2020 candidate forum: Kansas House District 23

Post editor Kyle Palmer talked with Democratic Incumbent Susan Ruiz and challenger Matthew Clark, a Libertarian, about issues facing Johnson Countians during the Kansas House District 23 Candidate Forum.

COVID-19, Second Amendment rights, and spending priorities were among the topics of discussion during the Post’s Oct. 6 forum for candidates seeking office in Kansas’ 23rd House District, which covers parts of Lenexa, Overland Park and Shawnee.

Below is the list of questions posed by the Post staff and readers to candidates Democratic Representative Susan Ruiz and her challengers Republican Jeff Shull and Libertarian Matthew Clark.

Shull was not present at this forum, as he was one of the Republican candidates for races in northern Johnson County who chose 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.

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 our forums off with a version of this question: with politics at the national level monopolizing much of voters’ attention, what do you think are Kansas’ biggest state-level priorities that need to be addressed? [5:00]
  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. How would you assess the state’s response to the pandemic so far? Has the state not done enough or too much? [7:30]
  3. Over the past two weeks the U.S. Department of Labor says more than 32,000 initial jobless claims have been 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? [10:40]

    Incumbent Democrat Rep. Susan Ruiz.
  4. A question from reader Paul Thomas: Because of lagging salaries and the dangers of COVID-19, our teachers are struggling immensely. What sort of legislation, if any, would you support to aid teachers during these tough times? [13:30]
  5. What are your budget priorities and what policy would you support to emphasize your spending priorities? [16:05]
  6. Would you vote for a bill to expand Medicaid? If not, how do you justify that choice in regard to loss of Federal funds, the loss of hospitals, especially in rural areas, and increasing numbers of Kansans without health insurance? If yes, how do you respond to critics who say it will cost too much? [18:30]

    Libertarian challenger Matthew Clark.
  7. Another reader question, slightly modified: “Please discuss your positions on current gun laws in Kansas. In your opinion, what is the balance between safety and 2nd Amendment rights?” [22:10]
  8. 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. The measure sought to explicitly write out of the Kansas Constitution a right to abortion enshrined by a 2019 Kansas Supreme Court ruling. If you are 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? [25:00]
  9. Another reader question from Kay Heley in Overland Park: “Name 2 measures you will initiate or support to reduce the state’s greenhouse gas emissions.” [29:30]
  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? Do you believe Kansas open records and meetings laws guarantee sufficient transparency of law enforcement in the state? [31:10]
  11. All major cities in Johnson County — including Shawnee — 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? [35:30] 
  12. 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. [39:30]