The 64th District will have a new representative next session after Rep. Vern Swanson, R-Clay Center, elected not to run for reelection.
Three challengers are seeking to take his place in the Republican primary on Tuesday: Glen Hawkins of Riley, retired U.S. Army armor officer, Kathy Martin of Clay Center, former Kansas State Board of Education member, and Susie Swanson of Clay Center, retired social worker and Vern’s wife.
There isn’t a Democratic or independent candidate in the race.
Here are their stances on some of the race’s biggest issues.
The candidates have differing opinions on where state education funding is at and where it should go.
“I would like to see a base aid per pupil at the pre-recession level, and we’re not there yet,” Swanson said. “Although other candidates would say we are.”
Swanson was referring to Martin, who said education funding has reached pre-recession levels.
Swanson said she’s using information from the Kansas Association of School Boards to back up her claims.
The state aid per pupil is $3,852 for the 2014-15 school year, which state school board officials say is below the pre-recession level of $4,400 in 2008-09.
Martin said she would be all for putting more money into education if the state had more money.
“What we need to do is make sure is that school districts have flexibility in using their money,” she said.
Martin said the Kansas Legislature’s voting to allow more options for spending capital outlay money is an example of that additional flexibility.
Unlike Martin and Swanson, Hawkins said the state needs to spend less on education.
“We need to spend it more wisely,” he said. “Too much of our education money goes to bloated administration, frivolous programs and unions.”
Hawkins also advocated for getting rid of the Common Core standards, which he said will cause educators to spend more time testing students than teaching them.
“Each local school board ought to decide for themselves where they want to turn and get the standards for the education within their school district,” he said.
Martin and Hawkins gave support for allowing the students’ families to be allowed to choose schools.
“If the school is not meeting my needs, I can take the student and my funding elsewhere,” Martin said.
Martin said many parents would attend state board meetings with complaints of their needs not being met.
“They felt like they had no recourse after Sept. 20 when the school district had your money,” she said. “Parents need to have more of a pocketbook.”
Hawkins said it would “revolutionize the way education is funded.”
“Education should be taken care of at the local level, and the most local level you can get is mom and dad,” he said.
Prior to the state collecting $1.6 million more in tax revenue than anticipated in July, the state fell $334 million short of revenue estimates in April, May and June.
None of the candidates advocated for overturning the state’s income tax cuts, which opponents are citing as the reason for revenue falling below estimates.
“I’m thinking we need to get them time to work,” Martin said. “We’re certainly way ahead of where we are when he first got in office.”
Swanson said she’s taking a wait-and-see approach to the revenue situation.
“I think we need to see what happens going forward,” she said. “The estimates are strictly that — estimates.”
Swanson said she wants to see all core services funded such as education, mental health and public safety, which would have to be addressed if revenues continue to come short.
“I wouldn’t say I have a preferred way to address it,” she said. “I want all of the available options and I’ll choose what’s the best one for us.”
Hawkins, who supports the tax cuts, said the state should cut spending rather than increase taxes.
“Leave the citizens’ money alone and let them spend it the way they want to instead of the way some bureaucrat in Topeka wants to,” he said.
Beyond the aforementioned topics, the candidates have their own issues that are important to them.
For Swanson, it’s about the Republican Party having a more united front.
“I see a lot of disrespect in our party, and I don’t think that’s productive,” she said.
Swanson said residents want to see the Republican Party work together rather than be separated into factions.
“They want Kansas solutions and not solutions from outside of our state from organizations telling us how to run our state,” she said.
Martin, who described herself as a Christian conservative, said she wants to work to support Gov. Sam Brownback, whose fiscal and social positions she agrees with.
“I like a lot of the things that are going on, but I know there are ways we can still improve,” she said. “I think I have some fresh ideas.”
Hawkins, a self-described “unabashed, unapologetic, unwavering conservative,” said one of his most important issues is eliminating “crony capitalism” and stopping the green energy mandates.
“We’re taking money out of the taxpayers’ pocket to pay to companies like GE, Siemens and very, very rich farmers in western Kansas,” he said.