The Informed Women of Harvey County hosted a forum recently at Trinity Heights United Methodist Church for candidates for Kansas U.S. Representative for the 4th District.
Laura Lombard and James Thompson, who are vying in the Democratic Primary, were present for the forum. Ellen Estes, wife of Ron M. Estes, who is challenging the incumbent Ron Estes for the Republican nomination, also participated.
The audience submitted questions on a wide range of topics for the forum. The first question dealt with the participants' thoughts on making changes to the immigration process.
"My heart and my whole body just mourns the pictures of what's happening on our southern borders," Estes said. "I can't imagine what the mothers must be going through; what the children must be going through."
Estes also shared about her work with naturalized citizens, aiding them in registering to vote.
"We didn't have a word for immigrants before Ellis Island, we all just came here," Estes said.
"I am absolutely in favor of an immigration system that is much less about the criminalization of immigrants trying to come here," Lombard said. "What has happened at the border over the past several months is just a national embarrassment, as far as I'm concerned."
Thompson said he thinks the current system works well in vetting applications for citizenship in a timely manner.
"There's no reason why we can't have a firm and fair system in place that allows people to come here and seek the American dream – that life that we're all trying to enjoy," Thompson said.
The participants were asked if and how they would support the viability of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.
"Social Security gives people dignity," Estes said. "...They put their money into it, they have every right to it."
Lombard stated the programs needed good management to ensure their sustainability and effectiveness.
"I feel that is one of the biggest issues we need to deal with today," Lombard said. "We need to make sure that Medicare and Social Security keeps up with the cost of living for folks."
"It is ridiculous that, in a country as wealthy as ours, as developed as ours, that we are not raking care of our citizens and that anyone has to decide between paying for their dinner or going to the hospital or getting medical care," Lombard said.
"We could save our country so much money...in health care costs if people felt they like they could go get healthcare before something happened," Lombard said.
Thompson agreed taxpayers are entitled to Social Security and Medicare and said he would like to see the programs expanded instead of cut.
"Social Security and Medicare are both promises that have been made to the people of this country," Thompson said. "...We cannot allow this administration to change that."
The topic of what, if any, tax adjustments the candidates would make to reduce the national debt was also addressed.
Lombard said she would evaluate agencies to see where redundancies could be cut.
"There's always ways you can find to make something more efficient and effective, and I think that's what we need to do," Lombard said.
"The first thing I would cut would be unnecessary, unilateral war," Thompson said. "...I think that would save a lot of money."
"I think we have a revenue problem," Estes said. "I think we need to have more money coming in."
During the closing comments portion of the forum, Estes stated a desire to curtail the NRA's influence on politics.
"We're not Eisenhower Republicans; we're Lincoln Republicans. We're common sense; we're about doing the right thing," Estes said. "That's what being a moderate is all about, not going to the extreme and I think the incumbent has gone too extreme."
Lombard encouraged the attendees to continue to be politically active and vote.
"I think I'm someone who has a pretty strong vision of where I want our state and our country to go and someone who has the leadership ability to get us there," Lombard said. "...I want to make sure our country is sustainable and progressing and is there for generations to come."
Thompson emphasized his desire to spend time in Congress representing voters.
"I want to make sure I'm fighting for Social Security, Medicare, education — for the things that working people need and are entitled to in this country," Thompson said.
Rep. Ron Estes for Congress spokesman Josh Bell said the incumbent was unable to attend the forum due to the House of Representatives' schedule, which included votes on important issues like immigration reform and military funding.
"Rep. Ron Estes looks forward to a vigorous discussion and debate once the Democrats sort out who their nominee is," Bell said. "We are confident that voters will re-elect Rep. Ron Estes — a proven conservative leader — in November.”