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Your Local Candidates: In Their Own Words

Learn how candidates in your area responded to questions The Journal asked about their priorities in office and how they would achieve them.

Click here to see a list of local elections that The Journal collected candidate survey responses from

By: Chris Green

When Journal readers were asked in a survey this year what would make them more likely to vote, one of the things they told us is that they’d like to have more information about candidates and their platforms.

But how do you know how a candidate is likely to perform in office, especially in nonpartisan local races where information is frequently hard to come by and voters often can’t lean on their party loyalties to make a decision?

In my experience, if you want to know what a candidate will truly do in office, you can’t just ask them what they think or what their positions are. You have to ask them what they’ll do. Because as I wrote last year in the context of the Kansas governor’s race, candidates for elective office tend to do, or at least try to do, what they promise voters during a campaign.

Academic research backs this up when it comes to U.S. presidents and political parties in the U.S. and other countries. It seems like a good bet that this dynamic is applicable to local races for city council, city commission, school board and community college board of trustees.

To help our readers in making their voting choices in the Nov. 5 general election, we sent out a survey to more than 250 candidates in communities where our magazine’s readership is the largest. We tried to keep our questions brief and to the point, because candidates told us that they are often bombarded by lengthy surveys during their campaigns.

The Journal settled on just three major questions we’d ask every candidate:

First, a conversation starter: “Please provide a brief introduction and a description of why you are running for office.”

Then we asked candidates to outline their one key priority. “Should you be elected, what is the single most important issue that you would like to see improvement on during your term in office? Please write a few sentences explaining your choice.”
Finally we asked them how they would go about working to address their key priority. “As an officeholder, how would you try to mobilize efforts to address the important issue you identified above? If you have a sense of specific steps you might take, please share those.”

For a handful of communities, we decided to ask a few more questions about key local issues such as affordable housing, child care and government transparency. We selected the issues we asked about based on the topics our readers suggested we cover.

There are certainly downsides to asking only three questions. Our surveys don’t give a comprehensive overview about what candidates think about multiple issues affecting their communities. There’s a school of thought that serving in local government is more about serving competently across a range of topics rather than moving the needle on a particular one.

But The Journal is a magazine published by a leadership education center, so we decided to ask questions that would identify leadership attributes that might be useful in public office. Does the candidate have a clear purpose for wanting to serve? Do they understand both adaptive and technical aspects of the challenge they’d like to work on? Do they express a willingness to both take the initiative and engage others in the process? Are their plans specific enough to be actionable but open-ended enough to keep them from getting boxed in? Those are questions that readers are going to have to answer for themselves.

After distributing the survey by email and letter (follow-up phone calls were made to as many candidates as possible), The Journal received responses from more than 150 candidates in at least 49 elections across the state. In all, we collected more than 70,000 words of text, more than enough to fill an entire edition of The Journal with words alone. That didn’t seem workable, so we did the next best thing: posted the survey answers here on The Journal’s website, klcjournal.com.

The words you’ll find there come direct from the candidates, save for some light editing to ensure clarity. Please note that try as we might, we didn’t receive a survey response from every candidate. But keep checking back, because we’ll post any additional responses to klcjournal.com that we get from candidates we missed the first time around.

Furthermore, if readers know of additional resources from other reputable sources that provide even more comprehensive information about local races, please send them my way (cgreen {at} kansasleadershipcenter.org) and we’ll link to them (with credit). We want voters to be as informed as possible and excited about voting this fall, and we’d love to turn our survey response pages into a clearinghouse for all the information available for an election.

Below is a list of local races that we collected responses for and the URL where you can find them at klcjournal.com. I hope readers will find them helpful as they make their decisions this fall.

