Gubernatorial Candidates Give Views On State Issues
Jack "Miles" Ventimiglia, Editor July 13, 2006
Seven Republicans, almost all 50-something men from various parts of the state, entered the Aug. 1 gubernatorial primary.
The winner faces incumbent Democrat Kathleen Sebelius Nov. 7.
Five candidates, including the front-runners, provided answers that showed different positions on issues facing Kansas, including abortion and stem cell research. But for all the talk about moderates and conservatives, the Republican candidates had more in common than not.
Candidates who gave their views are Jim Barnett, 51, Emporia; Robin Jennison, 52, Healy; Timothy Pickell, 53, Prairie Village; Ken Canfield, 52, Overland Park; and Rex Crowell, 62, Longton. Candidates Dennis Hawver of Ozawkie and Richard "Rode" Rodewald, Eudora, did not participate.
Each candidate received instructions to answer questions starting with a simple "yes" or "no," understanding that equivocation or failure to answer would result in an "x" being used to start their answers. Following are the candidates' own words...
QUESTION: Would you support a Kansas constitutional amendment to curb judicial power?
o Barnett: No. The selection process must change. The current Judicial Nominating Commission, a majority of lawyers selected by lawyers, doesn't give citizens any voice in the process.
o Jennison: No. Curbing their power would not be my first choice as a way to solve the problem with the courts.
o Pickell: No. Our Kansas judges have historically done a marvelous job in their critical role of interpreting and upholding our constitution. This checks-and-balances system must continue, as brilliantly designed.
o Canfield: X. If necessary, yes, but my priority is reforming the way judges are selected. The Kansas Supreme Court has at times overstepped its authority.
o Crowell: No. The Legislature should define "adequate education" and fund it. That might take care of the perceived judicial power abuse.
QUESTION: Should Supreme Court justices have to run for office?
o Barnett: No. Justices should be selected by a federal system, the governor appoints and Senate confirms, so the representatives of the voters have some say in appointments.
o Jennison: No. I would however support the governor nominating from the entire pool of Kansas' legal minds and the Senate confirming justices.
o Pickell: No. Our current non-partisan method of selecting our Kansas Supreme Court, a thorough process involving non-lawyers and lawyers alike, is a model Kansans should be proud of...
o Canfield: No. Supreme Court justices ought to be nominated by the executive and approved by the Legislature, as is the case at the federal level.
o Crowell: No. If they are to protect the minority against the tyranny of the majority, they should not be put in the position of owing the majority.
QUESTION: Should public schools be required to teach abstinence?
o Barnett: No. I believe abstinence education is important, but these decisions should be made by local school boards without state mandates.
o Jennison: Yes.
o Pickell: Yes. A thorough sex-education curriculum in our public schools, including abstinence, is a must. I supported this while on the Shawnee Mission Advisory Board and do so today...
o Canfield: Yes. Abstinence is the best way to avoid unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. It ought to be part of the curriculum.
o Crowell: Yes. It is the surest and most safe birth control of which we know.
QUESTION: Should public schools be allowed to teach intelligent design in science classes?
o Barnett: Yes. I believe all views should be taught, but these decisions should be made by local school boards without state mandates or restrictions.
o Jennison: Yes.
o Pickell: No. While I have a strong personal opinion concerning God's brilliant work, we should teach science in science classes and religion in a religion class.
o Canfield: X.
o Crowell: Yes. Science classes should be permitted to acknowledge that some believe in an intelligent design theory. Personally, my God is great enough to intelligently design evolution.
QUESTION: Should the cap on local option budgets be removed?
o Barnett: No. The cap should be raised, but a properly funded and sustainable state school plan would eliminate the need for complete removal of the cap.
o Jennison: Yes, local control is essential, especially when it comes to school funding. In 1992, when Democrats passed the current failed formula, my plan continued local control.
o Pickell: Yes. All local school districts should be allowed to increase spending for their local schools, subject to the approval of their patrons.
o Canfield: X.
o Crowell: No. The Legislature should define and fund an "adequate education." If they did so, the current local option budget would be adequate for funding extras.
