After two narrow wins the past two general elections, state Rep. Tim Hodge, a Democrat, faces another challenge this fall. This time it’s from 2019 college graduate Avery Anderson, a Republican. Anderson, who interned with U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts, bested more experienced competitors in the August GOP primary, and goes into the Nov. 3 with the backing of U.S. Rep. Ron Estes and groups such as the Kansas Chamber.
Hodge, first elected in 2016, is a supporter of Medicaid expansion and lowering food sales tax rates, although Anderson has criticized him for not advancing tax cuts while in office. Many of Avery’s positions aren’t entirely clear. The Journal did not receive his replies to a series of questions about 2020 election issues. He does not appear to have made any public statements related to his position on Medicaid expansion and several other issues.
He did touch on the COVID-19 pandemic in comments to The Newton Kansan over the summer, saying:
“With the impact of COVID-19 on the economy, the budget is going to be tight not only next session, but for years to come. I believe we need to send somebody to Topeka who will take a critical look at the budget and find places we can make cuts, along with shifting appropriations around, that will benefit the state of Kansas as a whole. I believe I am that person. Seeing firsthand the impact that the coronavirus has had on local business has taught me the importance of adapting to quickly changing circumstances and how to adjust accordingly.”
Hodge said that the burden for making any shortfalls should not fall more heavily on the poorest taxpayers.
“If the state needs money, it needs to look at individual or corporate incomes over $1 million per year to raise those funds,” Hodge said. “It should not look to regressive tactics like utility rates and sales tax to make up for shortfalls.”
District 72 includes Newton, North Newton and much of western Harvey County. It also reaches into Butler County to include the City of Whitewater. It voted overwhelmingly in favor of Donald Trump for president in 2016 but backed Democrat Laura Kelly for governor in 2018 by about 9 percentage points.
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 78
Tim Hodge (Democrat) and Avery Anderson (Republican)
If elected this fall, what would be your top priority while in office?
Reducing the food sales tax.
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 reduce food sales tax, utility rates, and expand health insurance coverage for uninsured Kansans.
What’s the biggest problem in health care right now?
It’s too expensive
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. Government needs to intervene to bring the costs down.
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 legislature needs to elect leadership that will run the Medicaid bill. Short of that, the legislature needs to be prepared to have the Medicaid amendment run on every bill, every day until the party in power gives us a vote on the issue.
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?
This is difficult because the virus seems to be affecting different persons differently. We know a lot about the virus and if people want to take the risk of venturing out, they are free to do so. If they are concerned, then they can stay home. If a property owner or business wants to mandate certain things, they own the property and they may do so. If the guest or patron wants to be there, then they will comply or leave.
Despite the virus, we still get to live in America.
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?
If the state needs money, it needs to look at individual or corporate incomes over $1 million per year to raise those funds. It should not look to regressive tactics like utility rates and sales tax to make up for shortfalls.
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 may be a moment where some rural communities decide what their priorities are. They may opt for better broadband but may have to give up some other services.
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?
Keep the economy going.
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?
It got political. Whether to wear a mask or not became too much of an issue. We just need to listen to the doctors and go from there.
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?
We need to listen to the protesters. We need to evaluate whether we have too much punishment for certain crimes. We need to see how we spend taxpayer dollars on police and social workers and mental health and whether those levels should be adjusted.
The Journal did not receive answers to its questions from Ron Ryckman. Below is a summary of his views based on publicly available data.
From his website:
“Why I’m Running
I’ve lived in this district my whole life, but lately I haven’t been happy with how we’ve been represented in Topeka. Small business has been a huge part of my life, and I know firsthand how important it is to communities like ours. But in the Capitol, I don’t think our voices are being heard, and our small businesses are being ignored. It’s past time to change that. I’m running to be your representative, and if elected, I promise to be a representative for all citizens in the 72nd district. I will make sure our voices are heard and our input is taken seriously in Topeka. And most importantly, I will be a representative that gives the power back to the people. Coming out of these uncertain times, I will do everything I can to bring a fresh, energetic perspective on governing to the statehouse, and one that puts the citizens of Harvey and Butler Counties at the front of my agenda.
I am fortunate to have grown up in small business my entire life. My grandfather, Phil Anderson, runs one of the oldest Main Street stores in the country, right at Main & Broadway in downtown Newton. He has always been involved in our community, he served the longest term of anyone on the Newton USD 373 School Board. He taught me the values I hope to carry to the Statehouse.”
Views on Medicaid expansion:
Unclear. Did not respond to questions.
Views on COVID-19 pandemic:
From his website:
- We need to make health care a top priority to keep Kansas citizens safe by making sure our health care providers are prepared and fully equipped. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, it’s imperative that the Kansas legislature works to expand Telehealth and Telemedicine options across the state.
- We need to implement a Medical Expense Tax Credit for out-of-pocket medical expenses associated with treatment of COVID-19 illness.
- The pandemic has exposed how dated the government’s IT system is, which has caused delays in Kansans receiving unemployment benefits. We need to make sure our state government is more efficient.
Views on criminal justice:
From his website:
“I am completely committed to making sure our law enforcement and first responders have the necessary needs to do their job each and every day to keep us safe. I fully support our first responders and wholeheartedly disagree with any movement to defund or minimize the police force.”