Conservative issues challenge to Leavenworth lawmaker
Former Tonganoxie resident Mike Stieben succinctly sums up his challenge to state Rep. Candy Ruff in her re-election bid for the 40th District seat in the Kansas House of Representatives.
"It will be a conservative Republican versus a liberal Democrat," said Stieben, a locomotive engineer for Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad.
Stieben, who now lives in Leavenworth, has worked behind-the-scenes in conservative GOP politics for several years. Most recently, he volunteered on state Sen. Bob Lyon's successful 2000 campaign for the Kansas Senate.
"I've always wanted to be involved in the political process and I really admire Senator Lyon and I helped his campaign and I have his endorsement to run," the 34-year-old Newton native said.
Stieben, who identifies himself as pro-life, supports a number of conservative stances, including: tax credits for parents who stay home with young children; school vouchers; more discipline in public schools; and a ban on abortions in the third trimester of pregnancy.
"I want that stopped," he said of late-term abortions. "Immediately."
He doesn't support expansion of gambling. He is not opposed to a statewide vote on gambling, but does not want county-by-county ballots.
"It's a moral issue what it's going to do to our families," he said. "Gambling doesn't create any kind of economic benefit. It just sucks money out of the economy."
He also favors term limits for legislators two for senators and four for House members.
He vows not to vote for a tax increase in the 2003 legislative session. He believes government should tighten its belt. And he thinks schools should slash administrative costs in order to provide money to teachers.
Stieben and his wife, Liz, have three young children. They lived for a year in Tonganoxie before moving two years ago to Leavenworth. They attend Tonganoxie's Christian Church.
And while incumbent Candy Ruff didn't vote for the tax increase the Legislature passed this year, her views and Stieben's differ widely on how to generate funding.
"We need more money, new revenue sources," she said.
And Ruff believes that should come from gambling. She believes Kansas is losing too many dollars to neighbor Missouri. Her research shows that of the $466 million generated in 2001 from casino gaming in Missouri, 40 percent to 45 percent of that came from Kansas. Ruff would like a piece of the action for this state.
"All of their money goes directly to their public schools," the 51-year-old said. "So let's say $200 million of Missouri tax revenue is contributed by Kansas why can't that be contributed to our schools.
"Let's get off the moral proselytizing. People are obviously spending that money in Missouri. Casinos? Let's bring it on home."
The jury's still out, Ruff said, on how the 2003 session of the Kansas Legislature will compare with this year's contentious gathering.
"It depends if we can get our game together when it comes to funding," she said.
She believes Kansas should add income tax brackets, particularly at the top of the schedule. And she would like to lift some sales tax exemptions.
Ruff, a Leavenworth resident who works as a journalist, is passionate about the right to bear arms.
"I feel very strongly about the First Amendment," she said. "Obviously, I like the Second Amendment just as well. I'm very definitely in support of the rights of gun owners."
No other legislator from Leavenworth County faces opposition in their re-election bids.