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Contrasts abound in Olathe House district race

The incumbent is serving his second stint in the Kansas Legislature after also serving as a Johnson County commissioner, Olathe City Council member and running unsuccessfully for state insurance commissioner. The challenger is a recent college graduate and first-time candidate for the state Legislature.

State Rep. John Toplikar, a Republican, didn’t respond to an election issues questionnaire from The Journal. But he has long held the backing of anti-abortion, gun rights and business groups often aligned with conservative Republicans. Cole Fine, a Democrat, touts his desire to work across party lines.

My top priority is serving as a voice of sensible and pragmatic leadership,” he said. “Working across the aisle has become non-existent both in D.C. and Topeka. I aim to keep an open mind and formulate decisions based on what is best for Kansans, not a partisan agenda. 40% of Kansans do not identify with a political party; I will be a voice for both those 40% and the other 60%, regardless of partisan affiliation.”

Toplikar has also long been an opponent of the Affordable Care Act, dating at least back to his 2014 run for Kansas Insurance Commissioner. In 2019, he voted against a Medicaid expansion bill in the Kansas House. Fine supports Medicaid expansion, in part because the federal government funds most of the cost for the program currently.

“People are suffering on a daily basis due to lack of expansion,” Fine said. “We must pass Medicaid expansion, and soon.”

The district, which includes much of north-central Olathe between Interstate 35 and State Highway 7, has long been a conservative Republican stronghold. But Donald Trump won the district by just 7 percentage points in 2016 and its voters overwhelmingly backed Democrat Laura Kelly for governor two years ago.

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 and publicly available information:

Kansas House District 15

John Toplikar (Republican) and Cole Fine (Democrat)

John Toplikar

The Journal did not receive answers to its questions from John Toplikar. Because he rarely gives interviews, posts sparingly on social media and does not appear to have a campaign website, it was difficult to locate publicly available information on his candidacy.

Cole Fine

Please briefly introduce yourself.

I am a recent college graduate, seeking election to the Kansas House to better the state of Kansas.

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

My top priority is serving as a voice of sensible and pragmatic leadership. Working across the aisle has become non-existent both in D.C. and Topeka. I aim to keep an open mind and formulate decisions based on what is best for Kansans, not a partisan agenda. 40% of Kansans do not identify with a political party; I will be a voice for both those 40% and the other 60%, regardless of partisan affiliation.

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.

COVID has created a difficult scenario. Once in office, we must take a look at how to address this reactively and proactively. Reactively, meaning reducing deaths and cases while opening the state as safely and efficiently as possible. Proactively, meaning planning for the budget shortfalls and creating a comprehensive recovery plan. As soon as it is safe to do so, I too want to see things go back to normal as rapidly as possible.

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

Lack of access to insurance

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.

In Kansas it should be doing more. At a minimum the government must ensure everyone has some form of access. The coverage gap in KS is denying a large population who just so happen to be making too much for medicaid and too little for private insurance.

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.

The Federal government funds most of the expansion. People are suffering on a daily basis due to lack of expansion. We must pass Medicaid expansion, and soon.

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?

No response.

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?

No response.

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?

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?

Economic recovery after the virus is contained

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?

No response received.

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? 

No response received.

 

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