Illegal immigration topic in 53rd District race

Douglas W. Desch

Thomas Lessman

Ann Mah

Two veteran contenders for the 53rd Kansas House District are taking a crack at denying the seat to Democratic incumbent Ann Mah.

Mah, a freshman legislator, faces challenges from Doug Desch, Republican nominee for the seat in 2002, and Thomas Lessman, a Libertarian who ran in 2004.

Desch said he wants an auditor to fully account for how state tax dollars are spent.

“We’ve never required full accountability of the departments of the state,” he said. “It’s hard to say where it’s going. It’s like having a checkbook and not balancing it.”

Lessman also is pressing for increased accountability.

Mah said part of her original platform was keeping taxes in check and she’s stuck to her promises. And she said moving ahead she wants to focus on education, jobs and health care.

Mah said she doesn’t believe there should be a total ban on the use of eminent domain for economic development because some urban centers need it.

“We do need some limitations on it, but I would not go for an all-out ban,” she said.

Desch also said there should be some limitations on eminent domain for economic development.

Only Lessman said he’s totally opposed to using eminent domain that way.

“I’m against private property being taken for anything other than public use,” he said. “It is essentially taking from the poor and giving to the rich.”

Lessman and Desch each said they oppose in-state college tuition rates for illegal immigrants.

“I don’t think we should encourage them to be here illegally or to stay here,” Lessmansaid. “What part of illegal is not understood?”

Mah said the illegal immigrant issue is about jobs, not tuition. She pointed out that she voted for a bill to crack down on employers who knowingly hire illegal workers.

“No one came here for tuition, and no one will leave if it goes away,” she said. “Keeping these future tax-paying citizens in school until their citizenship finalizes makes economic sense.”