Your Local Candidates: In Their Own Words Nov. 5 2019 Kansas local election

View Local Election Survey Responses

Auburn-Washburn USD 437 Board of Education: klcjournal.com/local2019topeka/#USD437
Blue Valley USD 229 Board of Education: klcjournal.com/local2019jocoedu/#USD229
Chanute City Commission: klcjournal.com/local2019chanute
Coffeyville City Commission: klcjournal.com/local2019coffeyville
Derby: klcjournal.com/local2019derby
Dodge City Commission: klcjournal.com/local2019dodgecity
Dodge City Community College Board of Trustees: klcjournal.com/local2019dodgecitydc3
Dodge City USD 443 Board of Education: klcjournal.com/local2019dodgecity
Emporia City Commission: klcjournal.com/local2019emporia
Emporia USD 253 Board of Education: klcjournal.com/local2019emporia/#USD253
Garden City Commission: klcjournal.com/local2019gardencity
Garden City USD 457 Board of Education: klcjournal.com/local2019gardencity/#USD457
Garden City Community College Board of Trustees: klcjournal.com/local2019gardencitycollege
Great Bend Mayor: klcjournal.com/local2019greatbend
Hays City Commission: klcjournal.com/local2019hays
Hays USD 489 Board of Education: klcjournal.com/local2019hays/#HaysUSD489
Hutchinson USD 308 Board of Education: klcjournal.com/local2019hutch
Hutchinson City Council: klcjournal.com/local2019hutch
Independence City Commission: klcjournal.com/local2019indy
Johnson County Community College Board of Trustees: klcjournal.com/local2019jccctrustees
Kansas City, Kansas, USD 500 Board of Education: klcjournal.com/local2019wycokck
Kansas City, Kansas Board of Public Utilities: klcjournal.com/local2019wycokck/#BPU
Lawrence City Commission: klcjournal.com/local2019lawrence
Lawrence USD 497 Board of Education: klcjournal.com/local2019lawrence/#USD497
Lenexa City Council: klcjournal.com/local2019jococity/#Lenexa
Liberal City Commission: klcjournal.com/local2019liberal
Liberal USD 480 Board of Education: klcjournal.com/local2019liberal/#USD480
Manhattan City Commission: klcjournal.com/local2019manhattan
Manhattan USD 383 Board of Education: klcjournal.com/local2019manhattan/#USD383
Merriam City Council: klcjournal.com/local2019jococity/#Merriam
Mission City Council: klcjournal.com/local2019jococity/#Mission
McPherson USD 418 Board of Education: klcjournal.com/local2019mcpherson
McPherson City Commission: klcjournal.com/local2019mcpherson
Newton City Commission: klcjournal.com/local2019newton
Newton USD 373 Board of Education: klcjournal.com/local2019newton/#USD373
Olathe City Council: klcjournal.com/local2019jococity/#Olathe
Overland Park City Council: klcjournal.com/local2019jococity/#OverlandPark
Parson City Commission: klcjournal.com/local2019parsons
Pittsburg City Commission: klcjournal.com/local2019pittsburg
Prairie Village City Council: klcjournal.com/local2019jococity/#PrairieVillage
Salina City Commission: klcjournal.com/local2019salina
Salina USD 305 Board of Education: klcjournal.com/local2019salina/#USD305
Shawnee City Council: klcjournal.com/local2019jococity/#Shawnee
Shawnee Heights USD 450 Board of Education: klcjournal.com/local2019topeka/#USD450
Shawnee Mission USD 512 Board of Education: klcjournal.com/local2019jocoedu
Topeka City Council: klcjournal.com/local2019topeka
Topeka USD 501 Board of Education: klcjournal.com/local2019topeka/#USD501
Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kansas, Board of Commissioners: klcjournal.com/local2019wycokck/#UG
Wichita Mayor and City Council: klcjournal.com/local2019wichitacity
Wichita USD 259 Board of Education: klcjournal.com/local2019wichitausd259

Thank you to the volunteers who contacted candidates to encourage them to complete the survey: Julia Fabris McBride, Andrew Conard, Brittany Engle, Thane Chastain, Jeanine McKenna, Thomas Stanley, Nikki Pfannenstiel, Jade Piros de Carvalho, Dorothy Barnett, Rick Cagan, Dave Ranney, Stephanie Sanford, Marisel Walston, Kitra Cooper, Judy Nickelson, Lawrence Andre, Tina Payne, Racquel Thiesen, Jim Wood, Kate Radley, Mark Johnson, Christie Appelhanz, Kim Gronniger, Sonja Armbruster, Jodi Hayse and Cindy Claycomb.

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