QUESTION: Does a shrinking state treasury reflect a spending problem?
o Barnett: Yes. Since 2000, Kansas lost 10,000 private-sector jobs but added 11,000 government jobs. The new school finance plan spends $800 million more than projected revenues.
o Jennison: Yes, however the greater problem is that the economy and our population are not growing enough to support the services the state has historically provided.
o Pickell: Yes. While not always the case, a shrinking treasury usually reflects increased spending levels. Kansas needs a state auditor to cut waste and to control excessive spending.
o Canfield: Yes. Less revenue in the state treasury means we risk greater deficits for our children and grandchildren to repay. As governor I will establish a commission to audit state programs and agencies...
o Crowell: Yes, and maybe a revenue problem.
QUESTION: Would you support putting TABOR (taxpayers bill of rights to cap taxes) on the ballot?
o Barnett: X. I would support allowing Kansas voters to consider changes to the Kansas Constitution that would require voter approval to increase state tax rates.
o Jennison: No, I fully support controlling state spending and not increasing taxes, but believe that is the job of elected officials.
o Pickell: No. I initially liked the TABOR concept; however, it has proven to be a disaster in other states, especially in our neighbor state, Colorado.
o Canfield: X. I believe the tax system in Kansas is complex and burdensome. As governor I will simplify the way our government collects taxes and ease the tax burden on families and businesses.
o Crowell: No. Legislators are elected to make decisions for those they represent. If they make bad decisions, "throw the rascals out."
QUESTION: Should illegal aliens be allowed to take advantage of public service programs, including education and health, funded by Kansas taxpayers?
o Barnett: X. Basic education and emergency health care are mandated by federal law. We should not treat illegal aliens better than Kansas citizens; with in-state tuition or drivers licenses.
o Jennison: No. It is unfair and unacceptable to the citizens of our state to provide services to those who don't pay any taxes.
o Pickell: No. While my faith pushes me to help others, the harsh economic reality is that taxpaying citizens are going broke paying for social services and public education for illegal aliens.
o Canfield: No. Offering benefits such as driver's licenses and in-state college tuition to illegal aliens rewards illegal behavior, puts a great strain on Kansas taxpayers and encourages more illegal immigration to Kansas.
o Crowell: No. Illegal is illegal!
QUESTION: Should Kansas adopt English as the official language of the state?
o Barnett: Yes. In order for immigrants to fully become part of the American melting pot, they must learn English.
o Jennison: Yes.
o Pickell: Yes. This isn't a novel idea. You'll find most nations proudly embrace their prevailing, native tongue and so should Kansas, "adopting" English as our official language.
o Canfield: Yes. Adopting English as the official language of Kansas is the right way to encourage immigrants to assimilate into our society.
o Crowell: Yes. Kansas business will flourish best if we all speak the same language.
QUESTION: Should pregnant, competent adults always be allowed to decide on their own whether to have abortions?
o Barnett: No. As a Kansas senator I have consistently voted to protect life.
o Jennison: No. I believe that life deserves protection under the Constitution as does any other individual.
o Pickell: Yes. While I have strong personal feelings about this contentious moral issue, under current law, it is a legal reality. Until Roe v. Wade is overturned, no governor can change the law.
o Canfield: No. An innocent unborn child's right to life outweighs an adult's right to end the life of that unborn child.
o Crowell: No. Alternatives such as adoption should be used for babies who could survive outside the womb.
QUESTION: Can you name a case where abortion should be legal?
o Barnett: Yes. To save the life of the mother.
o Jennison: Yes. To save the life of the mother.
o Pickell: Yes. When the life of the mother is at stake, or in cases of rape or incest, this tragic choice must remain. I cannot conclude that the woman's life is less "sanctified" than the conceived life...
o Canfield: No. We must stand for life in Kansas. A compassionate society must defend the very weakest of its members.
o Crowell: Yes, for example, in cases of incest and rape. Also, to protect the physical health of the mother.
