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Northeast Kansas Senate race features rare contest between two sitting legislators

Tom Holland has served in the Kansas Legislature since 2003, moving from the Kansas House to the Kansas Senate after being elected to the upper chamber in 2008. Willie Dove has served in the Kansas House since 2012.

Only one of the two veteran lawmakers will be returning to Topeka next year since they will face off in the Nov. 3 general for the Kansas Senate’s District 3 seat. It’s one of three state Senate races this fall that features two sitting lawmakers competing for votes in the same district.

The district is a mix of urban and rural areas and includes Baldwin City, Eudora and parts of Lawrence, as well as swaths of Leavenworth County.

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 3

Tom Holland (Democrat) and Willie Dove (Republican)

Tom Holland

In a few sentences, please explain your thinking on how the Legislature should resolve the Medicaid Expansion debate and your views on the issue.

We very much need Medicaid expansion, and I would like to see the legislature come together and get that passed ASAP. If we have to do it before the 2021 legislative session, I’m all for that as well, to just whatever we could do to get the votes, to get that across because Kansans are hurting as this covid-19 pandemic continues. You’re going to have more and more Kansans obviously facing health care crises in their life and their family’s lives. And they’re going to need, you know, medical support and assistance to get through this. And Medicaid expansion could help a lot of families. 

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?

There really are three stakeholder groups that are going to determine how we go forward through covid-19. It doesn’t matter what government government leaders say. At the end of the day, at the federal or state level, what we need is we need to be sure that consumers, employers and employees … collectively have the confidence to go together in their everyday lives. Once those three groups feel confident collectively together, then we’ll get this economy back on track.

To the extent that government can provide programs, benefits, social safety service programs, that would specifically help allay those concerns that’s where we need to go. For example, we’re going to start having state unemployment benefits running out here … In the absence of the federal government doing anything, I think it’s important that the states step up and do things like have a moratorium on rental evictions or foreclosures, moratoriums on utility shutoffs. We want to have some legislation, for those folks receiving federal assistance, maybe that for those that are having garnished wages in certain situations, that those garnishments are suspended so that those folks get access to that money so they can survive during this time.

On the rental side, we should discuss providing supplemental rental payments to small mom and pop landlord operations. We have a lot of Kansas families that have one or two rental units and they’re really getting hurt in these situations. Maybe instead of giving it to the renters, just trying to give (supplemental aid) just to certain landlords who would qualify.

We need to be sure that we have schools that are safe. School boards and communities working in consultation with their county health departments, I think as long as that continues on and the state provides whatever necessary financial assistance they can provide, I think that’s important.

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 federal government should proactively work with each state to provide subsidies to providers to build public infrastructure for those areas lacking access to broadband. Priority should be given to those more densely populated areas lacking coverage.

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?

I would say that we need to keep in mind that we’re dealing with a worldwide pandemic. This thought about local control should control everything … that’s probably not the answer. I think we need, as we get through this deal, I think we need to be giving citizens a much more top down approach to how this is managed.

My personal feeling is that the federal government has abdicated its role completely in managing this. (I am) very disappointed in the lack of proactive planning mitigation strategies they put in place. As a result, you see individual states having to pick up the pieces. And when you realize what an interconnected society, (it) requires a much more top down approach that really transcends state borders.

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? 

It comes down to being sure we have the procedures and oversight in place that citizens can hold governmental entities accountable. By requiring certain things to make them more transparent, I think we achieve accountability and that’s what we’ve got to do. For example, in the case of the Black Lives Matter movement, for those for those regions, cities, areas in the state where citizens have a strong concern about that, I think we need to have citizen review boards in place. If situations like that do pop up, the citizens in that municipality, they have a voice to affect outcomes and correct going forward. By holding local units accountable, all the stakeholders feel like they have some say. I think that’s how you get through these things. You need to empower the citizens.

Willie Dove

What are your views on Medicaid expansion and how would you like to see the Legislature resolve the debate over it? 

Medicaid expansion is a topic that has dominated many conversations because the public in my opinion has not been educated to understand the issues that will continue until the proponents of expansion and the legislature both have the same facts. I will give one example. How can we add more recipients to the Medicaid present expansion pool when the present system has a backlog for help with existing Medicaid patients. I would like to see further communications that could give both sides of this. Are there special circumstances that need attention? Yes. We are a compassionate body.

What should government’s role be in facilitating economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic? Are there specific things you would like to see?

This crisis created by the Chinese government should be accepted as an act of aggression toward the American people and our way of life. To look further into the various business models to further determine the best way of going forward.

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? 

There needs to be a partnership with the local municipal and county governments to establish a relationship to supply the needs of Kansas needs

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 is always room for change. We have fallen asleep at the wheel when it comes to the overall security of our nation. (Why allow the security of this country in the hands of our enemy). Example: We have taken the approach of profit over security of our citizens and country.

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 have personally visited one of our correctional facilities in a controlled environment. I was there to have a conversation with a young inmate who was convicted of Non-violent crime, that is one aspect of our penal system that needs adjusting. He had recently recovered from COVID 19, but put in an environment with another inmate with COVID 19. That should not have happened.

The BLM movement has been hijacked by the Marxist agenda and they (Marxist) are not keeping it a secret. Should the Police department be defunded? Absolutely not. I think allocated funds should be used for teaching law enforcement alternative ways of protecting themselves and the public. There is a movement to disrupt our way of life in order to make socialism the answer to a God fearing nation.

It is obvious that policy makers have a lot of work ahead. With the loss of legislative session 2020 we need sufficient time to address our present policies and make adjustments.

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.