The Republican Party had their opportunity this past Thursday evening for their local and state candidates to speak at the Raymond Frye Complex.  The first forum was between District 80 House of Representative Anita Judd-Jenkins and Kansas House candidate Bill Rhiley.  
Chairman of the Sumner County Republican Party Glen Burdue, started things off after Larry Alley led the crowd in prayer and then the Pledge of Allegiance. Due to a late start, there was not enough time to get through all of the questions that had been poised from the audience.  
Rhiley spoke first of his country-raised background and stressed his college education.  He spoke of his endorsement from Kansas for Life and of his strong support for the 2nd amendment, and being pro-micro business.  
Judd-Jenkins then spoke of how she had strove to build relationships with industry and business.  She emphasized being a “fiscal conservative.  We need to pay our bills and on time.  We need to balance our revenue stream with what we are required to do.”
Burdue asked them if school funding as it is now was adequate.  Rhiley said that it was.  He supports a constitutional amendment to keep the courts out of having a say in school funding
Judd-Jenkins differed somewhat, saying, “We are so close.”  When it came approving the amendment, she hedged her bets,, adding, “Let’s look at other choices.  It depends on the language of the bill.  Will it apply to other agencies?”
On the question of whether schools should be rewarded on performance, Rhiley believes that local school boards need to be making the decisions, not the state, on money spending.  He said that grading schools has been going on for forty years, with lower income students faring the worst.
Judd-Jenkins believes “any such measurement level might be fair, but we must be careful as to what those measurements are.”
As to whether or nor they would support a term limits amendment, Rhiley said, “Yes, I would.  There is a difference between politicians and statesman.  Politicians do it for a long time.  Statesman get done when the people decide they are done.”
Judd-Jenkins shared his feeling, saying, “Bill and I agree.  I think there should be term limits.  People need to be there to learn the system. Lifetime politicians need to go away.  There does need to be a change.  We need to change as to what society sees us as today.  Listen to the young people.  Make laws for the future.” She lamented that “small businesses have suffered in the past few years with the lack of revenue.  Small businesses are the backbones of our communities.  They are where we go to shop and what keeps our communities vital.”
Rhiley said, “Ninety percent of our economy is small business.  We need to do whatever we can to make our local downtown areas grow again.  Lower the property tax and taxes on businesses.  We need to remove regulations mandates from small businesses.  Get the tax burden off.”
Answering how the Kansas budget should be balanced, Rhiley responded that “Constitutionally we have a mandate to balance the budget.  We have a revenue problem.  Find efficiency in government.  Once we do that, we will have more money to spend on vital areas.  We need to control spending, not how much money we are taxing.”
Judd-Jenkins agreed, saying, “Reduce spending.  We have a spending and tax problem.  There is a lot of saving we can do with more efficiency, as opposed to any tax increase.”
Regarding the recent Trump tax cut, Rhiley said, “I one-hundred percent agree that the Trump tax cut should be passed onto all Kansans, and as quickly as possible move a 0% tax on all food.”
Judd-Jenkins shared his sentiment.  “I would love to see that on sales tax on food.  If the recent tax cut bill in the statehouse had been a clean bill, it would have gone through.  It was combined with other bills that had never been discussed with either chamber.  There was no transparency.  Maybe we can try again next year.”
When asked what they would do to protect schools from armed shooters, Jenkins tried to joke at first, saying, “Duck,” before adding she “was raised with guns.  I did hunting growing up.  I cannot imagine rural Kansas without guns.  I am not sure of the answers.  I do not want to see us become a lock down society.  If you have any ideas, I encourage you to share them with me.”
Rhiley mentioned again that he was “pro 2nd amendment.  I think quality-trained people should be able to protect our schools.  We should have metal detectors.  We should have a sign at the front indicating we will shoot you if you come in our door.  People think is this a hard or soft target?  We want schools to be safe where people will feel comfortable not being shot.”
As they got to the end of their session, Jenkins boasted that she “never missed a vote.  I did my best.  I have listened to you.  I have asked for opinions and will continue to do so.  I am trying to protect rural Kansas.  The Kansas Farm Bureau has endorsed me, among others.  So has KanOkla, among many others.”
Rhiley concluded by saying, “We want Kansas to be a great place to raise a family and for our kids to go to school.  I am a conservative Republican.  I am for individual freedom, local control, and less taxes.”
With that, Judd-Jenkins and Rhiley stepped away to allow room for the other candidates to speak.  Cheryl Helmer is the Republican candidate for the 79th Kansas House District.  She spoke briefly of how she had been a “career educator, having been a teacher for 38 years.  I will listen to what you have to say.  It is all of our money.  It should be going to us.  I have always been concerned with the tax burden on Kansas families.”  She also mentioned she was “anti-abortion” and that her opponent “has always been for tax increases.”
