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New legislator faces a challenge in competitive Overland Park House district

State Rep. Jennifer Day has only cast a few votes during her brief tenure in the Kansas Legislature, but already she must campaign to stay there. Day began serving during June’s special session after she was appointed to the Overland Park seat previously held by retired educator David Benson. Benson narrowly unseated a Republican incumbent in 2018.

The Democrat faces a challenge from Republican Terry Frederick, a small business owner and certified public accountant. Frederick did not answer an election issues questionnaire from The Journal. His website indicates he supports putting a constitutional amendment before voters that would state there is no right to an abortion in Kansas and reassert the Legislature’s power to regulate the procedure after a 2019 Kansas Supreme Court ruling. He also expresses support for 2nd Amendment rights.

In a recent candidate forum, he didn’t specifically say whether he supports or opposes Medicaid expansion. He acknowledged it as an option but expressed concern about the impacts it could have about the most vulnerable Kansans who might also need state services. 

“Many businesses in Johnson County, especially small businesses, face stifling healthcare costs,” he wrote in response to questions from votejoco.com, a website sponsored by the area chambers of commerce that serve Johnson County. “We must pursue ideas that give all Kansans access to quality healthcare at an affordable rate.”

Day supports Medicaid expansion and says she is frustrated that the Legislature has been able to muster the support to make it law.

“I know that it was done in 2017 and it wasn’t their fault, necessarily, that (Gov.) Brownback vetoed it. But last year, the games that were played were, in my opinion, unconscionable It was a waste of time,” says Day, referring to a decision by Senate President Susan Wagle to tie consideration of Medicaid expansion to the passage of the constitutional amendment on abortion. “It really should have been done. I look forward to being on the team that goes ahead and finally gets that passed.”

Day said Medicaid expansion would help the nearly 150,000 Kansans who fall in the coverage gap currently. But she says it would also bring $58 million to Johnson County annually in the form of additional health care spending.

“That’s a boon to our county,” Day says. “It’s a boon overall to the state and I’m quite tired, as a taxpayer here in the state, for our taxes to be sent out of state to take care of other states’ Medicaid expansion efforts. We need to keep those dollars here.”

Once a Republican stronghold, the district has had mixed preferences in recent years. Donald Trump narrowly won the presidential contest among voters here in 2016 but the district overwhelmingly 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 and publicly available information:

Kansas House District 48

Jennifer Day (Democrat)  and Terry Frederick (Republican)

Jennifer Day

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 will support it. I’m in favor of Medicaid expansion, and have been very frustrated by the failure for the legislature to actually pass it effectively. I know that it was done in 2017 and it wasn’t their fault, necessarily, that Brownback vetoed it. But last year, the games that were played were, in my opinion, unconscionable. It was a waste of time. It really should have been done. I look forward to being on the team that goes ahead and finally gets that passed.

Almost 150,000 Kansans fall between the gap of earning too much to be able to qualify for Medicaid assistance, but also too little to be able to afford the coverage options in the marketplace. So it’s my view that we have to find a way to help those people to have access to the care that they may desperately need … From what I understand, it’s expected that it will bring $58 million to Johnson County alone every year in additional health care spending. So you know, that’s a boon to our county. It’s a boon overall to the state and I’m quite tired, as a taxpayer here in the state, for our taxes to be sent out of state to take care of other states’ Medicaid expansion efforts. We need to keep those dollars here. 

What should the 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 legislator, there’s only so much that we can do from our position. I know that I support what Gov. Kelly has been doing. She’s been acting in the best interest of safety and health, for all Kansans, in her response, and I fully support those efforts. The best way to limit the spread of COVID-19 and to return to a more stable footing economically is to listen to the medical experts, follow scientific guidance. That means staying distanced from one another, washing our hands frequently, which is something I think a lot of us have kind of gotten used to doing …and wearing a mask when in public. I’m a mask wearer myself. I think that you can’t have a stable economy until folks can get on board with those plans. That’s what I’m gonna keep promoting, personally, from my position. 

Beyond that, we need to be able to help our small businesses. I’ve spoken to some business owners here in my district, and they are very concerned about Q4 and Q1 as things get colder. People are heading indoors, and they won’t be able to eat outside as much, particularly restaurants. I don’t know how gyms are going to be impacted when things get cooler out as well. That’s something that we need to be aware of, and be able to help those folks when their businesses are being impacted as greatly as they will be going forward into the colder months. So we need to be able to have an economic plan, whether it’s going to be some loans or grants that we can give to those businesses to help make sure that they can pay their employees, or keep their doors open and make sure that they can pay their rent so we can get through this. I think we’ve got a solid at least six months ahead of us, if not eight or more, that we’re going to have to struggle through. So we’re going to lose a lot of businesses, and I’m worried about that.

