July 19, 2014

In primary, Kansas Democrats offer strong candidates for U.S. Senate, 3rd District House

For once, even in very red Kansas, Democrats with impressive resumes have stepped up to challenge incumbents in key offices. Every vote matters on Aug. 5 to propel push thoughtful, pragmatic, compromise-capable candidates forward into the general election.

With advance voting in Kansas already open, primary voters get the first shot at shaping significant match-ups in November to determine who will represent the state in Washington, D.C.

For once, even in very red Kansas, Democrats with impressive resumes have stepped up to challenge incumbents in key offices. Every vote matters on Aug. 5 to propel thoughtful, pragmatic, compromise-capable candidates into the general election.

The state can send a message to the nation this August that the Heartland embraces reason and sound economic policies.

U.S. Senate

Republican primary

Veteran U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts, who already amassed more than $4 million for his re-election race, faces a feisty, troubled tea party opponent, Milton Wolf, a radiologist from Leawood.

The contest for whose true convictions lie furthest to the right is not a happy place for traditionally moderate Kansans, who care about high-quality education, protecting the environment and taking care of the needy.

Wolf’s agenda is heartless and ill-considered. Worse, he was caught carelessly exposing his own patients to ridicule via Facebook posts of private medical images. Rather than run for office, he should be facing a medical ethics inquiry. Such lack of judgment should not be rewarded with elected office.

Roberts has marched consistently rightward in recent years, and we find little to recommend in his voting record and much to criticize. But in this contest, Wolf is scarier than the known veteran.

Also on the ballot are D.J. Smith of Osawatomie, Kan., and Alvin E. Zahnter of Russell, Kan.

Democratic primary

The far-outnumbered Democratic primary voters have a choice between the impressive Shawnee County District Attorney, Chad Taylor, and a Lawrence tax lawyer, Patrick Wiesner.

Taylor has the clear upper hand, with an active campaign staff and fundraising, albeit dwarfed by the GOP race.

Both lawyers represent a break from the GOP stranglehold on the state’s Washington delegation. Taylor’s priorities are growing jobs and the economy, and favoring a return to pay-as-you-go budgeting. At age 40, he has already twice won election to his current post, and promises pragmatic, bipartisan work.

Wiesner, who has no significant fundraising, offers a more unusual Democratic pitch for simplifying the tax code, paying off the nation’s debt in the next 25 years by dedicating 3 percent of the GDP to debt reduction annually, and blocking lobbyists from drafting laws.

Taylor responsibly disagrees, saying the 3 percent set aside for debt reduction could threaten the economic recovery. His planks represent a more realistic approach to governing.

U.S. Congress, 3rd District

Democratic primary

Kelly Kultala, a former state senator, brings a strong resume to challenge the incumbent, Kevin Yoder, who has no primary opponent.

Before serving in the senate, Kultala served as a commissioner on the Unified Government of Wyandotte County/Kansas City, Kan., and on the Piper School Board. Now a public affairs consultant, she presents a moderate profile, promoting education and protection of seniors. She is a champion for women and accessible health care.

She faces Reggie Marselus, a retired union electrician, who pledged to run two years ago when Republican Yoder was exposed for a skinny-dipping caper in Israel before his last race but faced no Democratic opponent. Marselus swore he wouldn’t let him have another “free pass to Washington.” That said, Marselus has been quickly eclipsed by Kultala.

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