Representative candidates have differing views

Staff reporter

On paper, the three Marion County residents, and Republicans, vying for the seat of Kansas Representative of District 70, appeared to be quite similar.

However, after a question and answer forum July 16 at USD 408 Performing Arts Center, Marion, the approximately 150 people in attendance heard differing responses.

Voters will go to the polls Aug. 5 and choose a state representative from the three Republican candidates.

Attorney J. Robert "Bob" Brookens and abstractor Roger Hannaford, both of Marion, and retired microbiologist William "Bill" Spangler, of Burns, expressed their views by answering questions, most of them posed in writing by those audience members in attendance.

The candidates did not know the questions before they were read. Each candidate was given two minutes for opening and closing statements, and two minutes to answer each question. Each candidate answered every question.

Greg Bowers of rural Marion was the moderator and Mel Flaming, chairman of Marion County Republican Party Central Committee, was timekeeper.

The first question that was asked was "Do you support a coal-fired plant, specifically at Holcomb?"

All three were in support of a plant but had differing ideas of the concept.

Hannaford answered first.

"Yes, I do support it. Energy is one of our biggest needs," he said. "Holcomb would be the cleanest coal-fired plant in the world."

He continued that Kansas has a chance to make a difference and become self-sufficient.

Brookens was the next to answer.

"Good technology is being proposed for the plant. New untested, untried technology which deserves to be tried," he said.

However, Brookens said he was not in favor of building two generators and then discovering the technology doesn't work as planned.

Spangler said he, too, was in favor of the plant but wanted to see other alternative forms of energy developed.

"We don't like nuclear but sooner or later we're going to have to research and build more," he said. "Solar power and air power are free."

He continued that Kansas was the third leading state in the nation for having wind available but Kansas is the 11th in developing the resource. Spangler would like to integrate the two power sources.

"Should state taxpayer dollars be used to support the creation and production of alternative energy?"

The candidates had differing points of view.

Brookens: The state's resources would be appropriate for exploring and encouraging new technologies such as wind, solar, and bio-diesel.

Spangler: There is pollution even when nitrous oxide is eliminated. He was in favor of using cellulose instead of cereal grains for an ethynol plant.

Hannaford: Holcomb plant developers were going to invest their own money. He said tax dollars are needed to encourage development and private enterprise will step up to the plate. Tax money can be used on something else.

"What funding options or alternatives do you propose for smaller school districts with declining enrollments?"

Spangler: Current funding needs to go farther. Peabody-Burns school district did this, Spangler said, when he was a member of the school board. The quality and number of courses taught need to be increased and hire better teachers. He continued that children do not receive enough rearing and nurturing at home. It is important to have more money and make it more equitable for smaller schools.

Hannaford: He related to his eight years on the Marion-Florence school board and the tough decisions because of declining enrollment. Most of the state's money ends up in Johnson County and Kansas City, he said. School financing needs to be tweaked to take care of smaller districts. One area communities can improve is economic development with more people, families, and jobs. He also noted that Marion County has had a reduction of more than 300 people.

Brookens: Funding categories for smaller school districts come in two categories. A category like Chase County is a part, which is one of nine in the state, where the entire county is integrated into one school district. When those school districts lose students, they are considered to become more wealthy. No one is interested in forced consolidation. He suggested co-oping superintendents and budget work among the districts.

"What is your position in regard to illegal immigrants, specifically the issuance of Kansas driver's licenses, lower college tuitions, and remaining illegal in the state?"

Hannaford: He was in favor of a program to help illegal immigrants become citizens. He is not in favor of giving them driver's licenses or in-state tuition until they are legal. "We need to work with them or give them a little easier formula to help them become citizens before giving them benefits."

Brookens: "The key word is 'illegal'." He noted there was a difference in coming to the U.S. legally and illegally. Lower tuition is not appropriate. Other issues that have to be addressed include a child who comes to the state illegally and grows up to be an illegal adult. There needs to be a path available to becoming legal. Kansas also doesn't have the responsibility of educating illegal immigrants for free.

