The Garden City Telegram

Be informed — Voters should welcome way to control process

As in 2012, much attention has been focused on Kansas Statehouse races.

A far-right Republican faction remains determined to purge state lawmakers who show any resistance to the ultraconservative agenda coveted by Gov. Sam Brownback and his allies, namely the Koch brothers and Kansas Chamber.

The right-wingers' 2012 campaign to seize control of state government brought down a number of good state senators who could be counted on to resist such harmful pursuits as undermining K-12 schools; shifting the tax burden from the state to local level; and robbing oil-and-gas trust and other safety-net funds to cover budget shortfalls created by tax cuts for the wealthy.

The targeted lawmakers fell prey to a Koch-Kansas Chamber campaign of misinformation designed to sideline anyone not on board. Unfortunately, inexcusably low voter turnout helped the Koch-Kansas Chamber cause.

This year, Kansas House members are prime targets. In District 122, for example, Rep. Russ Jennings, R-Lakin, drew a Kansas Chamber-favored challenger in Lakin Republican Stan Rice.

Considering the likelihood of Koch-fueled attack ads before the Aug. 5 primary, voters should hear from the Statehouse candidates themselves before voting.

One such opportunity will arrive in a candidate forum from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at the City Administrative Center in Garden City.

Jennings and Rice were invited to the question-and-answer session, and should be eager to participate as a way to help educate voters. While unopposed, Rep. John Doll, R-Garden City, also was invited.

Of course, the House race isn't the only one of local interest. Three candidates for the Finney County Commission District 1 seat — Republicans David Crase, Lon Pishny and Charles Sinclair — were invited to participate in the candidate forum.

Residents and candidates alike should embrace such opportunities to publicly address issues ranging from budgets to education to economic development. The forum also comes in time for voters to learn more before advance voting begins July 16.

Citizens — not special-interest groups — should control the political process, and can do so by studying the issues and voting for candidates who would best serve their community and southwest Kansas.