Any election for governor is important. But it almost goes without saying that next year’s Kansas gubernatorial election carries more import than any vote in the state in generations.
The Sam Brownback years transformed Kansas from a state with a proud moderate heritage that championed public education to one with a national reputation for underfunded schools, prisons, highways and social services. Years will pass, maybe decades, before Kansas regains its bearings.
But how do Democrats propose to repair the damage? What’s their plan for how the state digs out? We’ll get a good look at a candidate forum at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Johnson County Central Resource Library. The event, sponsored by The Star Editorial Board, will feature all five leading Democratic gubernatorial candidates: Carl Brewer, Josh Svaty, Jim Ward, Arden Andersen and Robert Klingenberg.
The forum — you can register for a seat at www.kansascity.com/ksgovernor — offers one of the first opportunities for Kansas voters to size up the field for this significant election. Yes, the August primary is eight months off. But the election is so critical that we believe it should be on the radar screens of voters now. The public discussion about the race, and these candidates, needs to begin. The 2018 election is just that important.
This forum provides precisely that opportunity.
If you can’t attend to size up the contenders in person, you can watch the presentation live, or later, on The Star’s Facebook page. And in case you’re wondering about a Republican forum, read our editorial today detailing The Star’s efforts to hold a forum for the GOP candidates. Bottom line: We tried.
There’s so much we want to know from this field of Democrats. We begin, of course, with our schools. We’ll want to understand the candidates’ views on how lawmakers should address the latest state Supreme Court order declaring that lawmakers had failed to adequately fund public education. The court didn’t specify a dollar figure, so how much do the candidates think should be spent? And where should that money come from?
More broadly, what kind of public school system should Kansas be offering to ensure an educated workforce for the jobs of tomorrow? Meantime, state universities have suffered financial blow after financial blow during the Brownback years — cuts that have resulted in tuition spikes and a drain on professorial talent.
We’ll want to hear candidates responses to The Star’s shocking series on “secretive Kansas” that uncovered an appalling lack of transparency on any number of fronts. What about the recent remarks of Republican gubernatorial candidate Kris Kobach, who outlined a “culture of corruption” in the state Capitol? Is he right?
Guard shortages at prisons. The state of Kansas’ privatized Medicaid system known as Kancare. Term limits. And, by the way, how should the state go about restoring funding to its beleaguered highway program?
We will have a lot to discuss. The conversation begins Thursday night.