Gubernatorial candidate Jeff Caldwell framed his Libertarian campaign for governor Monday as an opportunity for marginalized Kansans to gain a voice in government and to press a policy agenda highlighted by marijuana decriminalization.
Caldwell is a 32-year-old Johnson County salesman and reformed Democrat who in the past decade embraced Libertarian ideals of small government, modest regulation and respect for civil liberties. He’s competing on the November ballot against Democrat Laura Kelly, independent Rick Kloos, Republican Kris Kobach and independent Greg Orman.
“A lot of people asked me to run for governor because they don’t feel represented,” he said during a meeting with The Topeka Capital-Journal’s editorial board. “I am running to be the lead representative of Kansans.”
He said a statewide survey indicated three-fourths of Kansans would welcome a Kansas law allowing medicinal use of marijuana. The Legislature’s refusal to adopt a bill for medical consumption demonstrates open contempt for the people, he said.
He said about half the state’s population would embrace recreational consumption of pot.
“The state government is completely out of touch with citizens of Kansans,” Caldwell said. “I have always been an advocate since 2006 of full legalization of cannabis.”
The state’s farmers deserve authorization to grow industrial hemp for use in a wide variety of products. Tariffs introduced by President Donald Trump and backlash from China is damaging Kansas export markets and making it urgent to find alternative revenue, he said.
The state’s 6.5 percent sales tax on food ought to be reduced and eligibility for Medicaid should be expanded in the state to guarantee insurance of more low-income adults, Caldwell said. It’s time for the state to auction Cedar Crest, the governor’s mansion, and deposit proceeds in the state general fund or given away to a charity, he said.
Caldwell said he would protect K-12 and higher education from spending cuts, but as much as $20 million annually could be saved by the judicial system when he pardoned everyone convicted of a nonviolent marijuana offense.
As governor, he said, a key priority will be expansion of broadband service in rural areas. He would issue an executive order prohibiting discrimination against lesbians and gays, because the “state has no right to discriminate against anyone for any reason whatsoever.”
Safety of foster care children under direction of the Kansas Department for Children and Families requires an increase in oversight by an independent ombudsman, he said. The office needs power to investigate, subpoena documents and review confidential information to better shield children from harm, he said.
DCF should improve incentives to reward placement of children in permanent homes and be more transparent, he said.
Caldwell said children placed with DCF should no longer be permitted to sleep overnight in offices of state contractors. DCF has to stop accepting anonymous reports of abuse, he said, but retain confidential reporting of allegations.
All candidates for Kansas governor appearing on the general election ballot were invited to participate in conversations with the Capital-Journal editorial board.