Rick Roitman, a Wellington resident and retired Naval officer, is running as a Democrat for the Kansas representative District 116 seat against incumbent Kyle Hoffman, of Coldwater. The general election will be held Nov. 3.
"I have been a Republican in a past life, but not any longer," Roitman said. "The Republican party left me 20 years ago, probably."
Roitman said it is "daunting" running as a Democrat in a Republican stronghold - a district made up of Sumner, Harper, Barber and Comanche counties. His wife, Jo Roitman, unsuccessfully ran against Hoffman in the past two Kansas House elections.
Locally, Roitman is stressing his view that Republican opposition to Medicaid expansion has led to the hospital closing in Wellington.
"Not passing Medicaid expansion cost Wellington $750,000 a year," he said.
The federal Affordable Care Act was passed with the assumption that Medicaid expansion would take place in every state, Roitman said.
"The people that would be covered under Medicaid expansion are working people," he said. "There’s about 50,000 of them in Kansas that are being hurt because we don’t have Medicaid expansion."
"Two billion dollars of our (federal) tax money has gone out of the state and paid for Medicaid expansion in other states. Had we passed Medicaid expansion that money would’ve come back to us."
Other counties in his district still have their hospitals and in those places, Roitman’s talk of reducing or eliminating the sales tax on food has gained traction, he said.
"We have the highest or second highest tax on groceries in the country," he said. "We pay the same tax on groceries that you pay if you go to Walmart & buy a gallon of paint or if you go to Mill Creek Lumber & buy a hammer."
He said corporations and the "one percent" need to be taxed.
Republicans love to cut taxes," Roitman said. "Well they’re cutting corporate taxes and they’re cutting taxes for the one percent but by and large they’re not cutting my taxes and your taxes and that’s what needs to be cut. If they cut taxes at the lower end, that money is going to go back into the economy. Those people are going to spend that money because they need to.
Roitman, who taught mathematics at Cowley College for seven years, following his retirement from the corporate world, has been endorsed by the Kansas National Education Association. His daughter, Carmen Hatfield, is a counselor at Wellington High School and his son-in-law, Adam Hatfield, is USD 353 superintendent. Roitman has coached basketball at WHS for the past several years, the past few as an assistant coach.
He said he believes tax dollars should go to fund public schools and does not support vouchers for private schools.
"I would do everything in my power to keep that from happening," he said. "I’m fine with parental choice. You can send your kid to a private school, but pay for it if that’s what you want to do."
Roitman had two years of college behind him when he joined the Navy in 1969. After his first tour of duty, he returned to his hometown of Kansas City, Missouri, joined the Navy reserves, and three years later, graduated from William Jewell College in Liberty, Missouri, with a degree in mathematics. A month after graduation, he went to Officer Candidate School and would retire 21 years later as a Navy Commander. During that time, he had earned his Master’s in Business Administration (MBA) from George Washington University in Washington, D.C.
Upon retirement from the Navy, he returned to Kansas City and worked for 10 years as a tax analyst. After retiring from that role, he moved with his wife, Jo, to Wellington near her hometown of Corbin.
"The Navy is the key to my leadership skills," he said.