Our questions for the candidates on this fall’s ballot

Johnson County election workers with voters at the polls

Johnson County poll workers direct voters to voting machines during early voting for this summer's primary. Photo credit Evan Johnson.

Earlier this summer, we asked you all what you wanted to hear the candidates running to represent Johnson County talk about as they vie for your vote.

Based on your extensive input, we’ve developed candidate questionnaires based on the topics that readers sent in.

“Election integrity was far-and-away the top issue our readers wanted to hear the candidates talking about,” said Publisher Jay Senter. “Inflation and abortion were clearly top-of-mind for many voters as well.”

Our approach to election coverage, which is designed to center average voters interests ahead  of political parties and power brokers, follows the “Citizens Agenda” model.

“As we’ve done for more than a decade now, we’re working to get the candidates on record about the issues Johnson County residents care about most,” Senter said. “Our goal is to help voters find the candidate who best reflects their own views before they cast their ballots.”

We distributed the questionnaires below to the candidates on the primary ballot this morning. We’ll begin publishing their responses on the site Oct. 17 and publish a response to one question per day through Oct. 21.

Johnson County Board of County Commissioners (Chair and Districts 1, 4 & 5 seats)

  • Election integrity. Since the fall of 2021, Sheriff Calvin Hayden has used county resources to conduct an investigation into unsubstantiated allegations of voter fraud. His investigation continues even as the Johnson County Election Office and Secretary of State have offered repeated assurances that the 2020 election was free of significant abnormalities. Hayden, for his part, says he is simply doing his due diligence after residents raised concerns, though his office has produced just one actual complaint report so far. Do you support the Sheriff’s continued investigation of the 2020 election? Are you comfortable with county resources being used for it? Why or why not?
  • Home value and property taxes. Many Johnson County residents have seen the county’s appraised values of their homes going up double digits year after year without corresponding property tax rate reductions to offset them — meaning people’s out-of-pocket tax expenses have risen dramatically in recent years. What role do you think the county government needs to play in addressing rising property taxes here?
  • Pandemic response. The county played a central role in setting and enforcing the public health policies related to the pandemic — including business closures and school mask mandates. Do you believe the county’s approach to managing the pandemic was a success? Why or why not? What should the county do differently if a public health emergency arises in the future?
  • Tax incentives for developers. More and more developers are requesting tax increment financing when they bring proposals before Johnson County cities. Under state statute, the Board of County Commissioners has a 30-day window to veto the creation of TIF districts in the county. Critics say tax incentives amount to giving private businesses a handout. Proponents say development projects that ultimately benefit the community couldn’t move forward without them. What’s your view on the prevalence of the use of tax incentives on development projects here?
  • Climate change. Climate change continues to be a major issue of concern for our readers. What steps should the county government be taking to build climate resiliency and prepare for more extreme weather events in Johnson County?

Kansas House of Representatives

  • Election integrity. The top issue with our readers was the candidates’ stance on election integrity. There has been no evidence of widespread voter fraud and dozens of lawsuits challenging the 2020 election results have been dismissed for lack of evidence. Do you believe former President Donald Trump’s claim that the 2020 election was “stolen” from him? Are you confident in the integrity of our election system in Kansas?
  • Inflation. Inflation is currently at its highest level in four decades, sending prices for everything from food to gas to medicine sharply higher over the past several months. Can the state legislature do anything to address inflation here in Kansas? What policies should it enact?
  • Abortion. In August, Kansas voters rejected the “Value Them Both” amendment that would have eliminated the right to an abortion from the state constitution. Are you comfortable with the current state of abortion access in Kansas? Would you like to see more restrictions on abortion in the state? Would you like to see access to abortion expanded? Please explain your position on abortion.
  • “Open enrollment”. This spring, Gov. Laura Kelly signed a bill that will allow students to attend any public school in the state provided it has space for them starting in June 2024. The “open enrollment” bill has attracted a lot of attention here in Johnson County.  Are you comfortable with the open enrollment policy taking effect in 2024? Why or why not?
  • Medicaid expansion. Kansas is one of 12 states that have not expanded Medicaid access under the Affordable Care Act. Projections suggest expanding Medicaid would help 150,000 Kansans who can’t currently afford coverage get insured. Do you support expanding Medicaid in Kansas? Why or why not?

Kansas State Board of Education

  • Critical race theory. Since 2020, there’s been a lot of focus on the concept of “critical race theory”. What do you make of this debate? How should Kansas school districts address issues of race and history in their curricula?
  • Skills for post graduation. What steps can the state take to prepare Kansas students for the rapidly changing working world they’ll enter after graduation?
  • Pandemic catch up.Test results have shown that students across the country have fallen behind in math and reading skills over the course of the pandemic years. What policies can Kansas pursue to help these students get caught back up?
  • “Open enrollment”. This spring, Gov. Laura Kelly signed a bill that will allow students to attend any public school in the state provided it has space for them starting in June 2024. The “open enrollment” bill has attracted a lot of attention here in Johnson County. Are you comfortable with the open enrollment policy taking effect in 2024? Why or why not?
  • Teacher shortages. Kansas school districts have continued to face teachers shortages. What do you see as the top impediments to bringing more qualified teachers into the classroom, and what can the state do to address them?

Kansas Governor

  • Election integrity. The top issue with our readers was the candidates’ stance on election integrity. There has been no evidence of widespread voter fraud and dozens of lawsuits challenging the 2020 election results have been dismissed for lack of evidence. Do you believe former President Donald Trump’s claim that the 2020 election was “stolen” from him? Are you confident in the integrity of our election system in Kansas?
  • Inflation. Inflation is currently at its highest level in four decades, sending prices for everything from food to gas to medicine sharply higher over the past several months. What can state government do to address inflation here in Kansas? What policies should it enact?
  • Abortion. In August, Kansas voters rejected the “Value Them Both” amendment that would have eliminated the right to an abortion from the state constitution. Are you comfortable with the current state of abortion access in Kansas? Would you like to see more restrictions on abortion in the state? Would you like to see access to abortion expanded? Please explain your position on abortion.
  • Medicare expansion. Kansas is one of 12 states that have not expanded Medicaid access under the Affordable Care Act. Projections suggest expanding Medicaid would help 150,000 Kansans who can’t currently afford coverage get insured. Do you support expanding Medicaid in Kansas? Why or why not?
  • Urban vs. rural issues. Johnson County is the most populous and most prosperous county in Kansas with a culture distinct from much of the rest of the state. Many Johnson Countians feel that state policy on issues from school funding to gun control is at odds with the desires of our communities. As governor, how will you balance the needs of more urban areas like Johnson County with those of rural communities in the western part of the state?

Kansas 3rd Congressional District

  • Election integrity. The top issue with our readers was the candidates’ stance on election integrity. There has been no evidence of widespread voter fraud and dozens of lawsuits challenging the 2020 election results have been dismissed for lack of evidence. Do you believe former President Donald Trump’s claim that the 2020 election was “stolen” from him? Are you confident in the integrity of our election system in Kansas?
  • Inflation. Inflation is currently at its highest level in four decades, sending prices for everything from food to gas to medicine sharply higher over the past several months. What steps should the federal government be taking to bring inflation back down?
  • Abortion. With the Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade earlier this year, abortion rights have come to the fore. What is your position on abortion access? What national policies on abortion would you like to see Congress pursue? Please explain your position.
  • Immigration. What’s your view on the state of immigration in the United States? What federal immigration policies do you support?
  • Climate change. Climate change continues to be a major issue of concern for our readers. What steps should the federal government be taking to build climate resiliency and prepare for more extreme weather events?