Local politicians gathered Thursday evening in Newton’s Athletic Park to talk about economic development, job creation, the purpose of government and other issues at a forum and ice cream social sponsored by the Harvey County Republican Party.
About 100 community members attended the event, some just coming to listen and others submitting questions for the politicians to address.
The forum comes in advance of the Aug. 7 primary, and seven of the Republican candidates on the ballot for that primary made appearances: Gary Mason (R-Valley Center) and Carolyn McGinn (R-Sedgwick; incumbent), running for the state senate district 31 seat; Randy Hague (R-Newton) and Marge Roberson (R-Newton; incumbent), running for the county commission district No. 2 seat; and William Ewert (R-Halstead), Lenny Wild (R-Newton) and Ron Krehbiel (R-Burrton; incumbent), running for the county commission district No. 3 seat.
County commission candidates had a chance to speak first at the forum, and one of the topics they discussed was economic development and its impact on the county.
Hague said he thought too much money had been spent on special projects such as the logistics park and believed it was time for Harvey County to cut back.
“When times get tough, you have to make some tough decisions,” he said. “I don’t think enough ‘tough decisions’ have been made. ... I think the county seems to forget ... whose dollars they’re actually spending.”
Wild said he did not feel enough new jobs had been created, and he wanted to be a “conservative” voice on the commission.
Incumbents Krehbiel and Roberson said they thought the county’s economic investments had paid off, citing growth at the city/county airport and the approximately 400 jobs that had been created on site.
Roberson said it was important to look to the future and not just focus on the “now.”
“When you’re in government, you can never do ‘day-to-day’ thinking,” she said.
Krehbiel said values he tried to uphold were “honesty” and “common sense.”
Ewert said he wanted to be a “servant leader” and help communities in Harvey County continue to work together.
“I’ve always thought that Harvey County was a well-run county,” he said.
State senate candidates Gary Mason and incumbent Carolyn McGinn spoke after the commission candidates and discussed topics such as redistricting, the national health-care plan and the economy.
Mason said he thought the state senate had become too “moderate” and he wanted to see a return to more “conservative” politics.
“I have a strong belief in the private sector,” he said. “... To me it’s about freedom and liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
He would like to see the creation of more charter schools and the lowering of income tax, and make Kansas an easier place to do business. Like Wild, he said he thought too many jobs were being lost.
“We can really make some great changes in our state as we move forward,” he said.
McGinn said she saw herself as a “Reagan Republican” and wanted to work to build a strong economy. She thought it was important to fund education and support affordable airfare so local businesses could have low-cost access to other parts of the nation and the globe. She said it’s important to monitor the overall tax rate so the burden doesn’t shift to one area, such as property taxes.
She echoed Roberson’s statement that it was important to take a long-term view of government.
“A long-term conservative is looking at the bigger picture, looking at the long-term,” she said.