instagram arrow-down
The Kansas Leadership Center Journal

Menu

Categories

Recent Posts

Archives

Candidates for Johnson County House seat differ on key priorities, health care

The two candidates running in a rematch to represent Kansas House District 14, which includes portions of Lenexa, Olathe and Shawnee, differ on a number of key issues, from their top priorities to their approaches on education and health care.

The incumbent, Charlotte Esau, says she would focus her second-term on “fixing the disparity between federal and state codes,” which result in higher tax bills for many Kansas who don’t itemize. Another key issue for her is addressing rising property taxes, which go up as people’s homes rise in value and which Esay says is forcing “many on fixed incomes to move out of their homes when they need to but can’t afford to stay.”

Angela Justus Schweller, the Democrat, lost to Esau by just 175 votes out of 12,255 cast two years ago. She prioritizes protecting public school funding, increasing health care coverage and reducing costs, and improving trust and transparency in state government.

The two differ of Medicaid expansion. Esau opposes it, saying she would rather “reduce waiting lists for those who currently qualify for services.” Schweller supports Medicaid expansion, saying it would bring a variety of benefits by returning tax dollars to the state, increase health care access for 150,000 Kansans, create 13,000 jobs, decrease the state’s infant mortality rate and help rural hospitals stay open.

The funding of public education is another area where the two contrast. After a nearly decade-long court battle, lawmakers passed legislation last year that was declared constitutionally adequate by the Kansas Supreme Court. But revenue shortfalls related to the COVID-19 pandemic could put the plan on shaky ground.

Esau says that if there’s a shortfall in state revenue, her priority would be to protect “the most vulnerable Kansans” within the budget “where possible and as needed do cuts that are spread out across all spending areas.” Esau also believes lawmakers should give some consideration to having “some of the  money for students follow them to where their parents can get the education their child needs, not dependent on where they live in the state.”

Schweller would prioritize protecting public education and core state services and wants to avoid another round of school litigation, but didn’t address what areas of the budget might be cut.

“After finally getting out of the years-long litigation due to the inadequate funding of public education, we do not want to go backward,” Schweller wrote in response to questions from The Journal. “It is important we make smart investments in our core state services such as infrastructure, while also looking at reducing taxes that would help everyday Kansans such as the grocery sales tax.”

Esau’s husband, Keith, previously represented the district for three terms. It’s been held by conservative Republicans since the last round of redistricting and support President Donald Trump in 2016 but backed Democrat Laura Kelly for governor in 2018.

Here’s a look at how the candidates see key issues in this year’s elections based on answers they provided to questions from The Journal:

Kansas House District 14

Charlotte Esau (Republican) and Angela Justus Schweller (Democrat)

Charlotte Esau

Charlotte Esau Kansas House

Please briefly introduce yourself.

I have been a resident of the district for over 3 decades, moved here for economic opportunities and stayed because we love the community. I am a small business owner, a retired La Leche League Leader, a mom of 5, grandma of 4, happily married for almost 40 years to my husband Keith.

If elected this fall, what would be your top priority while in office?

My top priorities currently are fixing the disparity between the federal and state tax codes that is causing many who don’t itemize now on the federal level to pay high tax bills to Kansas and solving or at least improving the property tax situation that causes ever increasing property tax bills as valuations go up, forcing many on fixed incomes to move out of their homes when they don’t need to but can’t afford to stay. 

These are tough times. Kansans will likely need elected officials willing to lead on a number of difficult challenges. As an office holder, how will you work in service of helping us navigate this period of distress and strengthen our communities, state and nation for the long term?Please share your thoughts in a few sentences.

We need to ensure that businesses are allowed to be open with whatever safeguards they deem necessary to serve their customers, vs being labeled essential or not by some secret executive branch committee, that citizens are provided with all the facts they need to make informed decisions for their personal and family situations, and that local governments have the information they need to do the same.

What’s the biggest problem in health care right now?

