Archive for Wednesday, August 4, 2004

Nominees predict school finance issue to be key in 53rd House race

August 4, 2004


Democrat Ann Mah and Republican Jack L. Woefel will face off in the November election for the 53rd District House seat after each won highly contested races in party primaries Tuesday.

"This is exciting," said Woefel, of Topeka. "I don't know the words to say. I'm just so grateful to the people for supporting me and believing in me."

Republicans had to choose between Woefel, 59, Renae Hansen, 41, of Topeka, or Justin Holstin, 28, of Tecumseh. Democrats chose from Kent Dederick, 46, of Tecumseh, Mah, 53, of Topeka, or Vincent Melvin Jr., 68, of Topeka.

The district reaches into southwestern Douglas County.

Mah and Woefel attributed their wins to door-to-door campaigning and trying to make as many personal connections as possible.

"I spent time with them and we talked about issues, and I think people appreciated that," Mah said.

Early Tuesday evening, Mah was behind, but ended up pulling off a win with a total of 1,335 votes. Dederick had 827 and Melvin had 273. Woefel received 1,373 votes while Hansen got 920 and Holstin had 1,034.

Mah and Woefel said they may take a couple of days off to bask in their victories, but quickly will return to campaign for the seat.

Both said the issue of school finance would be a key issue.

The Kansas Supreme Court is expected to hear arguments in late summer on a lawsuit that challenges the state's system for funding public education. A decision isn't expected until at least mid-October.

Woefel said he thought there should be more accountability on how education dollars are spent. Taxes should only be increased as a last resort, he said.

Mah said she would consider a sales or income tax increase if the Supreme Court ruled that education wasn't adequately funded.

Rep. Roger Toelkes, D-Topeka, decided not to run for another term after holding the seat about three years. His wife, Dixie Toelkes, represented the 53rd District from 1994 to 2001. She resigned for health reasons.

The 53rd District includes two townships, Clinton and Marion in Douglas County. Two of the 30 precincts involved in the House district are in Douglas County. Most of the district is in Shawnee County.

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