2020 candidate forum: Kansas House District 39

Post editor Kyle Palmer speaks with Democrat Les Lampe, who is challenging Republican Rep. Owen Donohoe in the state's 39th House District. Photo credit Leah Wankum.

The state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Medicaid expansion and anti-discrimination protections for LGBTQ Kansans were a few of the topics raised during the Shawnee Mission Post’s forum on Oct. 1, for the candidates seeking office in Kansas’ 39th House District.

The seat is currently held by Republican Rep. Owen Donohoe, who informed the Post the morning of the forum that he would not be participating. Democrat Les Lampe, a retired engineer and former executive at Black and Veatch, did attend and answered questions from the Post and our readers.

Below is the list of questions posed by the Post staff and readers, including timestamps. The video of the forum can be viewed on the Post’s Facebook page and is also embedded below.

  1. We have been starting all of our forums off with a version of this question: With politics at the national level monopolizing much of voters’ attention in 2020, what do you think are Kansas’s biggest state-level priorities that need to be addressed? [4:35]
  2. The COVID-19 pandemic is now entering its seventh month. In Johnson County, new cases continue to rise and the percent-positive rate also suggests that community spread is still occurring, though also acknowledging that not enough testing is being done. How would you assess the state’s response to the pandemic so far? Has the state not done enough or too much or somewhere in between? [6:39]
  3. In the week ending September 19, the U.S. Department of Labor said more than 17,900 initial jobless claims were filed in the state of Kansas. And according to the Kansas Department of Labor, more than 103,000 Kansans of working age remain without a job. What policies will you support as a statehouse representative to help businesses recover from the pandemic and get Kansans back to work? [8:31]
  4. Would you vote for a bill to expand Medicaid? It’s likely that this issue will come up again in the next legislative session. If not, how do you justify that choice in regard to loss of federal funds, the loss of hospitals … especially in rural areas … and an increasing number of Kansans without health insurance? If yes, how do you respond to critics who say it will cost too much? [10:38]

    Les Lampe
  5. This is a two-part question based on a pair of reader questions. First, do you have kids and, if you do, do they or did they attend public school? And how did you make that decision as a family. Secondly, what is your position on using public money that goes towards private school students, such as school vouchers or tax credits for scholarships that go towards private school tuition? [12:01]
  6. (From a reader) Please discuss your positions on current gun laws in Kansas. In your opinion, what is the balance between safety and Second Amendment rights? [14:18]
  7. A measure to put a proposed constitutional amendment related to abortion failed to pass the Kansas House last session after being approved by the Senate. This measure sought to explicitly write out of the Kansas Constitution a right to abortion that was enshrined by a 2019 Kansas Supreme Court ruling. If you are elected (or re-elected), it’s possible that you’ll be faced with a vote on a similar measure. Do you think Kansans should be afforded a constitutional right to abortion? And what, if any limits, on abortion do you support? [15:55]
  8. Another reader question: Name 2 measures you will initiate or support to reduce the state’s greenhouse gas emissions. [18:10]
  9. Is action needed in the Legislature to ensure that all Kansans are treated fairly at the hands of police and government institutions amid the ongoing movement for social justice and police accountability? What can the legislature do in this regard? [20:10]
  10. In polarized times, please describe what experience or relationships you can point to that show you have an ability to reach out and work with those who might not always agree with you. Please give specific examples. [22:12]