Doctors don’t have control over their own practice of medicine.

How do you feel about the current level of government involvement in health care?

It’s too involved

What should the future of health care be in your view? Would you prioritize making it more affordable, more accessible, or something else? To what extent should the government be involved, and should it be doing the same, less or more than it is now?Please explain your views in a few sentences.

Well-meaning folks have created too much government involvement in the delivery of health care, putting up barriers between providers and their patients. In an effort to save money, we’ve created middleman entities that are now costing patients more money and less options. Solving this is not an easy fix and can’t be answered in a few short sentences. 

How should the Legislature resolve the ongoing debate about Medicaid expansion?

It should not pass Medicaid expansion and it should reduce waiting lists for those who currently qualify for services.

In a few sentences, please explain your thinking on how the Legislature should resolve the Medicaid Expansion debate and your views on the issue.

Medicaid expansion should not be passed by hijacking other good health care related bills or used to stop the passage of other good health care related bills. 

What should government’s role be in facilitating economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic? Are there specific things you would like to see done or not done?

Get out of the role of deciding who is essential or not, perhaps assist with grants or tax credits or low interest loans to help those most impacted by the shutdowns and changes in customer habits.

What would you prioritize when dealing with shortfalls in revenues that fund state services? What would you do about taxes? How would you deal with the state budget’s funding for K-12 education?

The most vulnerable Kansans need to be protected within the budget, where possible and as needed do cuts that are spread out across all spending areas, consider having some of the money for students follow them to where their parents can get the education their child needs, not dependent on where they live in the state.

The pandemic further exposed a lack of broadband access in parts of the state and other divides in access to Internet service. What do you think should be done?

Government is responsible for certain essential infrastructure and broadband access in rural communities is part of that, it’s the modern day version of our roads and highways. This is being addressed in our current highway program and needs to continue and perhaps expanded as funding is available.

How would you evaluate the response to the COVID-19 pandemic in Kansas thus far?

Mixed – we claimed we were shutting everything down but then let some “essential” businesses stay open. We did not have all the facts we needed to make the best choices in how to respond.

Should the COVID-19 pandemic continue into 2021, what would your top priority be?

Keep the economy going while taking reasonable steps to contain the virus.

What key lessons would like to see Kansans take away from the pandemic and the response to it? Do you see the need for changes as a result of what’s happened?

Look for the good things that this sudden change to our lives has caused such as families spending time together without the distraction of constant organized activities, while working and learning from home. As for what should change, as a legislative body we need to evaluate and update our emergency powers section of statute, so it more clearly addresses situations such as this.

How should legislators respond to the events of this summer (such as the prison outbreaks of COVID-19, the Black Lives Matter protests and concerns about preserving law and order) in shaping the state’s criminal justice system for the future? 

As we are working on criminal justice reform, obviously these concerns need to be a part of that conversation. I know the committee that is currently working on this is discussing it and am interested in hearing what they conclude after their work is done. 

Angela Justus Schweller

Angela Justus Schweller Kansas House

Please briefly introduce yourself.

Angela is a Johnson County native, who attended schools in the SMSD and earned her bachelor’s degree at the University of Kansas. Angela and her husband, J.T., chose to raise their family here in Johnson County, just like her parents did, because of the strong public schools and tight-knit community. As a Realtor, Angela has experience working collaboratively to find solutions that work for everyone. In 2018, Angela ran for the KS House and came within 175 votes of winning.

If elected this fall, what would be your top priority while in office?

My priorities are to protect public school funding, to increase healthcare coverage and reduce costs, and to improve the trust and transparency of state government.

These are tough times. Kansans will likely need elected officials willing to lead on a number of difficult challenges. As an office holder, how will you work in service of helping us navigate this period of distress and strengthen our communities, state and nation for the long term?Please share your thoughts in a few sentences.

