O’Brien, Pittman set to square off for house seat
Jobs are front and center in the 42nd District Kansas House of Representatives race — but it’s in other priorities where the candidates differ.
Republican incumbent Connie O’Brien of Tonganoxie said she’s focused on cutting government spending, reducing taxes and increasing voter identification requirements. Democratic challenger Jim Pittman of Lansing said his priorities, in addition to creating jobs, are maintaining funding for public schools and providing better health care access to children and the elderly.
O’Brien, a mother of 11 children who said she first got involved in politics in 1992, is vice chairwoman of the Leavenworth County Republican Party. She was elected to her first term as a state representative in 2008.
Pittman, a 26-year Army veteran, served in Vietnam and retired with the rank of colonel in 1990. He has been the chairman of the Lansing Planning Commission for 13 years.
He said his leadership experience was an advantage he held over his opponent and a big reason he decided to run for the office.
“I just felt like I could do a better all-around job than she has done for the last two years,” Pittman said.
O’Brien said she called the central issues of her campaign “the three R’s.” She said she aims to “reduce” spending by the state government, “repeal” the state sales tax increase passed by the legislature earlier this year, and “require” photo IDs at the voting booth and proof of citizenship for people registering to vote.
She said the issue of taxes, especially, was crucial in drawing businesses and jobs to the state.
“The economic climate is unstable, especially for small-business owners,” O’Brien said. “They never know if they’re going to be hit with a new tax or more regulation.”
Pittman said he would use his management experience to make smart spending decisions.
“When you’ve got tight economic times, you’ve really got to be smart about how you spend what money you have available,” he said.
He said the state’s schools especially needed to be smart about their spending, and he said keeping adequate funding for education would be his top priority as a legislator.
“I don’t necessarily want to raise taxes, but by the same token we’ve got to maintain a really top-notch school system,” Pittman said.
O’Brien said she thought the state’s public schools were already well-funded. She said she’d like schools to focus on interacting with businesses to see how they can improve the job skills of graduating high school students who decide to enter the workforce rather than going to college.
“We need to partner with the business community and see what they want from students,” she said.
The third major issue for Pittman’s campaign, he said, was health care access for children and seniors.
“I’m particularly concerned by the number of small kids that don’t have access to adequate and affordable health care,” he said.
O’Brien said the central motto of her campaign was “job creation, not taxation.” She said she wanted to axe the sales tax increase and decrease taxes on food in order to make conditions more friendly for businesses.
“We’ve got to entice businesses here,” she said.
Pittman said his chief strength was his experience in leading and solving problems.
“When I get down to getting the job done, I’m going to stay with it ’till it’s done,” he said.
The 42nd District includes Tonganoxie, Linwood and parts of Lansing and Leavenworth, as well as much of rural Leavenworth County. O’Brien defeated Timothy Moran for the seat in 2008 with 7,440 votes to Moran’s 5,036.