The election may not be until November 2020, but the race for the state senate seat occupied by Mary Pilcher-Cook since 2008 has already drawn two candidates.
Lindsey Constance, a Shawnee city councilmember and teacher in the Shawnee Mission School District, filed on Thursday as a Democrat to run for the 10th District seat. Republican Rep. Tom Cox announced earlier this month he will seek the position as well. Pilcher-Cook, a Republican, has not announced whether she plans to seek a new term.
Constance said District 10 needs “a strong leader and a coalition builder committed to improving the overall quality of life for Kansans.”
“I am looking to be a candidate that’s really looking to the future and thinking about the kind of state that we’re creating for our children,” she said. “As an educator, a mom, and a Kansan, I am running to ensure a bright and prosperous future for my kids, my students, and all Kansas children by working to move Kansas forward.”
A science teacher and instructional coach at Belinder Elementary in Prairie Village, Constance made her trip to the Johnson County Election Office Thursday afternoon surrounded by fellow teachers and their families.
“I feel really humbled and excited by the amount of support I had,” she said. “I think they’re really excited to have somebody who’s going to really stand up for kids and our future and public education.”
Constance said she was compelled to run for the seat because she thinks the state legislature needs to focus on a stable budget, education funding at all levels, good-paying jobs, climate-resilient solutions, and access to affordable healthcare. If elected, she hopes to make school funding a priority, ensuring that the state invests in higher education as well as early childhood development.
“We know that a good, strong education system is an economic driver,” she said.
As the co-founder of the Metro KC Climate Action Coalition, a local organization seeking climate-resilient solutions for the metro area, Constance also wants to ensure Kansas leaders continue to pursue climate-resilient solutions statewide, especially in agriculture and energy. She and fellow co-founder of Metro KC Climate Action Coalition, Mike Kelly, mayor of Roeland Park, received the “Making Democracy Work” award from the Johnson County League of Women Voters earlier this month for their work on that effort.
She also expressed concerns that District 10 Sen. Mary Pilcher-Cook hasn’t voted in favor of expanding Medicaid, despite a majority of Kansans approving it.
“We know it’s something that is beneficial for the economy, and we’ve given up $3 billion by not expanding Medicaid over the past nine years,” she said. “The constituents of Senate District 10, they really haven’t had a leader that’s been listening to them. I want to be somebody that’s going to listen and make decisions that benefit families and are not based on blind ideology.”
In response, Pilcher-Cook pointed to the results of the mail-in ballot election on the proposed property tax increase to fund a community center as evidence that the bulk of Shawnee-area voters — who make up much of District 10 — were not interested in policies that would expand government.
“The taxpayers, including 72% of Shawnee voters just this week, are tired of politicians raising their property taxes. They also do not want the cost of their health care to increase, which is what Medicaid expansion would do,” Pilcher-Cook said. “We need to protect the liberty and rights of Kansans, instead of continually forcing them to pay for things they don’t believe in.”
Constance has served in a Ward 4 seat on the Shawnee council since 2017. She is married and has two young children.