Candidates talk about jobs, health care, schools and tax cuts

Democratic candidates for the 2nd District congressional seat are, from left, Tobias Schlingensiepen, Robert Eye and Scott Barnhart. The winner of the Democratic primary next month will face incumbent Rep. Lynn Jenkins.

The three Democrats seeking to represent the 2nd U.S. House District on Monday agreed on most issues, saying that Congress has become beholden to wealthy special interests.

Scott Barnhart of Ottawa, Robert Eye of Lawrence and Tobias Schlingensiepen of Topeka are vying for the Democratic nomination to challenge incumbent Lynn Jenkins, R-Topeka.

The three candidates participated in a forum co-sponsored by the local Voter Education Coalition and 6News.

The second half of the televised forum featured Republicans in primaries for Kansas Senate Districts 2, 3, and 19, all of which include a portion of Douglas County.

“The politics of obstruction in Washington, D.C., is holding our country back,” said Schlingensiepen, a minister who is on leave during the campaign.

The three candidates also spoke in favor of ways to reduce the influence of money in elections.

“It is time to replace the corporate-controlled elections and put those elections back in the hands of the citizens of the United States,” said Eye, an attorney.

Barnhart, a farmer, also spoke against corporate influence of politics, saying he wanted to pursue policies that benefited the middle class “instead of the millionaires on one side and billionaires on the other side.”

All three said they supported President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act, which Republicans have vowed to repeal.

Barnhart criticized the numerous votes by Republicans in the House to repeal the ACA, saying, “But they don’t bother to have one vote on what they would replace it with.”

Schlingensiepen said the ACA didn’t solve all health care issues, but added, “We need to build on what’s good and solve the problem of rising health care costs.”

Eye called the ACA a “step in the right direction.” He said he met a woman in Fort Scott whose great-grandchild was diagnosed with a tumor. The child’s treatment cost $1.8 million, and insurance covered most of that, but the middle class family faced a 20 percent co-pay. “They had to choose between bankruptcy or health care, and that is not a choice that any family should have to make,” he said.

Eye and Schlingensiepen said they would try to improve the economy by focusing on infrastructure improvement and renewable energy. Barnhart said the government should help small farmers.

Republican side

The state Senate segment of the forum featured four Republican candidates. They were:

  • Ron Ellis of Meriden, who recently retired after 37 years of teaching and is running for GOP nomination in District 2. The other Republican in that race, Jeremy Pierce of Lawrence, has announced he has ended his campaign. The winner will face state Sen. Marci Francisco, D-Lawrence.
  • James “J.C.” Tellefson of Leavenworth, a former county commissioner who is running for Senate District 3. The other Republican in that race, Anthony Brown of Eudora, cited a scheduling conflict and didn’t participate in the forum. The winner will face state Sen. Tom Holland, D-Baldwin City.
  • Casey Moore of Topeka and Matthew Windheuser of Lawrence, who are vying for the Republican nod in Senate District 19. The winner will face state Sen. Anthony Hensley, D-Topeka.

On the issue of the recent tax cuts signed into law by Gov. Sam Brownback, Moore said he would like there to be no state income tax. Windheuser said eliminating the state income tax altogether “would be an almost insurmountable challenge.”

Both Tellefson and Ellis said they had concerns about effect the tax cuts would have on funding state government. Tellefson said he didn’t want the state to push funding problems onto school districts, cities and counties. “That is something that I am going to fight,” he said.

On school funding, Windheuser said less should be spent on schools, and Moore said he wanted to see schools run more efficiently. Ellis said he believed funds that have been cut from schools in recent years should be restored.