2020 candidate forum: Kansas Senate District 6

Health care, Kansas’ transportation needs and redistricting, along with the state’s continuing response to the COVID-19 pandemic, were some of the main highlights from the Post’s forum for candidates vying for Kansas Senate District 6. The forum was held at Prairie Village City Hall on Wednesday, Oct. 7.

The event featured two-term incumbent Democratic Sen. Pat Pettey and her Republican challenger, Diana Whittington. The 6th Senate District mostly covers an area in Wyandotte County, but parts of Lake Quivira and Merriam also fall inside its boundaries.

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

  1. Given that national issues currently monopolize the public agenda, can you list the state-level issues that you see as priorities? [5:15]
  2. The COVID-19 pandemic is now entering its seventh month. And much of the debate over the state’s response to the pandemic has been the steps Governor Kelly’s administration has taken to try to combat the spread of the disease. A reader wants to know: how will you work to develop an intelligent, workable bill to lay out the Governor’s authority during emergency conditions like the current pandemic? [6:45]

    Sen. Pat Pettey
  3. Another aspect of the pandemic is the economic impacts as well. In the week ending Sept. 19, the U.S. Department of Labor said that 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 still remained without a job. The state’s unemployment rate currently at 6.9%. If elected, what policies will you support as a state senator to help businesses recover from the pandemic and get Kansans back to work? [11:10]
  4. This is a key question driving many races … both local and federal … this year, in Kansas because it’s been a major topic of debate in Topeka for years: do you support Medicaid expansion, why or why not? [13:11]
  5. Both of you mentioned transportation as a priority in your opening statements. So, what do you think are the biggest transportation needs in the 6th District and how would you go about advocating for those? [16:30]
  6. A reader question: the next state legislature will be charged with drawing congressional and state legislative district boundaries following the 2020 Census. Governor Laura Kelly has already said she will veto any redistricting plan that she thinks gerrymanders districts. What is your opinion about how Kansas should prepare for and approach the challenge of redistricting in 2021? [19:15]
  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. The 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, it’s possible — some might even say probable — that you’ll be faced with a vote in a similar measure next year or in the coming year. Do you think Kansans should be afforded a Constitutional right to abortion, and what, if any, limits on abortion do you support? [21:31]
  8. Another reader question from Leslie Mark: Even before the pandemic forced the Legislature to leave mid-session, the process for crafting legislation was broken. Committee Chairs and Senate and House leadership often have simply refused to move bills forward in committee or bring them up for a vote. This has impacted Medicaid expansion most dramatically. Have you thought about how you could help bring about change in the legislature to reverse this trend? [24:30]

    Diana Whittington
  9. Another reader question, this one from Jim Breneman: do you support raising income taxes to boost state revenue? [27:32]
  10. All major cities in Johnson County and the Unified Government of Wyandotte County now have explicit legal anti-discrimination protections on their books for LGBTQ residents when it comes to employment, housing and public accommodation. There is no such protection at the state level, and 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? [29:14]
  11. Given that American politics is extremely polarized right now, both at the local and at the national level, what experiences or relationships can you point to that demonstrate that you have the ability to reach out and work with those who might not always agree with you? Please give specific examples. [31:31]