Last night the candidates for the Republican Party nomination for United States Congress from the fourth district of Kansas squared off in a ninety-minute forum at the Orpheum Theater in downtown Wichita.
The candidates for this nomination (and their campaign websites) are Wichita businessman Jim Anderson, Wichita businessman Wink Hartman, Wichita businessman Mike Pompeo, and Kansas Senator Jean Schodorf. Election filing records maintained by the Kansas Secretary of State indicate that Paij Rutschman of Latham has filed for the Republican Party nomination, but little is known about this candidate at this time, and Rutschman did not appear at this event.
Former television new anchor Anita Cochran was the moderator. The event was broadcast live on radio station KQAM 1410, “The Big Talker.”
The forum started with opening statements by the candidates.
Pompeo said, as he often does, that “Washington DC has fundamentally lost its way. There are elected officials there no longer connected to Kansas in the way we all know they need to be.” He traced his biography: Growing up in Southern California, attending West Point and serving in the Army, then attending Harvard Law School and working three years as a lawyer. He came to Wichita to start an aerospace company that he said grew to one of the five largest aircraft subcontracting companies. Today he runs Sentry International, a company that services the oilfield industry.
He told the audience that “the candidates sometimes sound like they’re saying about the same thing. But listen closely — we could not be more different.”
Hartman that he is the “only Kansan in the race.” He said he was born and raised in Wichita, graduating from Southeast High School and working his way through Wichita State University. He said he had a “multitude of jobs” including painting houses, selling trashcans door-to-door, and repossessing cars.
Hartman told the audience “I am a businessman. I am not a politician. I’m not trying to build a political resume.” He said he has learned to balance a budget, meet a payroll, and how to work with increasing government regulation and taxes. He said he has created thousands of jobs in this community for over four decades. He promoted his business success as a key qualification.
In his opening remarks Anderson said “I am an American.” He said he has been an airline pilot for 25 years, bringing both commercial and corporate aviation experience and business management experience to this race. “I am the leader out in front to reform government with a Fair Tax, a balanced budget amendment, term limits — the only one fighting for term limits — and a pledge to this community, to this district, for no earmarks.”
He told the inaudible that the Constitution begins with “We the people,” not “We the government.” The government has no right to confiscate our money, dictate morals, and decide on health care. He said he is the tea party candidate.
Schodorf told the audience that she and her opponents are all Republicans, working to get the nomination. She held up as sign reading “JOBS!” and said that the fourth district has the highest unemployment rate in the state. People are hurting in both urban and rural districts, she said, and she wants to go to Congress to end the recession. She want to work with state and local government to bring back economic development and recovery.
She said she is a native of Independence, although she was born on a military base in North Carolina. She said she wants to bring the tanker contract back, and wants to bring back jobs from Mexico. Her experience in the Kansas Senate and background in education will help her “hit the ground running,” she said.
The first question directed at all candidates had to do with the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Has it changed your view on drilling in deep waters in the Gulf? The need for energy independence was stressed by all candidates except Schodorf. She recommended that all oil companies voluntarily stop drilling until safety plans are reviewed and approved.
The second question asked about policies that should be changed or implemented to increase the creation of private sector jobs.
Answering first, Hartman said he has experience in this area. He said the current income tax structure limits the ability of business to grow and that the Fair Tax should be discussed. He added that regulation places a burden on business, and that regulation must be reduced.
Anderson said that the Fair Tax is the “bottom line,” adding that government controls us through the tax code.
Schodorf said she is the only candidate who has voted on taxes, listing several business tax cuts she had voted for in the Kansas Senate over the years. She supports keeping the Bush tax cuts in place. She said that our representative in Congress and the state need to work together to create incentives for business to locate in Kansas, saying that we will be competing with other states for jobs.
Pompeo pointed to his manufacturing experience and how government works to discourage jobs. Government bureaucrats, he said, are not interested in seeing that we are competitive. He criticized the statewide sales tax increase in Kansas. He said that the U.S. has the second-highest corporate income tax rate in the world, which discourages job creation.
Another question: Are there any parts of the recently-passed health care law that you agree with and want to see implemented?
Answering first, Anderson said we should repeal the law because it is unconstitutional, adding that nowhere does the Constitution give government the right to mandate the purchase of health care. Nothing in the plan benefits citizens, he said, adding that tort reform along with the ability to purchase health insurance across state lines is needed. “Let the free market drive the product, and you’ll get a good product at a low price.”
Schodorf said that she liked the portion of the law that prohibits companies to refuse insurance to those with per-existing conditions. The ability of people to stay on their parents’ insurance plans until the age of 26 would keep a pool of healthy people in the insurance pool.
Pompeo said we don’t know what’s in the bill, and that it was a “travesty” the people voted for the bill without knowing. He said it was “radically undemocratic” and rejected the will of the people. Competition always drives improvement in quality and price, and this factor needs to be introduced into the health insurance marketplace.
Hartman said the bill will limit access to quality health care, pointing to poor quality health care in Canada. He recommended tort reform and personal ownership of health insurance policies.
