It’s just over a month until the fall election, and candidates are squaring off in debates. Hopefuls for Congress and the Kansas Statehouse met in Eudora yesterday (SUN). One of the debates marked the first face-to-face meeting between the candidates for the 2nd Congressional District. KPR’s Stephen Koranda was there and has this report.
The two sparred over some of the things that have happened in Washington in the last few years. Topeka pastor Tobias Schlingensiepen, the Democrat in the race, said he wants to change the culture in Washington.
“Americans are smart and we know when something isn’t working, and Washington is stuck in a business-as-usual mentality that puts politics ahead of solving problems.”
Schlingensiepen tried to connect Republican Congresswoman Lynn Jenkins to that culture, saying she gets hundreds of thousands of dollars from corporations, and then votes for the interests of those corporations. Jenkins’ campaign has said that’s distorting the facts. She blamed Democrats who currently control the Senate and who used to control the House...for some of the major problems in the nation, like the slow economy.
“You see, they simply believe that government can solve all of our problems, when many of us believe that government many times is the problem.”
The two also talked health care, specifically the president’s Affordable Care Act, which Jenkins opposes.
“I don’t believe the status quo is acceptable to anyone, but I did vote against the president's’ health care bill because it doesn’t do one thing to address the issue, and that is the overburdening cost of health care.”
Schlingensiepen said no bill is perfect, and he too has concerns the legislation doesn’t do enough to reduce health care costs. He then directed a question about the bill to the audience.
“I would ask the people who are sitting here today, do you like it when you can’t be discriminated against for preexisting conditions? Do you like it, especially under these economic times, that your children can stay on your policies, if you have insurance policies, until they’re age 26?”
The series of debates also featured some state Senate candidates. This year’s redistricting has led to some races pitting experienced lawmakers against one another. Democratic Senator Tom Holland, from Baldwin City, is being challenged by Republican Representative Anthony Brown, of Eudora. Holland said state cuts to the education budget have hurt the classroom. He pointed to the Eudora schools, where teachers have been cut and programs eliminated.
“What this really means is that we’re now seeing the economic effects of cuts to education. Just last week, our state Department of Education shared that for the first time in 10 years, since No Child Left Behind, academic standards are falling down. In assessment tests in both math, science, reading and history, scores have fallen for the first time.”
Brown countered, saying Holland hadn’t always voted for more funding in schools. And he argued state spending isn’t the only answer to better education.
“His solution for everything is what? More money on roads, more money on education, more money on higher ed. Guys, if money was the issue, Kansas City, Missouri’s school district would be the very best school in the region. It’s not.”
Candidate debates will continue this week. The 2nd Congressional District candidates -- Lynn Jenkins and Tobias Schlingensiepen -- will square off again on Thursday on the University of Kansas campus.
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Also running in the 2nd District is Libertarian Dennis Hawver. And for more Statehouse news, follow Stephen on Twitter. He's @KPRKoranda.