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Archive for Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Senate candidates highlight unemployment, health care in debate

July 20, 2010

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— Four Democrats tried to show in a televised debate why they would be the best candidate in the upcoming primary for the U.S Senate seat in Kansas.

Five Democrats are seeking their party's nomination, but Robert Conroy, the fifth Democratic in the race and a retired railroad engineer, declined to participate in the debate Monday night in Wichita.

The Democrat who wins the Aug. 3 primary will likely face either Jerry Moran or Todd Tiahrt, both incumbent Republican congressmen. None of the Democrats is as well-financed or as well-known as Moran or Tiahrt. Kansas hasn't elected a Democrat to the Senate since 1932.

They are all campaigning for the seat held by Sam Brownback, a conservative Republican who's running for governor instead of re-election to the Senate. A third GOP candidate, Tom Little, a Mound City accountant, is also campaigning.

In the 30-minute debate, Democrat State Sen. David Haley of Kansas City said he had a record of working with Republicans in the Legislature. Haley, an attorney, is the only one of the four to have held elected office.

But other candidates, including Lisa Johnston, an assistant administrative dean at Baker University, cited voter appeal for outsiders, according to The Wichita Eagle.

"Kansans want a leader, not career politicians," said Johnston, of Overland Park.

Patrick Wiesner, an accountant and attorney from Lawrence, said, "This is an election where they're going to throw out the incumbents."

Charles Schollenberger, of Prairie Village, said he has political experience after having worked on four successful congressional campaigns.

"The Senate is not an entry-level job," he said.

Haley, Johnston and Schollenberger supported the extension of unemployment benefits and saw health care as a right. But Wiesner differed.

"I don't find it in the Constitution that there is a right to get health care from the government or an employer," Wiesner said.

Schollenberger said unemployment is the nation's most pressing issue, while Haley cited easing gridlock in Congress as one of his top concerns.

Johnston said she wanted to see the focus on education, but she would push to move away from the federal No Child Left Behind education law.

Wiesner, an Army reservist who returned in May from his second tour in Iraq, said his first priority would be to get out of Iraq in 2011.

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