On a foreign policy question relating to the recent incident involving a Turkish ship, candidates agreed that Israel is a friend of America and deserves our support. Pompeo said that Obama’s policies “make our enemies closer” and pushes our friends away, adding that we need to make sure people know America will protect its national security interests. Hartman said Israel is a stabilizing force and has the right, as does America, to defend itself against all enemies. Anderson said the American President should send a message that this behavior will not be tolerated, and that Israel is our friend.
A question asked about the honesty of politicians.
Answering first, Pompeo said that not all politicians are dishonest, but that too many go to Washington and become corrupted by the power. He said that voters should realize that politicians will behave in office like they run their campaigns, so we should ask candidates to tell the truth. If candidates say things that do not match the facts, voters should “call them on it at every turn.”
Hartman said he can’t answer that question, as he’s not a politician. He said that when you elect the same people, you should not expect different results. Politicians drink the Kool-aid when they “go across the river,” saying that they no longer represent you,instead representing personal and special interest groups that have supported them.
Anderson said we need to look closely at who we are electing, noting that some candidates have accepted money from political action committees and from lobbyists. He echoed Hartman in saying that we shouldn’t send “the same people” back to Washington.
Schodorf said she has worked for the people of Kansas in her job in the Kansas Senate. She added that voters should look at what candidates believe in, and who they work for.
During a break for radio commercials, moderator Cochran stood behind each candidate to give their supporters a chance to show their support. Pompeo supporters cheered the loudest.
After the break, candidates answered a question directed to them individually. These questions will be covered in another story.
A question asked about whether the recession has changed the candidates’ personal or public spending on credit. Answering first, Anderson said the federal government must balance its budget and that its spending habits must change, starting with an overhaul of the tax system.
Schodorf said that personally she has been saving money and paying off bills. She said the federal government needs a balanced budget amendment to force it to balance its budget as the state of Kansas must. She supports a bi-partisan commission to find ways to cut spending and cut the deficit.
Pompeo said the problems we have today have been caused in large part by bad government decision-making, using Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac as examples. He said that regulators are telling banks that they want them to make loans, but the regulators behave differently.
Hartman said we need to do something about our $13 trillion in debt. More spending will not create prosperity and solve problems, he said, citing the failure of the stimulus program and “cash for clunkers.” He added that we need to shrink the size of government and take a look at the Fair Tax. He said that the amount of federal government debt held by China is a problem.
The candidates each made a closing statement of up to one minute. Going first, Schodorf said she is running for Congress to bring back jobs and economic development. She said she believes in helping senior citizens, the disabled, and our kids. She said the Republican Party needs to be a big tent party, and a party of solutions, not the party of “no.” She said we need to bring sense to government.
Anderson referred to Ronald Reagan’s contention that freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction, and that it must be fought for by each generation. Our country is in trouble, he told the audience, and he said that he is the common sense conservative candidate.
Hartman said that can show something that no one else can: his record of success in the community in creating good-paying jobs.
Pompeo said that we live in the greatest nation in history, but we are on the brink of losing that. He said it is immoral and wrong for Washington to spend the money of the next generation. The federal government has just a few tasks, such as keeping us safe and protecting every human life. Then, he said government should get out of the way.
The event was well-attended, with almost 400 tickets collected. Many more may have gained entrance without a ticket. Candidates had tables in the lobby with literature.
While Cochran did a good job keeping the event on schedule, not all in the audience were pleased with her demeanor. There was one gaffe in particular that was offensive: Schodorf was answering a question and remarked as her time ran out that she forgot something she meant to say. Cochran interjected “Sometimes Alzheimer’s kicks in right at the right time,” adding that she was “not kidding, that Alzheimer’s is horrible.”
During the intermission for radio commercials moderator Cochran let the crowd indicate its support for each candidate by cheering. Pompeo seemed to be the crowd favorite by a large margin. This was not a scientific poll, but an indication of the sentiment of those in the audience.
During the forum, Schodorf twice held up a sign reading “JOBS!” saying she’d just been to a rally. That rally was sponsored by union members, and its purpose was protesting the outsourcing of jobs by Wichita manufacturers (See Aviation workers rally to protest outsourcing.) During this forum Schodorf mentioned returning jobs from Mexico.
The issue of job creation is important to two of the candidates who promote their business experience as qualifications for this position. Two remarks should be noted: First, business and government are two very different fields. The businessman is motivated by profit; indeed, profit is the measure of success. But government has no ability to profit, and thereby no such yardstick.
Second, to a business, jobs are are a cost that is to be minimized. There are not many businessmen who create jobs just for the sake of creating jobs. Instead, they hire workers because there is work to be done, and if that work is done, profit will be (hopefully) generated. This is not to minimize the accomplishments of Hartman and Pompeo, as both have been successful in business and are to be commended for that. But claims that job creation is the reason for a business’s existence must be questioned.
While Anderson has not had the same type of business management and entrepreneurial experience as Hartman and Pompeo, the responsibility of being the captain of a jet airliner with several hundred passengers on board is not a trivial experience.
Additional coverage from State of the State KS is at Anderson, Hartman, Pompeo and Schodorf Answer Tough Questions in Debate at Wichita’s Orpheum Theatre.