Democratic candidates for Kansas governor share views in televised forum

photo by: Associated Press

This combination of file photos shows Kansas Democratic gubernatorial candidates, from left: Kansas state Sen. Laura Kelly, D-Topeka; former Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer; and former state Agriculture secretary Joshua Svaty. (AP Photo/John Hanna, File)

TOPEKA – The five Democratic candidates for governor shared their views on issues ranging from education and social service funding to legalizing marijuana during a televised forum Wednesday, but there were no new revelations about their positions.

As in previous events, state Sen. Laura Kelly, of Topeka, continued to criticize former Rep. Josh Svaty, also of Topeka, for voting in favor of abortion restrictions during his time in the Legislature.

“I have a very strong record of supporting women’s rights to access health care, particularly reproductive health care,” Kelly said. “I must say my opponent, Josh Svaty, on the other hand, voted 11 times to restrict women’s access to abortion services and that he overrode a Democrat governor’s veto of that legislation four times. I think it’s important that we not mislead voters on where we stand on certain issues.”

Svaty, meanwhile, continued to hammer Kelly for having voted for a 2015 gun law known as “constitutional carry” that allows people to carry concealed firearms without a permit or training.

“In fact, Sen. Kelly not only voted for that legislation, she cosponsored it, and this was two years after Sandy Hook,” Svaty said, referring to a grade school in Connecticut where 20 children and six adults were killed during a mass shooting in December 2012.

Meanwhile, the other major candidate in the race, former Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer, stayed out of that fray while insisting he is a strong supporter of abortion rights and controls on concealed firearms.

“I don’t believe that any man has the right to tell a woman what she should or should not be doing with her body,” Brewer said in response to the abortion question.

Also on stage were physician and U.S. Air Force Reserves Col. Arden Andersen, of Olathe, and Wichita high school student Jack Bergeson, who will not be old enough to vote until December.

Bergeson, Andersen and Brewer all stated that they favor full legalization of marijuana for both medical and recreational use, while Svaty stopped short of advocating full legalization for recreational use while saying it should be decriminalized so that people convicted of possessing it would not spend time behind bars.

Kelly was the most conservative on the marijuana issue, saying she is optimistic that a medical marijuana bill could pass in the next year or two, but doubtful that the Legislature in its current makeup would be willing to legalize recreational marijuana.

The forum was broadcast from the studio of KWCH-TV in Wichita and was also carried live on WIBW-TV in Topeka, as well as KMUW-FM, a public radio station affiliated with Wichita State University.