At the end of Monday’s state Senate District 39 candidate forum at Garden City’s Administrative Center, Democrat Zach Worf dropped a bombshell when he announced his decision to drop out of the race and endorse Republican John Doll.
After about an hour of taking turns talking about issues, many of which Doll and Worf share similar views, Worf made his announcement essentially ending his campaign.
Worf said in the campaign he always wanted to be honest and speak as if he were in front of his mother or friends.
“And in maintaining that honesty, there is a candidate that is far more prepared. There is a candidate that has been in this for a long time and that candidate is not me,” Worf said. “John Doll and I have done several of these events together and it’s been an absolute honor to sit on equal ground with him, but we’re not equal. He is far more prepared to do this than I am and I am so honored to say John Doll will be the 39th district senator. I humbly stand down from my position.”
While Worf announced he was conceding, Doll put his hands to his face, with an obvious look of surprise.
When asked what was going through his head when Worf announced he was stepping down, Doll said with a laugh that he couldn’t say, because he would have to swear.
“I had no idea he was going to pull out,” Doll said after the forum. “His name will still be on the ballot, you know, so you can’t just assume anything. I coached for 20 years. You never take anything for granted.”
Despite Worf’s endorsement, Doll said he will continue his campaign, adding that he might not put up as many signs now. Doll said he does not know Worf very well, but said the 31-year old is a good kid.
“He seems like he’s passionate about politics. He’s passionate about wanting to change the world,” Doll said. “Anyone who follows politics and wants to make this a better world, I totally respect that.”
Worf said it’s too late to take his name off the ballot for November’s general election, and people can still vote for him but Worf emphasized that he personally is endorsing Doll. He also indicated the campaign was taking time away from his family.
“Another reason it made sense to step away from the campaign is because I have two kids at home. I would have to leave them for five months,” he said. “John and I agree on so many things that are important, that it’s more fair for me to stay in Garden City, speak to John and give him ideas on what’s going on at home. It just makes more sense for me to be here.”
Worf said he joined the 39th District race out of a concern that former Sen. Larry Powell, who Doll defeated in the August Republican primary, could be re-elected with no opposition had Powell won that primary.
“I didn’t want to fight John Doll. He is just a fantastic person and I’m just honored to be on level ground with him,” Worf said. “So to continue to do it and take away on his ability to focus on what he needs to do come January isn’t fair to him or the citizens of the 39th District.”
Worf doesn’t rule out running for office in the future, perhaps something on the local level.
During the forum, both Doll and Worf shared some of the same views on several of the questions prepared by the Garden City Area Chamber of Commerce’s Government Affairs Committee, Chamber members, local media and the community.
The candidates were asked about Medicaid expansion, education and what should be done to conserve water.
Concerning potential Medicaid expansion, the candidates were asked if private firms should handle expansion as the state has done with KanCare, and whether they would support privatization of other state programs.
Doll said KanCare has been a major disappointment, so he wouldn’t support privatizing the expansion if Medicaid were expanded in the state.
“They swear KanCare will save us money. There again, we’ve been in it four years now and we have not saved a dime,” Doll said.
Worf agreed, and said the goal should be to make sure all people receive the same care. He pointed out that Colorado is about to implement universal health care for all its citizens.
“It doesn’t matter how much money you make a year. It doesn’t matter how many hours of work you do. It doesn’t matter what type of education you have. If you have a broken arm, pneumonia, you go to the hospital and get it taken care of and you don’t worry about the bill about the end of it,” Worf said.
Another question, regarding the state budget and tax issues, asked how Doll or Worf would work with the governor.
Worf said too many people have been willing to work with the governor, and not enough have told him they don’t think the state is going in the right direction.
“You see it every now and then. You’ll see a congressman get up there that’ll just go off on everybody. Sometimes I think that’s what’s needed to shake things up and to stand up and say, ‘I’m not going to let this happen anymore,’” Worf said. “That’s exactly what this election is going to be is people going up to Topeka, saying ‘We’re not here to work with you, we’re here to stop you.’”
Doll disagreed, saying there has to be a common ground found, adding that it’s important to develop relationships.
“And relationships come with respect,” Doll said. “If you show respect, and you listen to your fellow senators, at some point in time the respect comes back. Once you have mutual respect, then that’s the starting point of developing a relationship. All of us are there for the good of Kansas.”
Doll said if the primary results, which saw a number of candidates win who feel the state is headed in the wrong direction, continues in November it might show the governor change is being sought.
“The governor is a good man. I’m hoping he’s saying ‘Well, maybe I’m going too far or too fast. Maybe I’ll back off,’” Doll said. “We’ve got to go in there and just work with the man and that’s what I’ll hope we’ll do.”
When asked about the issues regarding education funding in Kansas, both Doll and Worf agreed that education is a top priority.
On water conservation, Doll said water is essential to the area, and praised a drip line irrigation technology that was highlighted over the summer at a farm in Finney County that is designed to save water.