Spangler: He is against financial aid for any of the areas previously mentioned. If they can't become useful citizens then they need be off the welfare rolls and free medical care lists. "They're getting more than we are. I'm for sending them back." He doesn't agree with making them citizens because the U.S. and Kansas needs people who are loyal to the country and respect the flag and many of these people are not.

"How can health insurance needs be met for uninsured and under-insured Kansans?"

Spangler: He said he didn't know but the state needs to have better insurance programs that are paid by employers. Also, he didn't think those who provide insurance to residents should be so "free to grant insurance to those who do not deserve it." He continued that welfare reform needed to occur so people are more responsible and work and earn their own insurance. "There's not a whole lot that can be done because of the politics."

Hannaford: Another difficult topic, he said mandates could be lifted from insurance companies or get the state involved, which is not what he would do. "At least 10 percent of uninsured people are between the ages of 18 and early 20s." They either have jobs that don't provide it or are college students. "What we need is a catastrophic insurance plan with a high deductible that is cheap enough for individuals to afford." He wants to more people insured.

Brookens: Meeting health care needs is more than one issue, with people in different age groups needing coverage. HealthWave has been very effective, he said, in assisting those who meet the income guidelines, and keeping it funded is appropriate. "Those who are older need one program and those older yet need another program." He continued that his children are in the 18 to early 20s age groups and have been able to get a policy for $83 per month. He said medical professionals should follow the practice of some attorneys and do some pro-bono (without pay) work.

"Is homosexual practice a lifestyle we should be silent about?"

Hannaford: "It's a lifestyle and situation I don't understand." He knows homosexuals and doesn't understand it. "I think God probably knows but it's a difficult situation. It's coming out in the open a lot more. I wished it wouldn't. I'm not for homosexuality. That's not what God has created for us." Homosexual marriages are totally wrong, he continued, but in this society we are going to have to deal with it. "I don't think it's going to go away."

Brookens: "No matter what we think or say, there are things we have no affect on." He noted the stance Boy Scouts of America has taken on the issue. "It's not what a person feels or does on their own but the advocacy. If it gets in the way of my family or home, then I have to take a stand."

Spangler: When it was his turn to answer, Spangler made a gesture with his hand and fingers. He then responded. "I'm totally against making a public spectacle of homosexuality. It doesn't have its place and never will have its place. If it can be kept at a low level without encouraging it, it should be." He's against legislating rights for homosexuals. "If you encourage them and give them more, they'll become more blatant and they'll be coming out of the woodwork. As a God-fearing nation, we don't need homosexuals. Some of it is environmental and some is genetic. We have to recognize that these people have certain problems and we shouldn't ridicule them for it and put them down but we shouldn't make them feel that it is something normal."

"Would you vote in favor of an issue that the clear majority of your constituents do not support?"

Brookens: America is a democracy, he said, and the purpose of electing a candidate is to seek the common good. "As a matter of conscience, I am held to that. I am compelled to vote for what is right under the circumstances. I am not a purveyor of information but here to represent you."

Spangler: "I can't say that there would be many times I would vote against the consensus of my constituents but there are times that I may have to. In those cases, I would." He continued that he wouldn't be popular for it but if he felt he was right and just for doing so, he would. Most people are well-informed about the issues and a few are not. "You have to talk to them and use your web (site) and communicate with the people to find out what they feel. You have to make the decision yourself. I like to be on the side of the right."

Hannaford: "I stand on high principles and values." He said he would look at the situation and as a representative, would do the wishes of the people. "That's why we're elected. There is always going to be two sides to every issue. Sometimes it's hard to determine the majority. I have to look at my own principles and values, consult others, and come up with the best decision."

Closing statements:

Spangler instructed audience members to his web site for more information. Being retired and working only part-time, he said he has the time to represent the district.

Hannaford said he would make a good representative because he's a good listener. He recalled when his grandfather, Lawrence Slocombe of Peabody was a state representative and he would listen to constituents, taking their ideas back to Topeka. He wants to do the same.

If Brookens is elected, he said he would do his best to make himself available to listen to constituents' concerns, bringing strong analytical skills and skills of persuasion to the table.