Local candidates field questions at Eudora forum
Eudora — Democratic House candidate Kara Reed proclaimed herself as the only "moderate" in the 42nd District House race Wednesday night, while her Republican opponent Jim Karleskint touted his credentials on education issues while labeling himself as a "fiscal conservative" who also opposes abortion.
Meanwhile, two-term incumbent Sen. Tom Holland, D-Baldwin City touted his record of opposing Republican Gov. Sam Brownback's tax and education policies while trying to link his GOP challenger, Echo Van Meteren, with the Brownback administration.
Those were some of the highlights of a candidate forum at Eudora Middle School that was sponsored in part by the education advocacy group Game On for Kansas Schools.
Reed, a Tonganoxie city councilwoman an a biology instructor through Kansas City Kansas Community College, tried to set herself apart immediately during her opening remarks, saying she had heard people say, "that there didn't seem to be much difference between my opponent and I."
"First of all, I am the moderate in this race," she said. "My opponent has used the word 'conservative' or 'true conservative' on his website, on his Facebook page, on all of his literature and his mailers. I'm not sure what that means exactly, but what I do know is there is another gentleman in this state who identifies as a conservative, and that is Sam Brownback."
That distinction may be important because Karleskint was widely seen as the moderate Republican when he unseated incumbent Rep. Connie O'Brien, a reliable ally of Brownback's, during the Aug. 2 GOP primary.
The 42nd District includes much of eastern Douglas County, including Eudora, and part of western Leavenworth County.
But Karleskint, a retired superintendent of the Holton school district who now lives in Tonganoxie as well, did not shy away from the conservative label, and he defended his position as a fiscal and social conservative.
"I am a fiscally true conservative," he said. "I am pro-life. My opponent is pro-choice. She is endorsed by Planned Parenthood. I am endorsed by Kansans for Life."
On specific policy issues, though, Reed and Karleskint were not far apart. Both said they support returning to a school funding formula based on uniform per-pupil spending, and both opposed amending the Kansas Constitution's language on school funding.
Both also said they support lowering or eliminating the sales tax on food, although Karleskint said the state could only do that as part of a broader tax package aimed at plugging the state's persistent revenue shortfalls.
Meanwhile, Holland said he has opposed Brownback's tax and education policies from the beginning of his administration, and said his GOP challenger Van Meteren, who was not present at the forum, was part of Brownback's political base.
"My opponent, Ms. Echo Van Meteren, is married to Sam Brownback's top political consultant," Holland said, referring to Kris Van Meteren, a principle with the Singularis public relations firm. "With her, you're only going to get more of the same usual happy talk coming from Gov. Brownback as regards to his disastrous tax policies while our public schools, higher education system and highway system slowly erode away."
The 3rd Senate District also includes eastern Douglas and parts of western Leavenworth counties. It also includes portions of Lawrence south of 23rd Street.
The deadline for voters to register in time for the Nov. 8 general election is Tuesday, Oct. 18. Advance voting begins the following day, Oct. 19.