Purchase photos

Anger with status quo dominates forum





More than 50 people attended the Big First Tea Party candidate forum Tuesday night, many expressing frustration with the state of politics today and asking what candidates could do to alleviate that frustration.

Candidates for the positions of Ellis County clerk, Ellis County commissioner, state Senate 40th district, state representative 110th District and state representative 111th District addressed a wide variety of constituent concerns during the forum at Thirsty's Brew Pub & Grill.

Discontent with political leadership seemed to color every question asked by audience members as candidates attempted to soothe those concerns often with references to the Constitution.

Anger hit a boiling level as several women in the audience questioned 40th District Senate candidates on the topic of health insurance exchanges.

"It seems like we can't do anything about anything anymore in this country," one woman said to John Miller, R-Norton. "(President Barack Obama) is a dictator, and he's not balancing the power.

"We are sitting here letting him get away with it. Where is the outrage, is my question?"

Miller replied he shares the outrage, but legislators must take the time to figure out "what strings are attached" to the program.

In reply to a question about whether Kansas was going to accept health insurance exchanges, Miller said that answer could be dependent on to whom one is talking.

"Sandy Praeger, your insurance commissioner, has one idea; the governor has another," Miller said. "As far as I know, the governor says we're not going to do it."

Questions regarding the potential dangers of fracking were posed to Sen. Ralph Ostmeyer, R-Grinnell, by panelist Jude Scheck.

"It's a great opportunity in Kansas, and I'm in full support of it," Ostmeyer said. "The concern we have now is that we don't destroy our groundwater, our soil. There are a great many possibilities with it."

As he fielded questions about Kansas' concealed-carry law and whether it is an infringement of Second Amendment rights, Sen. Allen Schmidt, D-Hays, said he supported the right of citizens to bear arms.

"But you have to analyze and do some critical thinking on these issues that come up because they're not all black-and-white," he said. "Yes, we absolutely have to protect the right to bear arms.

"But we have to be cautious how we do that. ... You've got to know what the impacts are when you pass these laws."

Candidates attending the forum included:

* Ellis County Clerk: Donna Maskus, D-Hays, and Robert "Butch" Schlyer, R-Hays.

* Ellis County Commission: Ron Adams, R-Hays.

* 40th District Kansas Senate: Sen. Allen Schmidt, D-Hays, John Miller, R-Norton, Sen. Ralph Ostmeyer, R-Grinnell.

* 110th District State Representative: Travis Couture-Lovelady, R-Palco.

* 111th District State Representative: Sue Boldra, R-Hays.