2020 candidate forum: Kansas Senate District 11

Post editor Kyle Palmer discusses issues pertinent to Kansas Senate District 11 with Democrat candidate Joy Koesten. Photo credit Lauren Koske.

Medicaid expansion, abortion and COVID-19 were among the topics discussed during the Shawnee Mission Post’s forum for the candidates competing for the Kansas Senate District 11 seat, which covers parts of Leawood and Overland Park. The forum was held Oct. 8 at the Capitol Federal Conference Center on the campus of Johnson County Community College.

Former Democratic state representative Joy Koesten was the only candidate to attend. Republican Kellie Warren, who is currently a state rep in the 28th House District, informed the Post she would not participate in this forum. Warren was among nine Republican candidates for northern Johnson County races that chose not to participate in the Post’s forums this year. Here, we explain why we host the candidate forums and what it means for readers when candidates don’t participate.

Below is a list of questions posed by Post staff and readers for the 11th Senate District, as well as timestamps. A video of the forum is embedded below, and can also be found on the Post’s Facebook page.

  1. We’ve been starting all of our forums with this question. Given that national issues monopolize much of the public attention and conversation, can you list some of the state issues you see as a priority going into the 2021 legislative session? [3:41]
  2. You mentioned the COVID-19 pandemic in your list of priorities, a few questions related to the pandemic. We’ll start with this one. Of course the pandemic is now in its seventh month and in Johnson County, new cases continue to rise and the percent-positive rate also suggests that community spread is still occurring in the area. Much of the debate over the state’s response has been focused on the steps the Kelly administration took to try to combat the spread of the disease. How would you assess the state’s response to the pandemic so far and how can the legislature be involved in 2021? [5:45]
  3. The economic impacts of the pandemic have also been severe. The Kansas Department of Labor says more than 103,000 Kansans remain without a job and giving the state an unemployment rate of slightly less than 7%. What policies would you support as a state senator if elected to help businesses recover from the pandemic and get Kansans back to work? [8:27]
  4. You mentioned schools, the pandemic has been challenging local public schools. Public school districts in Johnson County are currently in the middle of various stages of gradually trying to bring their students back for in-person learning. Many families have decided to forgo that and instead have their children learn remotely from home for this semester, and there’s also growing anecdotal evidence at least to suggest more families have chosen to pull their students out of public school entirely and either home school them or send them to private schools. Is the pandemic in any way affected how you view the legislature’s role in public school funding and public school policy?[10:26]
  5. Democrat Joy Koesten. Photo credit Lauren Koske.

    What steps do you take in your own personal life and campaign to prevent the spread of COVID-19? [13:08]

  6. The next state legislature in Topeka will be charged with drawing congressional and state legislative district boundaries following the 2020 census. Gov. Laura Kelly has already said she would veto any redistricting plans that she thinks gerrymanders districts, and it should be said the state supreme court would have to sign off on any redistricting plan sent in by the legislature. What is your opinion about how Kansas lawmakers should prepare for and approach the challenge of redistricting in 2021? [14:51]
  7. This is another key question driving many races both locally and federally this year and it’s been a hot topic in Topeka for years now, that is Medicaid expansion. Where do you stand on Medicaid expansion? Do you support it, why or why not?[16:44]
  8. This is another question from a reader, Richard Pine, and he writes “how would you have the state raise revenue if more is needed next year following the economic devastation of the pandemic?” [18:51]
  9. A measure to put a proposed constitutional amendment related to abortion failed to pass the Kansas House last session, but it was approved by the Senate. This measure proposed putting before voters an amendment to explicitly write out of the Kansas Constitution a right to abortion which had been 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? [20:04]
  10. This question is one we’ve been ending many of our forums on. Given that American politics is extremely polarized right now, what experiences or relationships can you point to that show you are able to work with people who do not always agree with you? And if you could, please give specific examples.[23:10]