DEERFIELD — During a Tuesday debate at Deerfield High School, Kansas state Senate District 39 candidates explained why they thought they should be elected this year at an event sponsored by the Kearny County Chamber of Commerce.
Republicans Larry Powell and John Doll, and Democrat Zacheriah Worf, took turns answering questions from a moderator. Doll and Powell, the incumbent, will face off in the Republican primary on Aug. 2. The winner will take on Worf in November’s general election.
Powell said he wanted to be elected to finish the job he had begun. He said as chairman of the Natural Resources Committee, his primary concern was the aquifer in southwest Kansas and the fact that it was being depleted.
“We’re working on ways to extend the life of the aquifer,” he said. “We have to figure out a way to do this to save water for future generations.”
Doll, who recently completed two terms representing the 123rd House district, thinks the state’s budget problems can be fixed only by increasing revenues, which means revisiting the “disastrous” 2012 income tax cuts put in place by Gov. Sam Brownback.
Many around the state argue that the governor’s sweeping income tax reductions, which he touted as an experiment that would create tens of thousands of new jobs, have not worked as intended and have led to a cycle of revenue shortfalls, deficits and budget cuts.
The state frequently has failed to collect enough revenue to fully fund the budget over the past two years, and Brownback has repeatedly cut spending.
But most of all, Doll believes he will be more of a representative of local constituents than Powell has been, and won’t be beholden to special interests in Topeka.
“That’s got to be our highest priority — you guys,” he said to the audience.
Worf, of Holcomb, said he is tired of elected officials who don’t represent the area, but instead represent the interests of Gov. Sam Brownback.
“We have one of the most hated governors in the United States,” he said.
Worf also cited the state education funding as another reason for running.
“I don’t want to see my kids grow up in this community the way it’s going,” he said. “We’re having a special session to borrow $900 million dollars because we can’t figure out budgets.”
Worf was apparently confusing the legislative session in late June — in which the legislature approved $38 million in additional education spending — with lawmakers’ and the Governor’s authorization, also in June, of a record $900 million debt certificate to allow Kansas to meet its financial obligations during periods of low cash flow in the coming year.
During the special session, lawmakers added money to meet a funding equity requirement mandated by the Kansas Supreme Court. Lawmakers were working against a June 30 deadline set by the court. Educators and legislators feared justices could close the schools if the Legislature didn’t pass a bill.
Worf said that nobody else has stepped up to solve the problem, so he is going to be the one to do it.
“I’m not one of these Millennials who complains on Facebook all the time. I’m doing something. Everybody want the problems solved, but nobody wants to help solve them,” he said.
Worf, who grew up in Deerfield, touted his roots.
“They don’t come any more local than that,” he said. “I am from here. I am you. I want to fix this community.”