I think it is important as a Representative to listen to differing viewpoints and incorporate the best evidence available before coming to a decision. As a Realtor, I have gained experience in negotiating win-win solutions to difficult problems for my clients. I will bring that experience to the legislature in working with a variety of personalities and political views. I will also communicate clearly and transparently with constituents so that they can both have a better understanding of the challenges we face and can be a part of the solution. 

What’s the biggest problem in health care right now?

It’s so complicated that it’s hard to pick one answer.

How do you feel about the current level of government involvement in health care?

It’s not involved enough

What should the future of health care be in your view? Would you prioritize making it more affordable, more accessible, or something else? To what extent should the government be involved, and should it be doing the same, less or more than it is now?Please explain your views in a few sentences.

I don’t see a difference between affordability and access. If someone can’t afford medical treatment, they lose access. Because healthcare is both an economic and humanitarian issue that affects all of us, we must do everything we can to fix our healthcare crisis. For a majority of people in my district and across Kansas, one medical emergency could result in long-term financial hardship, and that’s not OK.

How should the Legislature resolve the ongoing debate about Medicaid expansion?

It should pass Medicaid expansion.

In a few sentences, please explain your thinking on how the Legislature should resolve the Medicaid Expansion debate and your views on the issue.

I support Medicaid expansion. Not only would it bring our tax dollars back to be invested in our state, but it would also help 150,000 hard-working Kansans gain access to healthcare, create over 13,000 jobs, decrease the infant mortality rate by more than 50%, and help rural hospitals stay open.

What should government’s role be in facilitating economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic? Are there specific things you would like to see done or not done?

As a state, we should be collaborating with the federal level for economic stimulus towards things like our small businesses. Additionally, expanding Medicaid needs to be a top priority because it will create approximately 13,000 jobs and keep Kansans healthy and able to work. 

What would you prioritize when dealing with shortfalls in revenues that fund state services? What would you do about taxes? How would you deal with the state budget’s funding for K-12 education?

I will prioritize protecting public education and core state services. After finally getting out of the years-long litigation due to the inadequate funding of public education, we do not want to go backward. It is important we make smart investments in our core state services such as infrastructure, while also looking at reducing taxes that would help everyday Kansans such as the grocery sales tax.

The pandemic further exposed a lack of broadband access in parts of the state and other divides in access to Internet service. What do you think should be done?

Governor Kelly is working to map out areas of the state that do not have adequate coverage as a first step to addressing this problem. I support her efforts to solve this problem in a systematic and bipartisan fashion. Broadband access is a much-needed investment for the economic future of both rural and urban areas within our state.

How would you evaluate the response to the COVID-19 pandemic in Kansas thus far?

Everyone’s doing their best. It’s just a really tough situation.

Should the COVID-19 pandemic continue into 2021, what would your top priority be?

The landscape of living in a pandemic changes daily. It is impossible to guess what the immediate need will be in the future. 

What key lessons would like to see Kansans take away from the pandemic and the response to it? Do you see the need for changes as a result of what’s happened?

We must ensure we are accessing our federal resources to help our small businesses get through this difficult time and develop plans for a more resilient and inclusive Kansas economy going forward. 

How should legislators respond to the events of this summer (such as the prison outbreaks of COVID-19, the Black Lives Matter protests and concerns about preserving law and order) in shaping the state’s criminal justice system for the future? 

The outcry for racial justice that is currently going on has created an opportunity for the next legislature to take some real and lasting actions towards a more just system. We need to drive towards eliminating the racial disparities in our criminal justice system by working in a bi-partisan manner, listening to the leaders in our minority communities, and building on any recent reforms. 

Navigating the Pandemic Election

How to Vote and Be an Engaged Citizen During a Time of Disruption, Conflict and Uncertainty A KLC Journal Magazine Virtual Launch Event and Discussion Join us from 5-6:15 PM. on Thursday, Oct. 22, for the virtual release of the KLC Journal magazine’s Fall Edition with a focus on issues and voting in one of the most unusual elections most of us have ever seen.