2020 candidate forum: Kansas House District 16

The Post hosted a candidate forum for Kansas House District 16 on Tuesday, Oct. 6. Only Democratic candidate Linda Featherston attended. Photo credit Leah Wankum.

The state’s response to the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic, the use of public funds for private school education and the future of abortion rights in Kansas, were a few of the topics raised during the Shawnee Mission Post’s forum on Oct. 6, for the candidates seeking office in Kansas’ 16th House District.

The seat is being vacated by Democratic Rep. Cindy Holscher, who is running for Kansas Senate. Democrat Linda Featherston and Republican Rashard Young are vying for the seat, which covers parts of Lenexa and Overland Park. Featherston was the only one to participate. After reaching out to Young multiple times, his campaign told the Post less than a week before the scheduled date that he would not be attending and had never agreed to participate.

At least 9 Republican candidates for races in northern Johnson County have chosen not to participate in the Post’s forums this year. Here, we explain why we host election year forums and what it means for our readers when candidates don’t participate.

Below is the list of questions posed by the Post staff and readers for the 16th House District forum, 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? [5:33]
    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? [6:40]
    4. A question from reader Seth Graber: “Given the large number of households that are homeschooling their kids this year, and potentially in future years too, is it fair to continue to send all property taxes from these homeschoolers to fund local public schools? Would it make sense to send a rebate back to these households who are teaching their kids at home during the pandemic?” [7:55]
    5. You’ve already mentioned several times that you support expanding Medicaid, so I won’t ask you that, but I will ask: how would you respond to critics who say doing so will cost too much? [9:30]

      Linda Featherston
    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? [10:55]
    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? [12:22]
    8. And to press again, any limits on abortion that you support? [13:44]
    9. Another reader question: Name 2 measures you will initiate or support to reduce the state’s greenhouse gas emissions. [14:10]
    10. 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? [15:55]
    11. And a follow-up to that: Do you believe Kansas open records and meetings laws guarantee sufficient transparency of law enforcement in the state? [17:25]
    12. All major cities in Johnson County — including Lenexa, where we’re at tonight — now have explicit legal anti-discrimination protections on the books for LGBTQ residents, when it comes to employment, housing and public accommodation. But there is no such protection at the state level in Kansas. Some opponents of these ordinances say they could infringe on “religious freedoms.”  Where do you stand on having statewide anti-discrimination protections for LGBTQ Kansans? [17:50]
    13. 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. [18:35]