When voters head to the polls Nov. 3, they’ll have to decide between two candidates vying for the Kansas House District 5 seat.

Republican incumbent Rep. Mark Samsel of Wellsville is facing Democratic challenger Roger Sims of Parker.

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: Mark Samsel

Age: 35

Occupation: Referee/Attorney

Family: N/A

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

1) Rebuild and grow our rural economy, including small business and agriculture. This includes continued investment in roads, broadband, and education. It also means reining in big government so that more decisions can be made here at home, rather than statewide mandates that unnecessarily hurt our businesses and livelihoods.

2) Being fiscally responsible with tax dollars to ensure the most efficient and effective use as possible to help us lower property taxes and sales tax on food. We also need to address and improve our property tax problem that is particularly hurting rural Kansas and our seniors, families, and farmers.

3) Continue to lead in a level-headed, thoughtful, and civil manner. We need honesty, integrity, and someone willing to fight for the little guy, and not just “talk the talk.” Process, good governance, and an understanding and adherence to our Constitution and rules are incredibly important to getting real results instead of tired political rhetoric. We need accountability for all elected officials, including within our own party.

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?

We have to invest in infrastructure. I proudly supported the Eisenhower Legacy Transportation Plan to improve both our roads and broadband. We need to keep our commitment to that plan as it not only improves infrastructure to help attract businesses, but it also creates jobs. Decisions are generally best made at the local level. I will continue to fight for that in Topeka.

We must also continue to invest in the next generation, by ensuring educational opportunities for students that are right for them, whether that is a quality high school education, community college, tech school, military service, or four-year degree. This will help ensure we have the right people to fill the jobs available in the market. More people working is good for the economy.

What is your position regarding Medicaid expansion in Kansas?

All of us know that we have a tremendous healthcare problem. It is much larger than Medicaid Expansion, which has unnecessarily become a divisive issue that misses the larger problems. If we believe capitalism is going to work for healthcare, we must find ways to increase competition, transparency, and give more options to the consumer. Right now, Kansans, local pharmacies, and rural doctors are losing while huge insurers are reaping profits off the backs of hardworking Kansans. Depending on how it is presented, Medicaid Expansion may provide a temporary band-aid to some and our small, rural hospitals, but we must come together to address the larger problems in our system for the betterment of our physical and mental health and our economy. Our current system is hindering economic growth and opportunity.

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?

K-68 needs widened to four lanes, both for safety and for growth and development of our area and economy. Our region needs an east-west connector that will support the business growth this is coming our direction. To accomplish that, the Legislature needs to be fiscally responsible. If that happens, then there won’t be a need to continue taking from KDOT to pay for other things. There are priorities for communities all over Kansas and keeping the commitment to the transportation plan will help ensure our local project is completed. The Eisenhower Legacy Transportation Plan allows for Kansas to prioritize these projects every 2 years. We need to work together with other area legislators to strongly advocate for K-68.

Why do you think voters should choose you?

Osawatomie and Miami County need a champion for our district and our values. I am a product of our community. I was raised here, I was educated here, and now I live here to give back to the community wherever possible. Although not perfect, I have been a responsive and helpful representative when folks have contacted me, and I have been very active in Trojan Country and the rest of our district. I do my best to serve every person in this district and I have a proven record of standing up to special interest groups and legislative leaders to do right by our community. I support traditional Republican values. I back our rural economy and stand up for our local schools and hospitals. I am the only candidate in our district endorsed by Kansas Farm Bureau, Kansas Livestock Association, Kansas Agribusiness Council, Kansas National Education Association, and the Kansas Contractors Association. I have a strong record that reflects the values and priorities of District 5. I humbly ask the people of the 5th House District for the opportunity to serve them another 2 years in the Kansas House of Representatives.

Name: Roger Sims

Age: 70

Occupation: I retired from teaching about five years ago. Before that I worked as an editor and writer for Miami County Publishing and for an agribusiness publishing company recently purchased by Farm Journal. I continue to work as a free-lance journalist.

Family: I recently celebrated 50 years of marriage with my wife, Charlene.

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

The top priority will be working to overcome the damaged wreaked on the health and financial stability of the state by the COVID-19 pandemic. While the state GOP leaders and candidates have followed the lead of the president and downplayed the seriousness of the pandemic, the economic and health costs will become even more significant as cool weather moves us indoors.

My next priority is passing Medicaid expansion. This is too important in terms of improving the health of Kansans — particularly those who have been laid off and lost health insurance — as well as providing jobs and helping rural hospitals remain viable.

The third priority is reducing or eliminating the state sales tax on food. Along with local sales taxes in some cities, the state sales tax on groceries can be the highest in the nation. That impacts low- and middle-income families disproportionately.

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?

First, we can avoid the further shutdown of many businesses with simple precautions such as mandatory face covering, social distancing and limiting the size of gatherings. What the pandemic has best demonstrated is that many Americans are unwilling to make a small personal sacrifice, such as wearing a mask, to protect the health of many.

Many businesses are making adjustments to remain viable during the pandemic, but restaurants and bars and their employees will continue to be hardest hit because they simply cannot protect people in confined spaces without masks.

Those are the businesses that will need the most financial help until a vaccine can be widely administrated.

Although the current Kansas unemployment rate of 6.9 percent shows remarkable recovery from the shutdown as well as the adaptability of business owners, we are still facing problems.

An estimated 350,000 Kansans could be facing eviction or foreclosure over the next few months.

The best way to address this is provide some rent and mortgage relief instead of a moratorium on evictions.

What is your position regarding Medicaid expansion in Kansas?

The failure of the Legislature to pass Medicaid expansion is unconscionable. And holding Medicaid expansion hostage by GOP leadership to force adoption of an anti-abortion amendment to the state constitution is a legislative failure.

How can the GOP claim to be pro-life when they withhold basic health care to more than 130,000 Kansans? Many of those who would benefit are older, disabled workers, children, low-income single moms, or those unemployed who recently lost health insurance due to the pandemic.

Kansas has left billions of federal dollars on the table and put rural hospitals in jeopardy because of failure to expand Medicaid. We need to expand Medicaid to create jobs and keep people healthy.

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?

While I support the K-68 expansion, the likelihood of it receiving funding in the short-term is low. This is a project that is necessary because it continues to become a major transportation artery for commuters and shipping traffic south of the metro area. As such, it has outgrown being a two-lane highway with unrestricted access, which makes it more dangerous. The disastrous tax cuts of the Brownback administration and the resulting cutbacks made the highway department a low priority on the state budget hierarchy, and that still haunts us today.

Kansas needs to work on its infrastructure, but the COVID crisis and unemployment claims will likely put too much stress on a budget that already has no reserves.

Why do you think voters should choose you?

A moderate Republican legislator, frustrated by the lack of meaningful legislation coming out of Topeka, recently lamented that the Legislature didn’t have enough Democrats. He felt that Democratic legislators worked to tackle tough issues instead of throwing up roadblocks to bills or clinging to right-wing ideology.

If elected, I will work to make life better for all Kansans, regardless of political party. I won’t be afraid to buck my party if I feel legislation won’t benefit the residents of the 5th District.

News Editor Doug Carder can be reached at (913) 294-2311 or doug.carder@miconews.com.

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