O’Brien, Karleskint squaring off Tuesday in Republican primary in Kansas House District 42 race
An established Republican incumbent or a new challenger will advance from Tuesday’s Kansas House District 42 race to take on a Democrat in the primary.
Rep. Connie O’Brien, R-Tonganoxie, is seeking her fourth re-election bid for the Statehouse seat. She first was elected in 2008. This year she faces retired educator and former school administrator Jim Karleskint in the primary. Current Tonganoxie City Council member, Kansas City Kansas Community College instructor and Democrat Kara Reed awaits in the general election.
With Tuesday’s primary approaching, here’s a closer look at the GOP candidates:
Raised on a dairy farm in Fort Scott, Karleskint served in the military and eventually became a teacher, spending 14 years as an educator before serving as principal at Immaculata in Leavenworth, assistant superintendent at Royal Valley near Hoyt and superintendent at Holton.
Karleskint said education funding is a main concern, but it’s one of many that convinced him to run for the local seat.
“Mainly because of the frustration of what’s been taking place in the state the last couple years with respect to deficit budgets,” Karleskint said. “Borrowing money from transportation, not paying our KPERS.”
The state’s credit rating downgrades have been concerning to Karleskint as well.
A member of Tonganoxie VFW Post 9271 and Knights of Columbus, Karleskint, 68, lives in rural Tonganoxie with his wife. They have five children and 12 grandchildren.
He graduated from Pittsburg State University with bachelor's and master’s degrees in education before getting a doctorate in administration from the University of Kansas.
A Vietnam veteran, Karleskint also was awarded a Bronze Star for his meritorious service in the military.
He said some voters on the campaign trail have either said they don’t think some of his perceived problems in the state are true or they weren’t aware of the problems.
“A lot of people are ill-informed, and others are very frustrated,” he said. “They’ve seen cuts to transportation, cuts to education.”
He said the state’s need to borrow $900 million at the end of the fiscal year has been of concern to voters also.
“People have to get out and vote if they want to make some changes,” he said.
Karleskint, as many challengers have done this election cycle, also pointed to Brownback’s tax plan as being problematic.
“The tax experiment has not worked,” he said. “There’s a group of legislators who are convinced that they shouldn’t change course as we go deeper and deeper in debt.
“The Brownback administration and my opponent want to just say everything is great. It’s far from great. We’re in a difficult situation.”
Karleskint has said he favors lowering sales taxes, supports the Second Amendment and is against abortion, while being “pro education.” He wants to restore responsible fiscal policy and promote job growth in the state by advocating for policies that attract businesses to the state.
Also a rural Tonganoxie resident, O’Brien has been a legislator since 2008.
A retired teacher/substitute teacher, O’Brien earned a secondary education/social studies degree from the University of Saint Mary in Leavenworth.
She served in various local Republican Party positions, such as precinct committeewoman and district and state delegate for more than 15 years.
O’Brien, who is 69, is married to Ed O’Brien. They have 11 children and several grandchildren.
During local candidate forums, O’Brien has pointed to figures showing that the state has a low unemployment rate and is making gains in new job growth.
She said the state’s 3.9 percent unemployment rate is one of nation’s lowest, while business filings have been on the rise the past four years, O’Brien said.
“Lower taxes, that’s our goal,” O’Brien said at a recent candidate forum. “We’re trying to do that through job creation, not taxation.”
She has sponsored bills supporting the Second Amendment, exercising religion and limiting abortion regulations.
Some of her organization involvement has included Leavenworth County Republican Women, Altar Society at Sacred Heart Catholic Church, 4-H, Kansans for Life and the Dwight D. Eisenhower Excellence in Public Service series.
Primaries are 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday at polling sites throughout the county.