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Longest serving legislator faces challenge for Topeka area Senate seat

Nobody has served in the Kansas Legislature longer than Anthony Hensley. The Senate Minority Leader first won election to the Kansas House in 1976 at age 23 before moving on to the Kansas Senate in 1992. This year, the Democrat faces a challenge from Republican Rick Kloos, who ran as an independent for governor in 2018.

Hensley hasn’t really had a close race in the past 20 years, although his district, which includes southeast Topeka but spans parts of four counties, is politically diverse. Most of the district’s voters supported Donald Trump for president four years ago but backed 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 Senate District 19

Anthony Hensley (Democrat) and Rick Kloos (Republican)

Anthony Hensley

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?

I believe we should be working to provide access to healthcare, support small businesses, create jobs, and restore tax fairness. Healthy Kansans can get back to work, and provide stability to their families. We need to provide support for small businesses through incentive programs. The 10-year transportation plan helps create good-paying jobs, expands rural broadband, and makes roads and highways safer for travel, all of which attracts new businesses to our state. Lastly, we should be restoring tax fairness in order to promote job growth and provide relief to hardworking Kansans and Kansans living on fixed incomes.

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 must protect the critical investments in the 10-year transportation plan that includes allocating funds for expanding rural broadband. This project had a jumpstart with $60 million provided by the SPARK task force, but it will require more. Ensuring we protect these investments means we must continue on a path of fiscal responsibility.

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?

The Governor is granted emergency powers for a reason. Governor Kelly demonstrated true leadership throughout this entire public health crisis. In my opinion, everything was going well in combating COVID-19 in Kansas so long as Governor Kelly was in charge. The pandemic turned for the worse when the Republican leadership began restricting her ability to do her job. 

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 believe Black Lives Matter, and I think Legislators should be listening to those involved in these events. I also believe we should address systemic issues by working to implement recommendations made by Governor Kelly’s Kansas Commission on Racial Equity and Justice.

When it comes to local law enforcement, locally elected officials should remain responsible for those local budgets. I believe there needs to be clear lines of communication open between the agencies and their communities as well as their locally elected officials. The appropriate groups need to come together and talk to one another, rather than shout, so they can come to a compromise on the improvements that could be made. 

Rick Kloos

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

Background:

From his website:

Rick is a native Kansan raised in the Miltonvale/Concordia area. From his early years growing up in rural Kansas, Rick enjoyed everything the outdoors had to offer, including fishing, hunting and camping at some of our great lakes.

Rick and his wife Pennie have been in the Topeka community since May of 1998 and have also spent 18 years in real-estate here.

Views on Medicaid expansion:

Kloos has supported Medicaid expansion in the past but recently told KSN-TV that currently he is “neither for nor against it.”

Views on COVID-19 pandemic:

Kloos told KSN-TV that while everyone must do their part to slow the spread of the pandemic, he does not support another statewide shutdown, preferring to leave the decisions to local officials.

Views on economic recovery from the pandemic:

Kloos told KSN-TV that he supported efforts to find aid for small businesses to recover and having them reopen safely.

Views on broadband:

Views on criminal justice:

Kloos expressed support for Black Lives Matter in comments to KSN-TV. He placed an emphasis on community conversations and engagement while supporting national accreditation for law enforcement to enhance training and accountability.

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.

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