CARBODNALE—The Santa Fe Trail Education Association, along with the Kansas-National Education Association, invited state-level candidates running for positions in Osage County to a student-driven debate at SFT High School Oct. 4.
Five area candidates accepted the invitation to the debate, including Renea Hansen, of Berryton, Democratic candidate for the 54th House district; Teressa Briggs, of Reading, Democratic candidate for the 76th district; Eric Smith, Burlington, Republican candidate for the 76th district; Anthony Hensley, of Topeka; candidate and incumbent of the 19th Senate district; and Ann Mah, of Topeka, Democratic candidate for the 4th district of the Kansas State Board of Education.
“Blaine Finch (Republican, 57th House district) declined because he was unopposed, and didn’t want to take up time,” said Alexis Jones, president of the SFT Education Association.
Jones introduced the five participating candidates, who each gave brief introductions before answering questions provided by members of the SFT High School debate team.
Several candidates spoke out against existing policies, noting repeated mention of the Kansas Governor Sam Brownback’s budget.
“The trickle down plan hasn’t even dripped,” said Briggs.
Hensley followed up with a call for budget reform.
“If we can elect more moderate people to the legislature, I think we can move beyond Brownback,” Hensley added.
Debaters presented questions ranging from common core and concealed carry, to the possible colonization of Mars.
“I did not prepare for that question,” Smith said, the moon landing and space race. “I support the nostalgia, but realism says no.”
Candidates noted the technology advances related to the space race, but felt other priorities ranked higher.
“We need a moon-shot issue,” said Mah. “Maybe that goal is creating a green planet.”
Each of the candidates supported training for gun owners; however, Smith was alone in his support of Senate Bill 45, which removed the requirement of gun owners to take a class to concealed carry in the state.
Hansen, a self-described lifelong gun user, spoke out on the issue.
“I personally think, anyone who carries a weapon capable of killing someone should have some kind of training,” Hansen said. “We drive a car, and we have to go though training for that.”
Candidates were in general agreement on local control of school curriculums and stated support of education in the state.
Candidates continued to take questions from students for around two hours before stepping off the stage to join attendees for cookies and refreshments.