Manhattan resident Alex Van Dyke said his desire to make Kansas a better place led him to run for the Kansas House District 67 seat.
“I would be a young fresh voice compared to the incumbent,” Van Dyke, 28, said. “We need new voices.”
Van Dyke, a Democrat, filed to run against Rep. Tom Phillips, R-Manhattan. Phillips, Kansas House assistant majority leader, has been in office since 2012, when Republican representatives chose him to replace his predecessor Susan Mosier.
Van Dyke, a software engineer and first-time candidate, said the “absolute tipping point” in his decision to run is Phillips voting in favor of the bill that will allow faith-based adoption agencies to reject gay and lesbian couples for religious reasons. That bill becomes law on July 1.
“I have a strong sense of justice and equality,” he said. “I’m passionate about making Kansas a state for everyone and not just a few.”
Van Dyke represents the first challenger for Phillips in a while.
Phillips has run unopposed since beating Aaron Estabrook in the 2012 general election, having no opponents in the 2014 and 2016 elections.
Van Dyke earned two bachelor’s degrees in 2013 and a master’s degree in 2015, all from Kansas State University. He has a wife and a baby daughter.
He is the director of engineering for Primary Mobile Med International, a Topeka-based company that focuses on providing mobile medical clinics in developing countries.
Van Dyke said the state needs to start fixing its reputation to bring in businesses, jobs and workers.
“We have a big outflow of graduates right now,” he said. “That’s partly because of the current image of Kansas, especially with things like the adoption bill.”
Van Dyke said areas Kansas need to focus on improving includes quality of life initiatives and lowering the state’s food sales tax, which is among the highest in the nation at 6.5 percent. Efforts to lower the food tax during this legislative session failed.
“That affects everyone, especially the most marginalized in our community when you have a high food sales tax,” he said.
Van Dyke is also an advocate for gun safety. He organized Manhattan’s March for Our Lives sister march, works with Everytown for Gun Safety, and served as the spokesperson and media lead for the Manhattan-area Moms Demand Action group.
He said some changes he would like to see the state implement are universal background checks, a mandatory waiting period before the purchase of a gun, and limiting magazine capacity.
“I refuse to allow Kansas to become a place where my daughter will have to wear a bulletproof backpack to school,” he said.
Neither Van Dyke or Phillips have primary challengers. The filing deadline for candidates in noon June 1.