Date of birth: Feb. 6, 1983 Spouse and children: None Current job: Full-time student Party affiliation: Republican Church/religious affiliation: Christian, no affiliation Previous elected positions: None Previous leadership positions: Founded College Republican Organization at University of Nebraska at Kearney; interned with Congressman Tom Osborne; Nebraska Federation of College Republicans 3rd District representative; executive board member of the Buffalo County (Neb.) Republican Party; press secretary for Dan Rasure, State Senate, District 40 campaign
Experience versus fresh blood is at the heart of the campaign for the 44th District Kansas House seat, which pits longtime Democratic incumbent Barbara Ballard versus Republican challenger Rick Davis, a Kansas University student.
Ballard has represented the district that covers west-central Lawrence since 1993. She says her long-established relationships with committee and House members allow her to be effective on the key issues of education and health care.
"I can get along with almost anybody. And because there is so much polarization going on - 'that's a conservative' or 'that's a liberal,' - I can get along with a conservative and we can agree to disagree," said Ballard, associate director of the Dole Institute of Politics at Kansas University.
But for Republican challenger Rick Davis, Ballard is still a Democrat in a House controlled by Republicans. So it's more difficult for her to pass legislation.
He also said she was complacent after 14 years in the Legislature and out of touch with voters.
"I get a recurring theme that she's a nice lady, but she doesn't do much for us," said the 23-year-old candidate and fourth-year political science major at KU. "You get some fresh blood in there, we can get some new ideas."
But Ballard, 61, said she has been essential to education and social services as a member of the House Appropriations Committee and the House Social Services Committee.
Date of birth: Nov. 14, 1944 Spouse and children: Husband Albert Ballard; son Gregory Current job: Associate director of the Dole Institute of Politics at Kansas University; teaches for School of Education and women's studies Party affiliation: Democrat Church/religious affiliation: Plymouth Congregational Church Previous elected positions: Lawrence school board, 1985-93 Previous leadership positions: President, Lawrence school board, 1988-89, 1992-93; Kansas House of Representatives 1993-present; Lawrence Chamber of Commerce, board of directors; cabinet member for United Way; board member for Lawrence Children's Choir; board member for Ballard Community Center; board member for Cottonwood Inc.
This year, she co-sponsored a bill called "Grandparents As Care Givers" allowing grandparents to apply for state funds to help raise their grandchildren, like foster parents.
She also pointed to her 1994 authoring of the now-permanent Neighborhood Youth Employment Act, a statewide, $100,000 annual after-school and summer jobs and mentoring program for low-income high school students to work in jobs such as cleaning parks.
Davis said if elected he would sponsor a Welfare to School program aimed at putting low-income people in college or technical schools rather than fast-food restaurants.
He also said that education is a priority and that he opposes abortion, but hopes to focus on other issues such as lower taxes, personal responsibility and small government. He opposes state-owned casinos.
Ballard supports abortion rights. She has used the $15,000 she has reported raising primarily to buy ads in newspapers. She said she supports state-sponsored casinos approved by local voters in designated areas because it's a new source of revenue and jobs that otherwise goes to Missouri casinos.
Her opponent has raised $1,500, according to campaign finance reports, mainly from family and friends. But he said he still considers the race neck-and-neck because of his party's strong, historic presence throughout the state.
Davis said he felt confident despite the fact that Ballard has gone unchallenged in more than half her races since 1993.
"Although its one of the most Democratic districts in Kansas," Davis said, "it's still Kansas."