Archive for Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Area candidates talk about issues at local forum

October 22, 2008

Election Day is less than two weeks away, and area candidates were given a last-minute chance to share their views with the community Tuesday night at a Meet the Candidates forum sponsored by the Basehor Chamber of Commerce.

The Bob Wiley Memorial Veterans of Foreign Wars Hall in Basehor served as the venue for the 13 candidates running for various offices who attended along with several members of surrounding communities.

Jim Slattery, Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate, was the only federal office-seeker present. He focused on immigration, the national debt and energy.

“I am not in favor of blanket amnesty,” he said regarding immigration. “We would like to say, ‘Send them all home,’ and some of them should be sent home. We are not going to deport that many people. We have to figure out a political compromise to deal with this in a sensible way.”

Slattery said he wanted to enforce existing laws, which are not being enforced, and figure out how to get undocumented immigrants to pay taxes, and if not, have them deported.

“I just cannot believe we cannot get our southern borders under control,” he said. “That’s the first step.”

A question from the audience allowed him to touch on the energy issue in the country. He said he was in favor of requiring automakers to raise fuel efficiency standards on vehicles, as well as reducing the amount of money shipped out of the country each year for oil.

Slattery is trying to unseat U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan.

Legislative candidates

Immigration was also a hot topic for Kansas House and Senate representatives. Owen Donohoe, Republican candidate for the 39th House District, and his opponent, Democratic candidate Joe Novak, were present along with Connie O’Brien, Republican candidate for the 42nd House District. Kansas Senate candidates included 3rd District opponents Tom Holland, D-Baldwin City, and Roger Pine, R-Linwood, and 5th District Republican Steve Fitzgerald of Leavenworth.

A moderator posed this question to them: What is your position on how Kansas is dealing with illegal immigrants and what measure do you think should be taken to curb the flow of illegal immigrants into Kansas?

Holland, who serves in the Kansas House, said he has been introducing legislation since 2004 that would penalize employers who knowingly hire illegal immigrants. He also voiced his support for the E-Verify online system, which checks to see if employees are authorized to work in the United States.

“I think illegal immigration is killing the wages of the non and semi-skilled people in this state,” Holland said.

Pine said he voted to extend in-state tuition to illegal immigrants who had graduated from Kansas high schools but later realized that was a mistake.

“We were defeating the purpose of them going back when they should be,” he said.

He said he later voted for an immigration bill and also agreed that E-Verify had some merit in preventing undocumented workers from being hired.

Fitzgerald said his sentiments on immigration were clear.

“All we have to do is enforce the law, reduce the benefits, and they will self deport,” he said.

Novak agreed that immigration laws are not being enforced, and business owners who knowingly violate the laws should be penalized.

“Right now we have an immigration problem because the rules are not being enforced on the books,” he said.

Donahoe also stood by E-verify as a way to curb illegal immigration. He said that while the House seems to not be able to agree on immigration issues and pass legislation to help remedy the issue, businesses simply putting a sign in their window that says, “we E-Verify” will discourage illegal immigrants from applying.

“We have to get serious about it,” he said. “Let’s go back to E-Verify. There’s a 4 percent error rate, but that’s sufficient.”

O’Brien said the state needs to stop giving in-state tuition and driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants.

“Our neighboring states … have enacted laws that help curb their immigration problem and we need to do the same,” she said.

Leavenworth County Commission

Republican 3rd District Leavenworth County Commission candidate John Flower and Democratic candidate Pete Henderson shared their views on what they saw for the future of Leavenworth County as well as their business backgrounds.

Henderson said he wanted Leavenworth County to remain a pleasant place to live and explained that his 27 years in the insurance business had given him the ability to get along with others and mediate situations.

“I think everybody in here wants lower taxes and better roads, but what we need to think about is what the future is going to look like,” he said. “We love the area and want to keep it this way.”

Flower touted his involvement in a number of civic organizations as well as his experience as a manager and a salesman, which has given him the knowledge to negotiate with others and see the big picture.

“Mr. Henderson and I share a vision in that Leavenworth County is a good place to live, but in my vision it’s also a good place to work,” he said. “You have to not only look at the individual need, but also how that need fits in with the whole.”

Leavenworth County attorney

Democratic incumbent Leavenworth County Attorney Frank Kohl and Republican Todd Thompson faced off at the forum with communication between the Leavenworth County Attorney’s Office and the Leavenworth County Sheriff’s Office as the main topic of discussion.

Kohl said the lines of communication are always open between the two offices through on-call attorneys and a 24/7 open-door policy.

“Communication has to take place on a daily basis,” he said. “They know there’s an open door.”

Thompson said it’s important to keep officers up to date on cases through communication to enforce prosecution.

“If these officers don’t know what’s going on with these cases, they can’t prosecute, they can’t do better,” he said. “They need to be prepared before cases.”

Leavenworth County sheriff

Sheriff Dave Zoellner, the Democratic incumbent, and his Republican opponent James Dyson were asked what special efforts they would take to control home invasion and drug trafficking in the county.

Zoellner said statistics have led deputies to patrol certain areas of the county and add more officers and detectives.

“We’re trying to do the best we can,” he said. “There’s no scientific method to catch a criminal. It takes your eyes and a lot of communication.”

Dyson said the key was to keep the lines of communication open between the citizens and the sheriff’s office. Law enforcement needs to do its part to inform residents of happenings in their neighborhoods and residents need to report suspicious activity.

“With the citizens’ help, law enforcement can solve anything,” he said. “We need, as a law enforcement agency, to let you know what’s going on in your neighborhood.”

The general election is Nov. 4.

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