Kyle Hoffman also spoke briefly.  He is currently serving in the 116th District of the Kansas House of Representatives. The district consists of Comanche (except Protection), Barber, Harper & NW corner Sumner County.  He thanked everyone for their public support.  He “encouraged people to get in touch with him.  It has been a great privilege to serve you in the Kansas House.  It has been almost nine years since I started.”
Dennis Taylor, who is a candidate for Secretary of State, spoke even more briefly, giving his name, the position he was running for, his thirty years of experience, and of how he was the only candidate with a wide range of government experience.
Then it was time for the three men to come forward who are running for the open County Commissioner spot.  Jason Boyd spoke first, introducing himself as a thirty-five year old husband and father of three young boys.  He alluded to his earlier run for the position four years ago, and said he “had learned a lot from it.”  His reasons for running now are “citizens and public that have come to me and brought up things they were concerned with.”  He also spoke of his time working as a deputy sheriff in the county, seeing the condition of the roads, and experiencing the planning and zoning process he went through years ago.  “I learned a lot through that, and I would like to input some new energy.”
John Cooney was born and raised in Sumner County.  Part of the reason he is running is because he spent the last decade providing service to Oxford.  He was on the school board and city council and worked his way up to mayor and also to city clerk.  “It was a good learning experience of how government works.  Be beneficial or be obstructive.  Government is not supposed to be a burden.  It should assist the community and its citizens. I have the experience, and I would be honored and proud to serve.”
Kip Etter spoke of how he was born in Wellington, and raised in Mayfield.  “This is home for me.”  He spent time in Arizona where he started an insurance agency.  He met his wife Kim in Phoenix, and then moved back to Wellington to raise his family.  He was also at Kansas State University.  He spoke of how he started his first business there when he was twenty-one years old. He is the owner of the Dore restaurant in Wellington, where he manages fifteen employees.  He has real estate properties.  Since 2015, he has been on the Wellington City Council.  
When asked what experience do they have training or supervising other people, Cooney answered first, speaking about his time working at Calmar in Winfield.  He “was the second employee they hired.  I helped build it from the ground up.  We had 200 employees within the first few years.  It was a real eye-opener to bring in and recruit and manage employees.” He again mentioned his years on the Oxford City Council, before he became mayor and then city clerk.  
exp training or supervising other people?
Etter stressed that he was a “hands-on manager.  I have been an entrepreneur since I was twenty-one years old.  I have had 100 employees at one time.  I am a big believer in listening to people who are experts in their field.”
Boyd looked back in his life to his time on the “BNSF railway as a welder, right out of high school.  I was promoted quickly. I supervised 25-30 people.”  He spoke of how he left the railroad after his first son was born.  He was hired on with the sheriff’s department.  Later on, he started a farm with hired hands during harvest time.   
When asked how to deal with the loss of local population over the last two census, and how to sell the county developers Boyd replied it that “the current economic development team is trying.  College construction has been positive.  We need to control the mill levee.  Control taxes as best we can.  We have more revenue coming in than we ever have had.  It is a great opportunity to reduce the mill levee.  We should continue to better our roads.”
Cooney responded that “Economic development is a passion of mine. Our obstacles are government building codes and zoning regulations.  When I was on the city council, no one believed in throwing money at problem to fix it.  A hobby of mine is bringing in businesses.”
Etter pointed at the last census, saying “it is the lowest we’ve been since 1950.  There is room for growth and take advantage of local communities and school boards.  We we need to communicate and see how they are spending money strategically.  We have lots of positive developments, such as the college.  We need to be strategic with how we move forward.”
When asked if property taxes were too high, Cooney agreed, saying, “Kansas does appear to be a high tax state.  We are ranked up there with counties in Oregon.  That’s not good to be compared to them.  Property  taxes are punishing to people who have saved their money and invested in their community.  I am not a fan of them.”
Etter agreed, saying, “None of us like to pay them.  They are always too high.  I could never think of a reason to vote for a tax increase when I first ran.  Not long after I was elected, I had to make the difficult decision to raise property taxes, and I have always regretted that.  It hit me hard.  I have tried since then to figure out how to not raise property taxes again.  If we are not growing, then we are dying.”
Boyd added that “time works itself out for property taxes.  The commissioners only control the mill levee.  We need to be mindful and resourceful with resources to lower levee and get relief to citizens.  We have wind energy and the casino.”
In closing, Cooney said it is a “privilege and honor to live in a country with an open voting process.  It is a humbling honor just to be considered.”
Etter then said, “I have no agenda.  This is home.  I deeply believe that you should be active and be involved.  I want to increase technological growth.  We have a lot of room for growth.”
Boyd finally offered “balance.  There are wise people on the commission now.  I want to bring energy and hard work, which would help  bring harmony and balance to things.  I am passionate about the county.  I have been blessed with my family.  I want to bring the average age of commissioner down.”
With that, the forum ended.  Primary day is August 7th.