QUESTION: Except for human cloning, should scientists be allowed to pursue embryonic stem cell research as a potential means to treat diseases?
o Barnett: X. I do not support human cloning, including for research purposes. I strongly support economic development, cures and adult stem cell research.
o Jennison: Yes. I strongly oppose human cloning but believe basic research should be allowed to continue.
o Pickell: Yes. I watched my grandmother, father, uncle and sister succumb to a devastating neurological disease. "Sanctity of life" includes them and others who will benefit from appropriate stem cell research.
o Canfield: No. Embryonic stem cell research involves the destruction of nascent human life. Adult stem cell research offers considerably more promise without the destruction of life.
o Crowell: Yes. Stem cell research will happen. We need to undertake a dialog to develop reasonable controls on which reasonable Kansans can agree.
QUESTION: Should lawmakers give the Johnson County Board of Commissioners the right, regardless of city concerns, to let county voters decide whether to raise taxes to fund county public safety projects?
o Barnett: X. I support control of tax and spending decisions at the most local level feasible. I would work to encourage cooperation between local units of government.
o Jennison: Yes. That is a local issue. If JoCo commissioners make that decision, voters of Johnson County can judge that when the commissioners stand for election.
o Pickell: Yes. Some matters of public safety are best dealt with at the countywide level and therefore must be funded at that level.
o Canfield: X. Local government ought to have some local taxing authority, particularly to finance schools.
o Crowell: X. I would expect Johnson County legislators to reach a consensus and my actions would be guided by that consensus.
QUESTION: Can you name and tell how you would address the state's No. 1 problem?
o Barnett: Yes. Kansas is falling behind its neighbors. I would get the economy growing by controlling state spending, targeting tax cuts to working families and Kansas businesses.
o Jennison: Yes, the state's number one immediate problem is school finance. The inefficient costly statewide formula must be rewritten to restore local control and flexibility in budgeting.
o Pickell: Yes. Like many individuals, most governments, including Kansas government, cannot fully account for where our money goes or assure it is being wisely spent. I will establish a state auditor...
o Canfield: Yes. For much of rural and western Kansas, the top challenge is economic development. For the state as a whole, a great challenge is strengthening families...
o Crowell: Yes. Funding education is the number one problem. The Legislature should define an "adequate education." That level should be funded by the state.
QUESTION: Why are you running for office?
o Barnett: We need responsible, experienced and active leadership in Topeka; someone willing to propose solutions, work in a spirit of cooperation, and make the hard decisions.
o Jennison: We can do better in Kansas. I will be a governor who stands up for what I believe and works with the Legislature to move Kansas forward.
o Pickell: I ... am weary of the intolerant political discourse in our state. ... I will energize our state through an auditor to cut waste; through rural revitalization ... and by setting an upbeat, progressive tone...
o Canfield: I am running for governor because I want to renew Kansas as the greatest state in America to earn a living and raise a family. I will apply my national experience in strengthening families and communities to increase opportunities for all Kansans.
o Crowell: I have a very positive image for Kansas, including good schools, alternative energy research and development and affordable health care. Also, I can beat Sebelius.
o Barnett served on the Emporia School Board, is in the Kansas Senate, practiced medicine for 24 years and grew up on a farm.
o Jennison served as Kansas House speaker and majority leader, and said he can make tough decisions, though he is a consensus builder.
o Pickell: An attorney, Pickell said he has a record of accomplishments, can foster consensus and is a "pragmatic idealist" who will work for "the greatest good, irrespective of who gets the credit."
o Canfield founded and ran a national organization that advised governors, bureaucrats and presidential administrations of both parties on family and community oriented policies.
o Crowell is an attorney, Vietnam veteran, rancher, school psychologist and father of four, who spent 20 years as a legislator, 12 on a school board and 12 with the Kansas Turnpike Authority.