Democrat versus Republican played out on the Carpenter Auditorium stage at Pratt Community College campus as James Thompson and Ron Estes met for Thursday night's candidate forum. The pair sparred over who will be the best person to represent Kansas in the US House of Representatives, and, by the time the forum had ended, the […]

Democrat versus Republican played out on the Carpenter Auditorium stage at Pratt Community College campus as James Thompson and Ron Estes met for Thursday night's candidate forum.
The pair sparred over who will be the best person to represent Kansas in the US House of Representatives, and, by the time the forum had ended, the two clearly offered differing visions of just what this means.
Thompson, the Democratic candidate, emphasized his background coming from poverty and homelessness as a youth, as well as his military experience. He essentially said that this background will help him to better understand and communicate across racial and socioeconomic lines, compared to his opponent.
Estes, the incumbent and Republican candidate, emphasized, several times that he is a proponent of less government and suggested that it might not be a bad idea to move various departments of the government away from Washington DC to spread the wealth around, since the six wealthiest counties in the country form a hub around the Capitol city. For example, he suggested it wouldn't be a bad idea to 'move the Department of Agriculture to Kansas' or the 'Department of the Interior to Utah, where there are a lot of parks.'
Throughout the debate, Estes repeatedly called for 'an end to partisan bickering.' He said that this is the one thing that he would change, if he could, to make Washington a better place. He essentially said that if politicians spent less time bickering that much more would be accomplished for the good of the nation.
Thompson said that he would change Washington's modus operandi. 'There is a reason why people hate Washington,' he said, and this is because politicians spend half their day raising money to get re-elected rather than working on the problems the country faces. He called for reforming the election system so that corporations and the wealthy don't have so much influence in the election process.
Estes emphasized that his most important issues were tax cuts, regulatory reform, free trade, supporting veterans, and economic growth. He mentioned, several times, how economic growth is currently at 4.2%, compared to an average of 1.9% during the Obama administration. He also cited, multiple times, how the recent tax cuts had put $2,200 into the pockets of the average American family.
Thompson stressed several issues that are important to him throughout the evening's forum, including fair taxation, reforming the election system 'to get big money out of politics,' and providing affordable healthcare for all. 'No one should be financially ruined because they had an accident or major illness,' Thompson said. Thompson also emphasized providing a 'quick path to citizenship' for the numerous persons who have been working hard and also contributing to the American economy for many years.
If there was a winner at the forum, it was clearly James Thompson. He had the most supporters present and they loudly applauded his comments at several points throughout. Thompson made several strong points and emphasized that he is the candidate for positive change who will also fight for the people of his district.
On the other hand, sadly, some of Thompson's supporters undermined this message by their lack of respect for the purpose of the evening, which was to learn more about the two candidates' diverse opinions on various issues. Several persons nearby where my wife and I sat hollered 'liar' or made other disparaging comments while Estes spoke or following the congressman's remarks.
At one point, both Pratt County Attorney Tracey Beverlin, moderator for the event, and Pratt Chamber of Commerce Director Kim DeClue had to remind the audience that this was a public forum intended for the purpose of learning more about each of the candidates and would be shut down if the loud comments continued.
In the end, it really doesn't matter whether the winner of the Kansas' Congressional 4th District has a D or R after his name. What matters most is that the winning candidate puts Kansans first in determining how to vote.