Call it the nail-biter district.

When it comes to general elections, House District 40, which includes parts of Lansing and Leavenworth, has consistently been one of the closest races for state Legislature in Kansas over the past decade. Each of the past five contests there have been decided by fewer than 500 votes and the district has flipped party control three times in recent years, going from Democrat to Republican in 2012, Republican to Democrat in 2016 and back to Republican in 2018.

The latest winner of a barn burner is state Rep. David W. French, the Republican who unseated incumbent Debbie Deere two years ago by just 70 votes. French describes himself as a “true conservative,” but The Journal could find out very little about his specific positions from publicly available information. The magazine did not receive responses to its questions about election issues from French and he does not appear to have a campaign website or campaign-related social media accounts.

French, who spent a long career working as a military intelligence officer and then as a military contractor, is on the record opposing Medicaid expansion, which he voted against in 2019. His opponent, Joana Scholtz, is a U.S. Army veteran and a retired teacher. She supports Medicaid expansion and considers it her top priority, along with fully funding schools, veteran’s courts and securing a new veteran’s home for northeast Kansas.

House District 40 voted overwhelmingly in favor of Donald Trump for president in 2016 but broke narrowly for Democrat Laura Kelly in the 2018 governor’s race. 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 40

David W. French (Republican) and Joana Scholtz (Democrat)

David W. French

The Journal did not receive answers to its questions from David French. Below is a summary of his views based on publicly available data.


In information he supplied to The Leavenworth Times in 2018,  French described himself as a “true conservative who believes in reduced government interference in our lives and in lower taxes to keep more money for our needs  and not the government’s ever expanding spending programs.”

French has an MBA in business management and spent a 26-year career as a military intelligence Army officer and 17 years as a military contractor.

Views on Medicaid expansion:

French opposes Medicaid expansion and voted against it in 2019. He indicated to The Leavenworth Times in 2019 that he would continue to vote against it.

Joana Scholtz

Joana Scholtz Kansas House

Please briefly introduce yourself.

I am Joana Scholtz running for the Kansas House, District 40. I am a US Army veteran, retired Kansas teacher, wife and mother. I have lived in my home in District 40 for 23 years. I consider myself to be a moderate democrat, who is running to return common-sense to our state legislature. I like so many of the silent majority are exhausted with the constant fighting of the extremists of both parties who prevent common-sense legislation from being passed. 

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

Medicaid expansion, fully funding our schools, veteran courts, and a new veteran’s home in Northeast Kansas.

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 will work to ensure we have bipartisan legislation. 

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

I will work to ensure we have bipartisanship legislation. 

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 strongly believe we need to prioritize making health care affordable and accessible. Our state government should be involved to the extent of ensuring we pass Medicaid Expansion, oversight for funding and administration of the program. We should not require people to give up their current doctor’s or insurance plans; Medicaid expansion should make health care affordable for people who need it, not take options away from citizens.

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 believe that Medicaid Expansion is a vital requirement for Kansans, and it’s the legislature’s responsibility to make it their first priority to “pass” in the upcoming session.

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?

Our government is going to need to find creative sources of revenue to recover our economy without placing additional burdens on individual taxpayers.

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?

Reducing or cutting school funding is not an option! As a state we have given very generous tax cuts to corporations, now it’s time for corporations to help Kansans. We need a short term Covid Recovery 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?

We need to improve our infrastructure to ensure everyone has access to the internet. Access to the internet is a necessary tool, not a luxury.

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?

I think we have learned that most Kansans are economically fragile and do not have the reserves to withstand 30 or more days of “no income.” I also think that we have learned that we need to be better prepared for future pandemics or disasters. And we have learned the importance of how hard teachers work to educate our children.

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? 

I think legislators have a responsibility to identify and fix systemic racist policies in our state’s criminal justice system, law enforcement, and the rights for peaceful protest. 

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