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Nuanced differences emerge in House race to represent southwest Topeka

Despite hailing from different parties, the two candidates vying to represent the southwest Topeka in the Kansas House indicate they both support the expansion of Medicaid in Kansas. When it comes to the COVID-19 pandemic,  they agree the state needs an “all of the above” approach when it comes to stopping the spread of the virus, keeping the economy going and fostering economic recovery the virus is contained.

But they differ when it comes to what they emphasize in terms of addressing future emergencies. Jesse Borjon, the Republican in the race, would support a comprehensive review of the state’s response to COVID-19. Mary Lou Davis, the Democrat, points out the importance of a national strategy in such situations, saying “there is much to be addressed – the lack of preparation and timely action regarding the onset of the pandemic.”

Here’s a look at how the two candidates vying for the seat answered several questions from The Journal about key issues in this year’s elections:

Kansas House District 52

Mary Lou Davis (Democrat) and Jesse Borjon (Republican)

Jesse Borjon

Jesse Borjon Kansas House

 

Please briefly introduce yourself.

Married 17 years with 3 Children (Sophomore, 7th Grader, 1st Grader); Graduated from Washburn University (’99); Class of 2007 – Leadership Kansas, Kansas Chamber of Commerce; Small Business Owner – 2015 to current; Kansas Corporation Commission, Public Affairs Director 2010-2015; Kansas Secretary of State Ron Thornburgh, Administrative Assistant, Public Affairs Directors, Campaign Manager 1999-2010; Civic Activities include Member, Most Pure Heart of Mary Church; Member, Topeka Chamber of Commerce; Past Member, Topeka South Rotary; Past President, Friends of the Topeka Zoo.

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

My top priority is the Kansas economy. Small business is the lifeblood of our economy and we must get people back to work and do so in a safe environment for our workers and the customers they serve. 

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.

My experience in public service started when I was elected student body president while attending Washburn University. I continue to be so grateful for this experience as it taught me how to work with folks that had different ideas and experiences and build on that to bring about good. Public officials must be able to rise above political agendas, work together, be transparent, and always remember to put people over politics to accomplish the greater good for our communities, state and nation. 

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.

Health care needs to be more affordable and more accessible for all Kansans. I don’t have all of the answers on this very complex topic but it should be a top priority for our state. We must do something to help our hospitals in both urban and rural areas keep their doors open and provide service to those that cannot afford healthcare. 

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 and will vote to expand Medicaid.

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?

Business has to be trusted to be creative in meeting the demands of the marketplace. The state needs to allow business owners room to grow and innovate. It will mean more jobs and better opportunities for our families, community and our state. 

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?

Public safety, infrastructure, and KPERS. We must work within existing resources to meet any revenue shortfalls. Education must also be a top priority especially with the new demands on our schools related to COVID. 

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?

The state needs to work with broadband providers to be sure broadband access exists in all parts of the state especially with the new demands related to remote learning. 

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?

We need a balanced approach. All of the above listed priorities are important but they must be done in a way that protects our people and keeps the economy going. (Note: The choices for answers were: stop the spread of the virus, keep the economy going, and 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?

There are a number of takeaways and key lessons that can be learned from the response. I would support a comprehensive review of the state’s response and would like to hear more from state experts on areas to improve. The response should be comprehensive. We must also be prepared to make investments in our state agencies to ensure that state systems are improved, maintained and updated as needed to maintain a high level of service. 

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 am open to reviewing and considering any and all recommendations that our law enforcement community and criminal justice system recommends based on their experiences with the events of this summer. Kansas as a state is very diverse, in communities and cultures and that is what makes us great! We are all in this together and must have leaders that are guided by common sense upholding the Constitution and a strong desire to work together for the common good. 

Mary Lou Davis

Please briefly introduce yourself.

  • Lifelong Kansan.
  • A Kansas State University graduate whose professional career was in the public service sector.
  • Retired from public service with 13 years as the Executive Director of a state fee-funded agency.
  • Wife, mother of three adult daughters and five grandchildren.
  • Community and church volunteer, serving in leadership roles.
  • Active with Child Care Aware of Eastern Kansas, serving on the leadership team for the Designer’s Showhouse – including two years as co-chair.
  • Involved in a farming partnership.

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

To see Medicaid Expansion enacted; ensure that adequate funding for Pre-K, K-13, post-secondary and higher education continues; address the economic and social issues associated with COVID-19; and reinforce efforts in support working families, small businesses, and focus on attracting new business to our state.

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-19 creates new and complex economic and social issues. Added to our already difficult revenue resources, we must take a balanced and measured approach to addressing these issues. It will be difficult but with collaborative, respectful and open dialogue our legislative bodies can make progress.

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

Lack of access to care or providers

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.

Of course, health care should be more affordable and more accessible. The government must continue to be involved in making health care policy.

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.

Leadership must let Medicaid Expansion be debated and brought forward for vote. It has been reported that 70% of all Kansans want to see Medicaid Expansion enacted. Health care should be accessible for all Kansans.

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?

Of course Kansas must facilitate the COVID-19 economic recovery. Supporting small business, working families and families is imperative. This may be done through federal funding (such as CARES) and limited state resources.

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?

COVID-19 has further complicated our state revenue forecast. While maintaining the current level of services we must continue to adequately fund K-12 education. Funding for post-secondary and higher education must also be examined as tuition/fees have increased to where many cannot afford to further their education. Property taxes, sales tax, and sales tax on food are issues that have been debated but often languished in committee or on the debate calendar. Obviously these issues will be at the forefront of the 2021 legislature. 

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?

Expand broadband access. Currently the state administration is looking at CARES funding to advance this effort. State and private sector resources should jointly address this issue.

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

No response.

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

  1. Stop the spread of the virus; 2, keep the economy going; 3. work for economic and social recovery after the virus is contained. These efforts must be addressed concurrently!

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?

A national strategy is advantageous in situations such as this. There is much to be addressed – the lack of preparation and timely action regarding the onset of the pandemic.

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? 

Each of the above listed are separate issues and must be addressed separately. Criminal justice reform must be undertaken; inequality cannot continue and has to be a focus at all levels!

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.