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Incumbent GOP senator hopes to fend off challenger disappointed in state lawmakers

Greg Smith
Greg Smith

In the 21st Senate district, an incumbent senator is facing a primary challenge from a woman who said she’s fed up with her legislators’ work in Topeka.

Sen. Greg Smith is running against Dinah Sykes in the Republican primary. The winner will face either Logan Heley or Michael Czerniewski in the general election. The district includes parts of Lenexa, Olathe, Overland Park and Shawnee.

Smith said some of the state’s policies are flawed, including the tax cuts the state has made for LLC owners. Last session, Smith supported legislation that would have restored income tax on wage income for LLC owners, according to previous Star reporting.

“A lot of people are upset about that,” he said of the tax cuts.

Smith, who works as a school teacher in Johnson County, joined an overwhelming majority in the legislature that approved school funding legislation during June’s special session. The education funding debate can come down to defining adequacy, Smith said, and should be shown by the results from the money the state is spending. There needs to be more analysis on how money for schools is spent, Smith said.

“No problem, I don’t care what it is, is necessarily better just because you spend more on it,” Smith said. “Not unless it’s focused, you know where it’s going.”

Smith, who’s also worked as a police officer, touted his background in public safety as one of his biggest strengths as a candidate. Public safety spending is low and remains low, he said. That’s something Smith wants to see discussed further in Topeka.

“That’s the number one job of government, to make sure that people are safe,” Smith said. “If you’re not safe, none of the other things that we want government to provide can be provided. If you’re not safe, you can’t go to school. If you’re not safe, you can’t go to work. If the safety isn’t there, it doesn’t matter how good the roads are. Nobody’s going to use them.”

Sykes said she started to become more politically aware after serving as PTA president at a local school. As time went on, she said she became tired of policies coming out of Topeka that “were directly attacking the quality of life” she wanted for her family.

“Instead of just complaining about my quality of life being chipped away, I can actually play a part and hopefully preserve the future for my children so that staying in Kansas is an option for them,” she said.

The budget issues have caused the state to have to choose between funding things like schools and public safety adequately, Sykes said. She’s opposed to Brownback’s tax cuts and said the communication between legislators and constituents emboldened her to run.

“Instead of looking at the tax policy ... we just take money from roads, schools, hospitals, all of those things instead of addressing the problem, which is our tax policy,” she said.

The tax lid also encouraged Sykes to advocate for more local control from state government. The legislature’s intervention can keep cities from achieving their goals, she said.

“The government closest to the people should be making the majority of the decisions,” she said. “Kansas hates when Washington, D.C. tells them what to do, but yet Topeka turns around, constantly, and is telling Lenexa and Overland Park, “OK, this is how you have to do business.”

Greg Smith

Age: 56

Education: Bachelor’s in history from Avila, master’s in education from Avila

Occupation: History teacher in the Shawnee Mission School District

Elected experience: Kansas Senate, 2013 to now, Kansas House District 22, 2011-2012

Website: www.gregsmith4kansas.com

Dinah Sykes

Age: 39

Education: Bachelor’s in business administration from Trevecca Nazarene University

Occupation: Stay-at-home mom, personal chef

Elected experience: none

Website: www.dinahsykes.com

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