Purchase photos

Ostmeyer, Schmidt say not to worry about mud-slinging

9/12/2012

By RANDY GONZALES

By RANDY GONZALES

rgonzales@dailynews.net

They are colleagues forced to become competitors.

At Tuesday evening's Big First Tea party political forum, Sen. Allen Schmidt, D-Hays, and Sen. Ralph Ostmeyer, R-Grinnell, answered questions in front of a group of approximately 70 voters.

The boundary of Schmidt's 36th District in the Kansas Senate has changed, and he now is seeking re-election in the 40th District, which now includes Hays, and where Ostmeyer is the incumbent.

Unlike what voters see in national elections, no mud was thrown Tuesday night, and Ostmeyer said not to expect any before Election Day Nov. 6.

Ostmeyer said Schmidt came to him concerned about negativity being interjected into the campaign.

"I told him we both control that," Ostmeyer said. "I've already told my people to leave my campaign alone. I think Allen's probably done the same thing.

"We just go out and talk about the issues, and give people a choice," he added. "My record has shown that I served my district well. I hadn't served Hays; I had no problem with Hays being in there."

Schmidt said he and Ostmeyer tried to prevent the change in the 36th District.

"The fight that Ralph and I had to save the 36th district was specifically about keeping representation out here, because many things in the state legislature -- particularly in the senate -- come down to one vote, to stop it or carry it forward," Schmidt said.

When pressed for differences between the two elected officials, both candidates didn't reveal much separation between them.

"They're little differences," Ostmeyer said.

Ostmeyer touted his pro-life endorsement, yet added he couldn't say Schmidt also wasn't pro-life.

Schmidt said he was the lone pro-life Democrat in the Senate, and added this is an important time in Kansas.

"I agree with Sen. Ostmeyer that we're at a crossroads in Kansas," Schmidt said. "I'm really worried, because if we don't have a debate, if we have just a one-sided track, whether it's a Democrat or Republican, then we lose what Jefferson said."

Schmidt then quoted Thomas Jefferson about keeping government on the defense, and if it could do something better than the people, prove it.

"That may not sound like a Democrat, but you know what? It's the truth," Schmidt said.

Ostmeyer knew another truth about this election.

"Whatever happens between Allen and I, I guarantee the day after the election that I'll be his best friend," he said.

The 3.5-hour forum featured a question-and-answer session with candidates from six local and area races.

In the race for Ellis County Clerk, deputy clerk Donna Maskus, a Democrat, is vying for the seat against Republican Robert "Butch" Schlyer, the Ellis County health administrator.

When asked about the reliability and safety of using electronic voting devices, Maskus was comfortable with the present system.

"Electronic machines, there's a lot of checks and balances on that machine," she said. "It's tested, re-tested. I feel confident in it."

Schlyer said he preferred paper ballots, saying voters can only hope for the best with electronic voting.

"We can only have faith when we push the 'go' button, that everything is recorded, and recorded right," he said. "I hope it is."

In the race for Ellis County Commission, District 2, Democrat Dennis Pfannenstiel and Republican Barbara Wasinger answered questions.

When asked if they were in favor of wind farms, Pfannenstiel said he was in favor of them, while Wasinger said she had no issue with them, as long as they followed regulations.

"I'm definitely for wind energy," Pfannenstiel said.

Pfannenstiel, who previously was on the commission, wasn't a commissioner when an administrator was hired.

"Personally, I don't think they needed the county administrator," he said.

Wasinger said the county administrator position is "a work in progress."

"Anytime you change things, it's difficult," she said.

Democrat Dean Hazelhorst and Republican Ron Adams are running for the Ellis County Commission, District 3 seat.

Hazelhorst said a Chicago company is going through the process of obtaining a commercial wind farm license.

"I honestly think it will be the first wind farm in the county, excluding Fort Hays' project," he said. "It will be the first commercial wind energy project in the county.

"I'm hoping from there, it'll grow leaps and bounds."

Both candidates were asked about possibly transitioning to a pay-as-you-go system instead of raising property taxes or sales taxes for big projects.

Hazelhorst didn't see that as a viable alternative now, but perhaps in the future.

Adams thought "pay-as-you-go would be very difficult in our county."

"Until you sit down and prioritize everything, I don't believe you can pay as you go," he said.

In the race for Kansas House of Representatives, District 10, Democrat Philip Martin and Republican Travis Couture-Lovelady both supported gun rights.

"I know it's not a popular thing, to get rid of those gun-free zones, but I think it's absolutely a necessity for individual liberties and freedoms for the ability to defend ourselves," Couture-Lovelady said. "Until we stop the fear tactics and actually get down to business, we're not going to be safe in those places. It's putting our good Kansas at risk."

Martin, a gun owner, said he liked to hunt.

"I just can't hit," he said, drawing laughter.

Martin did stake out a position on extended clips.

"I'm a lot worried about hundred-round clips, and access to those," he said.

Only one candidate did not have an opponent present at the forum. Republican challenger Sue Boldra was present, but Democrat incumbent Eber Phelps was absent.

Phelps sent out a news release Tuesday morning saying he would not attend the forum, which was held on Patriot Day, the 11th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2011, attacks.

"There are plenty of opportunities to engage in partisan politics, but the anniversary of the worst disaster to strike the American people in this century is not one of them," Phelps said in the statement. "I would encourage others to attend the church of their choice and remember the many innocent people who lost their lives."

"Eber Phelps demonized the tea party this morning," moderator Roger Ewing said before Boldra answered questions. "I think we need a response."

Ewing then put an empty chair next to Boldra, much like Clint Eastwood did at the Republican National Convention. Ewing then asked the chair a couple questions, before questioning was turned to Boldra.

The Legislature was unable to come to an agreement on redistricting in the last session, forcing a federal court to do it.

"I think maybe it was time for adult supervision up there," Boldra said. "I think the Legislature acted like a couple bullies on the playground. We need to work across party lines. We need to make sure we're all working for Kansas."