Two candidates are vying for the Kansas Senate District 37 seat.

Republican incumbent Sen. Molly Baumgardner of Louisburg is facing Democratic challenger Becca Peck of Overland Park.

In an effort to better inform voters, The Miami County Republic recently sent both candidates a series of questions, and their responses are printed below.

Name: Molly Baumgardner

Age: 61

Occupation: Communications Coordinator at Johnson County Community College

Family/Interests: My husband, Brian, and I have been married 34 years. We have four adult children that all graduated from Louisburg High School. We are active with our church, including mission work for the community in Thailand where our daughter and son-in-law taught and the Pregnancy Crisis Center in Overland Park. I am active advocating for expanded mental health care services, resolving the issues in our Foster Care system, and addressing the need for dyslexia services for our Kansas children.

If elected/reelected, what would be your top three priorities?

1. COVID economy recovery through job training and job creation, and mental health access

2. Balance the budget while protecting education, KPERS and transportation funding

3. Foster Care Reform

What strategies would you implement to get Kansans working again and put the economy back on track to overcome layoffs and shutdowns associated with the COVID-19 pandemic?

Career and technical training and retraining in fields where there are job vacancies is critical. I am a strong proponent of the Promise Act legislation that Laura Kelly vetoed on June 1.

Getting our un- and under-trained workforce through the FAFSA/Pell Grant process and into certificate and degree programs that meet the regional needs in Kansas are essential to growing our workforce.

I also can’t say enough about the need for high speed internet access.

What is your position regarding Medicaid expansion in Kansas?

I worked with Senator Denning to find a Kansas solution for Medicaid expansion. It was only during the interim and legislative session hearings that the troubling facts about our Kansas rural hospitals were made public. We have 40 rural hospitals (nearly 30%) with a daily census of 0, 1, 2, or 3 patients; 85% of our hospitals are operating at a loss; a large percentage of residents migrate out of their county for health care; current healthcare providers are unwilling to take on more Medicaid patients.

Unfortunately, expansion won’t resolve these issues. Legislators need to work with these facts and form a solution that is sustainable within the healthcare system. I am working with the Kansas Medical Society to determine measures that would increase healthcare participation.

What are your thoughts about the proposed K-68 expansion in the Eisenhower Legacy Transportation Program? Do you think funding will remain in place for the K-68 project in Miami County or do you anticipate funding will be cut as it has been in the past?

Expansion of K-68 has been needed in Miami County for more than two decades. With the WalMart Distribution Centers across the state line and in Ottawa, and with the growth of the Intermodal in Edgerton, semi-truck traffic is heavy.

In my testimony for the Joint Legislative Transportation Vision Taskforce, I urged that a divided, widened 68 highway is necessary to address the safety problems. The legislature needs to assure the funding for the K-68 project — it will save lives and help prevent serious injuries, while creating jobs.

Why do you think voters should choose you?

What distinguishes me is my body of work as an educator and a legislator. I was the lead negotiator, in 2019, for the school funding formula that put an end to decades-long court challenges because it met the State’s obligation under the Kansas Constitution.

I have sponsored and introduced multiple pieces of legislation that now offer common sense solutions to issues that impact Kansans; Wrongful Conviction Restitution, KORA & KOMA transparency, Dyslexia, sex trafficking, Youth Suicide Prevention Oversight, and Foster Care reform.

I will continue to work every day to solve problems impacting Kansas families.

Name: Becca Peck

Age: 58

Occupation: Case Manager and Account Manager

Family/Interests: Scouting, travel, camping, reading, music, family game night.

If elected/reelected, what would be your top three priorities?

My top three priorities are Medicaid Expansion, fully funding K-12 Public Education, and Responsible Economic Restoration/Job Creation.

What strategies would you implement to get Kansans working again and put the economy back on track to overcome layoffs and shutdowns associated with the COVID-19 pandemic?

Our economy can get back on track with jobs in new and emerging industries, such as medicinal cannabis, industrial hemp, wind energy, and support for the 988 mental health hotline. We need to focus our economic recovery on infrastructure projects that put people back to work building critical transportation needs, including our state’s computer systems and broadband as a utility statewide. We asked residents to work and learn remotely without ensuring they have the tools to succeed. I’m pleased to see the formation of the Office of Broadband Development with funds from the Eisenhower Legacy Transportation Program and CARES Act that will help bridge the digital divide for our rural communities.

What is your position regarding Medicaid expansion in Kansas?

I support Medicaid Expansion. To date, Kansas left $4.1 billion on the table in federal money by not expanding Medicaid.

Those who lost jobs and insurance due to COVID, join the 150,000 residents who would also benefit from Medicaid Expansion. The incumbent had six years of blown opportunities to vote for Medicaid Expansion. Her claims to sponsor Medicaid Expansion don’t wash as sincere. She’s failed Kansas.

Our family lives in rural Kansas where many hospitals have been reduced to free standing emergency rooms. Two of my family members contracted COVID-19 and were transported by ground ambulance more than two hours away as nearby hospitals were either full or closed. With Medicaid Expansion, their hospital may have remained open. Our rural communities are dying as a result of hospital closures.

We need to get out of the mindset of expecting our hospitals to be profit-generating ventures.

Instead, we should consider them to be public safety resources, which are not operated on a for-profit business model.

Expanding Medicaid keeps our community healthy, strengthens our workforce, preserves our hospitals and grows the economy.

What are your thoughts about the proposed K-68 expansion in the Eisenhower Legacy Transportation Program? Do you think funding will remain in place for the K-68 project in Miami County or do you anticipate funding will be cut as it has been in the past?

I will advocate and fight hard to keep K68 funding in place as it is a high volume two-lane dangerous road with too many deaths. We need to protect our citizens and make it safer. I will invite area business owners and residents to Topeka to testify on keeping K68 funding in place.

Why do you think voters should choose you?

I will listen to and respond to all my constituents. I will be an independent decision-maker and work on bi-partisan common sense solutions. I have decades long friendships with people from all political affiliations. We have difficult, lively, impassioned, yet respectful conversations on public policy.

When my calls and emails to the incumbent went unanswered, I took my son with disabilities to Topeka so she could see who her votes impacted. Instead of listening to my concerns, the incumbent spun the information around to benefit an unrelated bill.

The incumbent sponsorship claims for both Medicaid Expansion and Foster Care don’t appear sincere. While she sponsored a bill for Medicaid Expansion, she failed to vote for it, discounting the concerns of the people she would impact. I knew three years ago foster children were sleeping on the floor in offices of social workers, yet the incumbent claims she wasn’t aware until this summer. Additionally, she sponsored a bill for Foster Care, but failed to vote for it, discounting the impact on foster children.

I spent 19 years advocating for my son with disabilities as his case and account manager. It was public policy boot camp as I had to know the statutory requirements and restrictions associated with public education, health care, medical billing, finance and insurance. You can judge my experience and job performance by how well my son is doing today. Additionally, for the past 20 years, I’ve advocated for my community in critical leadership positions at my church, boy scouts, and homeowners association. Kansans deserve an advocate they can count on. I am that advocate.

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