Voters who are alarmed about the direction in which Kansas is headed should look closely at the candidates running for legislative seats in the House.
Too many lawmakers still support a ruinous policy of deep income tax cuts and funding reductions to schools, universities and essential state services. Many have backed legislation on a range of topics that has been ill-conceived and even embarrassing for Kansas.
In making recommendations in selected contested races, The Star is supporting candidates who are most inclined to reverse some of the harmful policies of the recent past and invest in the state’s schools and citizens.
District 8: Democrat Jodie Dietz is a former probation officer turned active school parent. Those strong credentials make her the choice over incumbent Republican Craig McPherson, a tax cut supporter, in this southern Johnson County district.
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District 14: Democrat Merlin Ring, a retired aerospace engineer, presents a brainy and pragmatic choice for this Olathe-based district. Keith Esau, the Republican incumbent, favors even more income tax cuts and has an overly rosy notion of the state’s economic picture. Libertarian Brent Stackhouse is also on the ballot.
District 16: Democrat Don McGuire, a pharmaceutical representative, says his top priority is to restore funding to public schools. That’s a welcome change from incumbent Republican Amanda Grosserode, who favors more tax cuts at the expense of boosting education.
District 17: Former Lake Quivira mayor Larry Meeker, a Democrat, offers a common-sense vision for this Shawnee-based district. Brett Hildabrand, the GOP incumbent, has pushed some awful legislation, including a bill opening the door for Kansas to divorce itself from federal health care programs. Libertarian Michael Kerner is also in the race.
District 18: Former legislator and current Shawnee Mission school board member Cindy Neighbor, a Democrat, brings strong experience and the right priorities to this Shawnee area race. Incumbent Republican John Rubin did excellent work on bills helping children with autism and getting the state to finally open crucial enforcement records. But Rubin supports the most extreme type of tax policy. In the long run, Neighbor’s more moderate views are best.
District 19: Few lawmakers work as hard for their district as Republican Stephanie Clayton of Overland Park. She is the choice over Democrat Patricia Stratton.
District 20: Democrat Elizabeth Arnold, an active school parent and small business owner, understands that states need to invest in strong schools and infrastructure. That makes her a better fit for this Overland Park and Leawood district than incumbent Republican Rob Bruchman, who too often votes with conservatives on failed policies.
District 21: Republican incumbent Barbara Bollier has been a fearless voice for education, Medicaid expansion and protections for developmentally disabled citizens. She is the choice over Democrat Amy Bell in the northern Johnson County district.
District 22: Incumbent Democrat Nancy Lusk is a hardworking legislator and strong champion for her community and its schools. She deserves re-election over Republican Mike Jones in this Overland Park district.
District 23: With her support for strong schools and communities, Linda Gallagher, a former trade association director, looks to be a welcome addition to the Legislature’s moderate Republican contingent. She is recommended over Democrat Amber Versola for the open seat in western Johnson County.
District 24: Democrat Jarrod Ousley of Merriam, a small business owner, has worked hard as a citizen to strengthen public education. He should be elected to this open seat over Republican Brandon Hermreck.
District 25: Republican incumbent Melissa Rooker of Fairway is top notch at deciphering complex issues and using her knowledge for the good of her district and state. She deserves re-election over Democrat Jennifer Robinson.
District 26: Larry Campbell, a former Olathe mayor, has been a principled voice in the Republican caucus. Though we sometimes disagree with his votes, we recommend him over Democrat Cheron Tiffany.
District 29: Democrat Heather Meyer of Overland Park, a social service worker, is strong on education funding and making health care accessible — areas in which GOP incumbent James Eric Todd has proved weak.
District 33: Democrat Tom Burroughs of Kansas City, Kan., is a respected legislator who helps his community. He deserves re-election over Republican Sue Adams.
District 36: Incumbent Kathy Wolfe Moore, a Democrat, works effectively on behalf of Kansans with mental illness and to advance Wyandotte County’s interests in Topeka. She is the clear choice over Republican Earl Freeman and Libertarian Jeff Caldwell.
District 38: Democrat Jan Pringle, executive director of the Kansas City Regional Association of Realtors, would be a pragmatic and refreshing choice for this western Johnson County district over incumbent Republican Willie Dove, a lockstep conservative who frequently has his facts wrong. Libertarian F. Caleb Christopher is also running.
District 39: Democrat Vicki Hiatt, a retired teacher, gives voters in this Shawnee-based district an informed, capable alternative to Republican Charles Macheers. He embarrassed his constituents and state last session by sponsoring an odious bill attempting to make it legal for businesses to discriminate against same-sex couples.
District 43: Gardner voters looking for a fresh face should like Democrat Caitlin Trujillo, a political newcomer with good ideas and perspective. Republican incumbent Bill Sutton promotes the myth that Kansas is adequately funding its public schools.
Tomorrow: The Star’s recommendations in the Kansas 2nd and 3rd District congressional races.