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?

This is such a tough one … I worked at Sprint in the network department for seven years now. I was an executive assistant there for the network team in general. And I was able to observe how that worked, working with the government on various things, working with other companies like AT&T, like cable companies, in order to try to improve things …

Broadband expansion has been something that has been on corporate minds, government minds, for a long time. That was in 2007 when I started (at Sprint), and I left in 2013 and we still didn’t have any movement on that. I don’t know if it needs to be focused more at the state level. I’m interested actually in being involved on the utilities and transportation committee, so that I can have more input on that, and gather some more information myself, and get a better understanding of it. But I think that as we work to improve our highways across the state, we need to make sure that we’re making space for putting down that broadband capability, whether it’s planning ahead and putting down the lines that are going to be needed, even though we might not be using them yet. We need to make sure that that’s in the budget, so that we can do that. Here we have all these students that are in a remote learning environment, and do they have access to what they need broadband wise? It’s disappointing and we need to have more foresight on that. It’s 2020, for crying out loud. 

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

Medicaid expansion could have helped a lot more people and made sure that our hospitals were better equipped to take care of the possible influx of patients that they would be seeing. I think we are all aware of the impact that a decrease in funding has had on rural hospitals. It’s caused some to have to close. Others are on very unsure financial footing right now. So that’s the first and foremost thing: lesson learned, hopefully, for everybody, Medicaid expansion must happen.

Outside of that, there’s something to the personal responsibility that we have for ourselves and looking out for others, and there are some simple solutions for doing that. While they might make us uncomfortable in the short term, something that’s for the greater good for the longer term is key … We have to do things sometimes that make us a little bit uncomfortable for a short period of time in order to take care of those around us.

(In terms of the state’s response) I think we’ve handled things very well. I feel like we’ve got a good team in place in the state of Kansas. And while we have a few people who are speaking out and sharing their own perspectives on how they feel about what our government is doing, being involved in their lives, I personally appreciate it. I appreciate what Gov. Kelly and Dr. Lee Norman and folks have done. Even down here at the Johnson County level as well. I think that the Commission has handled this very well. So I trust the experts. That’s what I always say. I’m going to go with science and facts personally.

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? 

There are things that we can do at the state legislative level that I’m that I’m hopeful for. One of the things that I was able to do during the special session was to co-sign on a bill that Rep. Hoelscher had put up. That was in relation to law enforcement, and how we hire law enforcement officers, making sure that we’re looking into any allegations of serious misconduct and their disciplinary records in the past. I think that’s something that will come up again, in the future. 

It’s all about transparency for me. Making sure that our law enforcement is able to share what they should. I think the big question is what the should, should be, such as with the Sheila Albers situation here, specifically in Overland Park (her son who was killed by a police officer, in 2018). 

I am in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. So I’m also in support of everything that our police officers do, in order to maintain law and order and a safe place for us to live here in Johnson County, and specifically Overland Park, every day. And what they do when they put that uniform on. I think we’ve got some really great people working for us here. At the same time, I think that there are some changes that need to be made to make lives better for everybody. It’s about fairness for everybody and not necessarily making things more difficult for our law enforcement officers to do their job. 

Terry Frederick

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

Background:

From his website:

Terry and Karen Frederick have been married for 32 years and have three sons. A small business owner and Certified Public Accountant, Terry consults with businesses throughout the U.S. helping them understand the complexities of federal, state and local tax laws.

Among the leadership roles Terry has served in:

  • Elected as Water One board member, nearly 24 years
  • Boy Scouts of America district and unit levels, 17 years
  • Overland Park Host (PV) Lions Club service organization, 29 years
  • Theatre in the Park Advisory Council, 6 years
  • KU Alumni Association, KC chapter board of directors, 11 years
  • Leadership Kansas and Leadership Northeast alumnus

Views on Medicaid expansion:

Frederick doesn’t say whether he supports or opposes Medicaid expansion. In a recent forum, he acknowledged it as an option but expressed concerns about the impacts it could have about the most vulnerable Kansans who might also need state services. 

“Many businesses in Johnson County, especially small businesses, face stifling healthcare costs,” he wrote in response to questions from votejoco.com, a website sponsored by the area chambers of commerce that serve Johnson County. “We must pursue ideas that give all Kansans access to quality healthcare at an affordable rate.”

Views on COVID-19 pandemic:

During a recent votejoco.com forum, Frederick emphasizes the importance of restarting the economy as being key to producing the revenue needed to fund state services such as public education.

“We’ve got to get the economy going. We’ve got to do it safely. So we’ve got to look at common sense policies and regulations to help them do that.”

He also supports getting the state more prepared for future disasters along the lines of COVID-19 in ways that will ensure that the “entire economy” won’t be shut down again in response. 

 

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