Last week the two candidates for Kansas District 59 House of Representatives seat met to answer questions from the community. The event, organized by the Ottawa Chamber of Commerce, offered a glimpse into the way partisan politics play out in Franklin County. Normally with community-oriented events like this, we might expect a certain degree of impartiality on the part of those running an event as important as this. That expectation was not met.
The four-person team appointed to determine which questions were asked, and how those questions were worded, included the campaign treasurer of the Democrat candidate, Darrell McCune and the primary election opponent of the Republican candidate, Rebecca Schmoe. Surely there are enough intelligent, politically aware people in Ottawa that it wouldn’t be necessary for half the committee to be composed of people who are opponents of one of the candidates.
The activities of the night went smoothly, but there was a striking difference in the way the two candidates responded to the questions. McCune, the Democrat, seemed to read his answers to each of the questions directly from paper or a device sitting on the table. As someone who teaches and speaks publicly for a living, I can tell when someone is reading text instead of using notes to speak.
On the other hand, Schmoe seemed focused on communicating with the audience. Since it was left out at the beginning of the event, she used part of the time for her opening statement to lead those in the room in the Pledge of Allegiance. She spoke about her experience as a mother and a teacher and the importance of civic engagement. She made it clear that listening to the concerns of the District would be her primary focus as a legislator.
Both candidates agreed that taxes, particularly property taxes, are too high and need to be reduced. Though their statements were similar, their credibility on the issue is not. Schmoe’s party recently passed legislation eliminating sales tax on groceries. Had it not been for Democrat Governor Laura Kelly’s vetoes in prior years, Republicans would have eliminated the tax earlier.
McCune is a proponent of expanding Medicaid in the state, which would no doubt increase federal taxes and allow the federal government to exert more control over our state. McCune is also endorsed by the Sierra Club, a radical anti-energy environmentalist group. It’s difficult to square the idea of reduced taxes with the absurd subsidies required to further expand unreliable, expensive, so-called “renewable” power generation.
On the subject of energy production, McCune parroted Biden administration talking points, emphasizing the need for a forced “transition” to so-called clean energy. Schmoe emphasized consumer choice, rather than government manipulation and subsidies, as the ultimate decider of technology adoption.
The candidates were asked to comment on the “Parents Bill of Rights” that was passed by the legislature but vetoed by Governor Kelly. Schmoe indicated her support for the bill, emphasizing the authority of the parent as their child’s ultimate moral teacher. McCune, on the other hand, stated that it made it “too easy” for parents to impact the moral teaching implicit in the curriculum. He whined about “book bans,” another left-wing extremist talking point. A school deciding not to buy a book or removing it from the library shelf because it contains sexually explicit material does not constitute a ban.
The final question was on election integrity. Does Kansas have secure elections? Schmoe said that Kansas has the best election system in the country, but that we need to be vigilant and continue to maintain election security. McCune yet again repeated far-left Democrat talking points, stating that Kansas has laws that “make it harder for people to vote.” Though he had his talking points written down, he failed to give specifics on that accusation.
Ultimately it was a night of clarity. It was clear why Schmoe won her primary. She understands the concerns of voters in District 59 and, as our Representative, she will do her part to ensure the government acts in our best interests. It was also clear why McCune is the leader of the Democrat party in Franklin County. Though he claims to be a moderate, his talking points and endorsements make it clear that he would, like his counterpart Sharice Davids at the Federal level, toe the Democrat party line if he were elected. We have a choice on November 8th. This candidate forum made that choice very clear.
– Levi Russell is an Ottawa resident and member of the Republican Party.