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Archive for Thursday, May 22, 2008

Fill the ballot

Voters are the winners when every race features strong candidates from both parties.

May 22, 2008

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With just over two weeks until the June 10 filing deadline, there still is plenty of room on the local ballots for county and state offices.

Party leaders should be working hard to fill those slots and make sure local voters have strong choices when they vote in the August primary and the November general elections.

Key offices that will be on the ballot this year include county officials, members of the Kansas Legislature and members of the Kansas State Board of Education. Incumbents have filed, or indicated they will file, for many of those positions, but a few important races, including two of three seats on the Douglas County Commission will have no incumbent candidates.

Two candidates, one in each district, have filed for seats on the County Commission, and interest has been expressed by other potential candidates. These commissioners play a vital role in providing services and guiding development in both the rural and urban parts of the county. The county needs deserve highly qualified and well-motivated candidates in these races.

At least one area seat in the Kansas House will be without an incumbent. Rep. Tom Hollard, D-Baldwin City, has indicated he will step down from that seat to run for the Kansas Senate seat now held by Republican Roger Pine. Rep. Tom Sloan has not yet announced his campaign plans, but there is speculation he also may seek a Senate seat in the district now represented by Sen. Marci Francisco, which would leave Sloan's seat up for grabs. Reps. Barbara Ballard and Paul Davis are seeking re-election, but neither one has a challenger.

Another key position that will be open this year will be in the state school board district that represents most of Lawrence. Bill Wagnon of Topeka has said he will not run for re-election to that seat and the only announced candidate is Carolyn Campbell a Democrat and a former member of the Topeka school board. Voters should have learned in recent years that it isn't wise to take this board - and the qualifications of its members - for granted.

Even when an incumbent is seeking re-election it's important to have a viable challenger in the race. Not only does it give voters an alternative, but it forces the incumbent to justify his or her record and stands on important issues. Incumbents never should be allowed to believe that they no longer have to work hard and connect with their constituents to remain in office.

Although much attention is focused on the national presidential race, the elections that choose people to serve in state and county offices are no less important. A ballot full of intelligent candidates focused on their communities and potential constituents helps ensure the best possible representatives in those roles.

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