock solid on pro-life.”
On trade: “This trade issue could be devastating. The 25 percent tariffs that are likely to come on and maybe have already been implemented today (June 15) by China will be devastating to Kansas, focused on soybeans, focused on pork, focused on some other agricultural products that will be devastating. We need a governor who can champion ag.”
Carl Brewer, former Wichita mayor
On guns: “We don’t allow (guns) in our schools and we certainly should not allow them. And so, certainly, it doesn’t need to be on college campuses. We send our children there to get an education.”
On legalizing marijuana: “I firmly believe that we need to take a serious look at what Colorado and some of the other states are doing when we start looking at the legalization of marijuana … that’s additional revenue in the hundreds of millions of dollars that we can actually use for education and we can use for health care.”
On school funding: “A lot of the private schools do very well because private donors, churches, things of that nature. And then when you start talking about impoverished communities, they don’t receive that. And so we have to come up with a fair and equitable way as to how we’re going to actually distribute those dollars and get them out there. And when I say those dollars, I mean the tax dollars themselves.”
Laura Kelly, Kansas Senate Assistant Minority Leader
On taxes: “I do know the one thing that we need to do, in terms of taxes, is to work towards a balanced tax structure … a third property, a third income, a third sales.”
On foster care and adoption: “I’m disappointed that (Kansas Department for Children and Families Secretary Gina Meier-Hummel) supported the adoption discrimination bill. I don’t think that was a good idea. And I don’t think it’s a good idea to be hiring people who are not licensed and trained in the field of social work to fill some of the roles that she’s doing.”
On guns: “I support Second Amendment rights. I also recognize that we need some common sense gun safety policies put in place … I think three-day waiting periods. I think universal background checks. I think banning bump stocks, assault rifles, no guns on college campuses. I do not believe that we should be arming our teachers. I want them to teach.”
Josh Svaty, former Kansas Agriculture Secretary
On trade: “What’s been frustrating for farmers is these trade fights that we are now having thrust upon us are taking direct hits at some of Kansas agriculture’s biggest exports.”
On women’s health care: “As a governor, I would veto any new restrictions on women’s reproductive rights. We have real challenges for women’s access to health care in rural areas. That runs the gamut: vaccinations, screenings, access to contraceptives, sex education. They need to be able to access those services.”
On guns: “When I was in the (Kansas) House, I voted for conceal and carry. But we did that requiring eight hours of training and you had to get a permit from the state, which I thought were very reasonable restrictions … It was sad for me, after I left in 2009, to watch those be rolled back almost wholesale again.”
Claire Verbeck is a freelance contributor to KCUR.org. Find her on Twitter at @TheVeebs.