SALINA — State spending, KanCare, immigration and the legalization of industrial hemp all were discussed Saturday as top GOP candidates for Kansas governor met in Salina for their final scheduled debate before the Aug. 7 primary election.
Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer, Secretary of State Kris Kobach, Insurance Commissioner Ken Selzer and Patrick Kucera, who calls himself an “entrepreneurial evangelist,” took part in the debate at the Salina Innovation Foundation at the Masonic Center. About 350 people attended the event, which was organized by Republican Party officials from the Kansas 1st U.S. Congressional District.
Colyer became governor after former Gov. Sam Brownback was confirmed by the U.S. Senate in January to become Ambassador for International Religious Freedom. Colyer highlighted achievements both from his time as governor and from Gov. Brownback’s administration, when he served as lieutenant governor.
“Two billion dollars. That’s how much money we saved by reforming Medicaid and getting better outcomes,” he said. “And with more than 20,000 new jobs here in Kansas in the last 12 months, our conservative principles are starting to work.”
Colyer also touted the 3.4 percent unemployment rate in Kansas.
Kobach advocated for aggressively cutting state spending.
“Kansas doesn’t have a revenue problem, it has a spending problem,” he said. “We have been the high-tax state in the five-state area. We have to end the government spending addiction.”
Kobach said every agency except law enforcement would have to make cuts if he is elected governor, and that he would not rehire or fill vacancies in state government as baby boomers retire.
Kobach criticized school districts for hiring additional administrators and for building “expensive Taj Mahal buildings.”
“You don’t make someone smarter by putting them in a nicer, new, super-fancy building,” he said.
Kobach also said people should not be eligible for KanCare, the Kansas Medicaid program, under certain circumstances.
“Anyone on drugs should not be on KanCare, under any circumstances,” he said. “Anyone who is an illegal alien will not get KanCare. There will be work requirements.”
On immigration, Kobach promised to, “end our status as the sanctuary state of the Midwest,” in part by requiring all state agencies to use e-verify to ensure they are hiring citizens or legal residents.
Kucera called for the legalization of industrial hemp, which he said requires less water than other crops.
“This agricultural reformation and revolution can happen right here in the state of Kansas,” he said.
Colyer responded by saying that he signed a law that began research into the use of industrial hemp in Kansas.
Selzer highlighted spending cuts he carried out as insurance commissioner.
“We’re treating every dollar as if it’s your dollar, not my dollar,” he said.
Support for Trump
Kucera said that if voters like President Donald Trump, they should consider voting for him.
“I believe history will show that Donald Trump was the greatest, if not one of the greatest presidents, in the history of the United States of America,” he said. “If you like what he is doing in Washington, he’s got some similarities to this guy.”
The other candidates also highlighted their conservative credentials.
Colyer mentioned that he signed a letter to a Nobel committee chairman nominating Trump for a Nobel Peace Prize.
Kobach mentioned his endorsements from Donald Trump Jr. and Sean Hannity before saying that the endorsement he really wants is from Kansas voters.