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Conservatism versus experience in 110th

11/2/2012

By RANDY GONZALES

rgonzales@dailynews.net

One candidate touts his conservative values. For the other candidate, it's his life experience that matters.

Republican Travis Couture-Lovelady and Democrat Philip Martin are who voters have to choose from on Election Day in the open race for the 110th District in the Kansas House of Representatives.

Dan Collins, R-Plainville, did not seek re-election after serving one term. Collins was elected after Dan Johnson, a Hays Republican, retired from the Legislature after serving from 1997 to 2011.

"Things are going great, really great response over the district," said Couture-Lovelady, who was born in Hays and grew up in Plainville, Zurich and Palco. "I think things are going to go really well next week."

Martin, city clerk at Ellis for the last two years, didn't officially leave that job until Oct. 9. That cut down on his campaigning in the district, which was redrawn and includes a portion of Ellis County and Graham County, and all of Phillips, Norton and Rooks counties.

"I wanted to go to every little burg," Martin said. "I'm going to miss a few of them up there -- Almena and Long Island, more likely Agra and Woodston. I think it had quite an impact on it, because I didn't have as much time as I would have liked to devote to it."

Couture-Lovelady, who has a home in Palco, said the two candidates have different political views.

"We come from similar backgrounds, but we have a different view of things," Couture-Lovelady said. "I'm more of a conservative; he thinks more of a big-government type, and I'm more of a limited-government type. I'm a conservative; he's not."

Martin, 61, Ellis, has worked in the oilfield, taught at Fort Hays State University, and served on the Ellis City Council for eight years before becoming Ellis city clerk.

Couture-Lovelady, 29, farms and ranches with his family and helps operate C Diamond Outfitters, which caters to pheasant hunters. He also has served in various capacities for Sen. Pat Roberts, then-Sen. Sam Brownback and Kansas Treasurer Ron Estes.

"I think the big difference is I've got more experience in a variety of jobs," Martin said. "I think Travis is a fine, young man, has a lot of potential, but he needs to probably have more experience before he would tackle the state Legislature."

The two candidates differ on Gov. Brownback's income tax cuts. One estimate projects a $2.4 billion state budget shortfall by 2018.

"I do think overall it's a good thing," Couture-Lovelady said of Brownback's tax cuts. "I support the idea of lowering the tax burdens, tax reform."

Couture-Lovelady said he preferred Brownback's original tax plan.

"We were stuck with what was already done," in the Legislature, he said. "That's OK; we've got some challenges. Anything we can do to lower the tax burden on Kansans I'm for, as long as we can still pay the bills."

Couture-Lovelady doesn't buy the projections for a budget shortfall.

"The folks that are putting out those numbers are under the assumption there will be no increase in the economy," he said. "I think whether it's directly related to the tax cuts, or just a natural progression as we come out of this recession, there's going to be some economic growth, and hopefully this tax cut and everything we can do will really kick-start the economy and make that grow further."

Martin said the tax cuts were not a good idea.

"In my opinion, I think the income tax cuts ... while they were well-intentioned, I think they're bad policy," he said. "I don't believe there was a big groundswell from small businessmen to be exempt from income tax. I think it's a bad idea."

How the state funds education can be tweaked, Couture-Lovelady said.

"I think there's some changes you can make, update the formula; it's 20 years old," he said. "There's definitely some things you can look at, update it.

"The governor said there will be no cuts to education coming up. We're going to have to hold him to that, make sure the Legislature holds on tight."

Martin remembers past cuts in school funding.

"I'm concerned that there's been four years of cuts at the state aid per pupil level," he said.

Martin also knows why he got into this race, in a solidly Republican district.

Along with the experience he brings, Martin "wanted to make sure the November election wasn't a walk-through for the Republicans, because traditionally whoever wins that primary is just a walk-through in November.

"I think people have indicated to me during the campaign they're glad to see there are two parties represented."