Pedro Rodriguez, a Democratic candidate running for the Kansas House of Representatives 123rd District seat, says he is taking on incumbent John Wheeler partially to bring diverse representation, particularly to a diverse, Hispanic majority district.

"Representation in Garden City concerns me. I think being a large minority population, I think that we are lacking interest in civic duty, role models, among other things ... I think that because of my background and my life experiences, I think I have something to offer for the proper representation in our community," Rodriguez said.

The candidate said he wanted to right injustices, like racial profiling, and approach criminal justice reform for those arrested for nonviolent crimes, like marijuana posession. Personally, he said, criminalizing the drug, especially for those crossing the state line, felt like government extortion.

He has been long campaigning for a four-year university in southwest Kansas, the only Kansas quadrant without one. A more direct path to higher education would keep more residents living, supporting families and spending money in the region, he said.

This year, Wheeler voted in favor of a state bill that allowed adoption agencies to deny service based on religious beliefs, which could include turning away gay or lesbian couples.

When asked whether he would have favored the bill or not, Rodriguez said he felt children would be better off if not placed in gay or lesbian homes for fear that they may be bullied by some “ignorant" children or communities.

“I think in the interest of the child, I think it should be restricted … The best interest should be in the child for stable raising and perhaps later in life they can make up their own mind…” Roriguez said.

He said protecting the rights of LGBTQ constituents was important to him and that widespread acceptance of gay couples was ongoing, but when asked how he would support LGBTQ constituents, he said he didn’t know if he could concerning adoption.

“I think that's a personal decision once they decide to not necessarily be confused about their sex orientation. But, I think, again, the interest is in the child. Not the gay couples, but the child,” he said.

Rodriguez said he is a strong advocate of the second amendment — a citizen’s right to possess guns was necessary, he said, not only for protection but to keep the government in check from being tyrannical — but also supports rigid background checks for gun owners.

He doesn’t feel like he’ll be able to properly formulate a tax plan until he takes office or works with other legislators directly.

"... I have to be inside the office to be able to talk on numbers and how these programs are being used. And until I get a better — I understand it's public information — but not until I get a better view of how we can, in the future, be sure to get our share of taxes returning back to us for our developments,” he said.

He did not think the state legislature was adequately funding K-12 education, evidenced by teachers often having to buy their own classroom supplies, like pencils, and didn’t support a constitutional amendment that would limit the Kansas Supreme Court’s ability to decide the adequacy of public education funding.

"I think that's sad because being a paramount to the health of our communities, education, I think, is a fundamental necessity. So, I think to be able to determine exactly what and how much funding is needed, again, I think it's lacking funding," he said.

Education, like many state agencies, was in a “tug-of-war” for state funding, and Rodriguez said it would be difficult to decide how to adequately fund all necessary areas.

Garden City needed a bolstered, four-lane highway system that had been neglected for other projects, he said. The community needed an upgrade in infrastructure and the state needed to allocate the necessary funds to do so, he said. In a constant vying for tax dollars, it would be a difficult decision for lawmakers, he said.

Garden City was growing, he said, both economically and in population. With the aid of government programs, he said, Garden City could continue to grow.

Contact Amber Friend at afriend@gctelegram.com.