- Associated Press - Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Hutchinson News, Oct. 17

Sherow for Congress:

Voters of the First District have two distinct choices this election for U.S. House of Representatives.

There’s no question what the district will get by re-electing Rep. Tim Huelskamp - an antagonistic extremist who would rather see that nothing at all gets done if it’s not done in exactly the way he demands.

Jim Sherow, on the other hand, offers an alternative - a representative who is pragmatic, well-educated on the issues and willing to work with other members of the House to serve the interests of Kansas and the country.

Huelskamp’s message is tired, threadbare and empty. All of the problems in the world can’t be traced to Barack Obama or Nancy Pelosi. In fact, some of the blame rests with the U.S. House of Representatives and members such as Huelskamp, who have relied on irrational fear to justify their obnoxious approach to governance. And it’s more than a little contradictory that Huelskamp warns that Washington, D.C., is a vile place that means us harm while telling us that he is different than everybody else.

Huelskamp’s abrasive style got him booted from the House Agricultural Committee, the first time in 100 years that Kansas has lacked representation for its largest industry. He has an unhealthy obsession with Obama, and his positions, while seemingly genuine, are based on the misguided idea that the market cures all ills and that government can do no good.

Sherow, on the other hand, can point to his work as mayor of Manhattan as proof of his ability to work with others to achieve a common goal. Consequently, Manhattan is not just one of the fastest growing cities in Kansas but in America. That was achieved by deploying a deliberate plan for growth that leveraged resources of both local government and private business. In Huelskamp’s world, only the market creates, yet the nation’s infrastructure - our roads, railways, airports, water systems - defy that faulty logic.

It will be difficult for many voters of the First District to elect a Democrat to national office, but a Democrat is better than the ineffective representation we’ve seen with Huelskamp. The current congressman - through his abrasive demeanor and empty message - is damaging the interests of Kansans and weakening our role in leading the nation toward sensible solutions for serious and pressing problems.

Sherow offers voters a chance send a sensible representative to Washington who would represent Kansas instead of a tired and worn platform that generates energetic talking points but accomplishes absolutely nothing.

___

The Kansas City Star, Oct. 18:

Strong challengers for U.S. House in Kansas’ 2nd and 3rd districts:

The outcome of the race for U.S. House from Kansas’ 3rd District has little chance of changing the dynamic of the Republican-controlled body.

Still, 3rd District Kansans, including voters in Wyandotte and Johnson County, do have a real choice. They could replace a consistently right-leaning voice with someone who would bring a centrist passion to the job and could very well help detoxify the hopelessly partisan House.

That alternative to business as usual is Kelly Kultala. She is no stranger to politics, having built a local record of service over the last two decades. She served as a commissioner of the Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kan., and in the state Senate for four years. Her underfunded campaign against the incumbent, Rep. Kevin Yoder, is focused on health care, education and other fundamental issues that hit families in the pocketbook or otherwise affect their day-to-day lives.

The soft-spoken Kultala pledges to work to bring jobs to the district, help women get equal pay for equal work, support comprehensive immigration reform and find a tenant for the downtown Kansas City, Kan., building that formerly housed the EPA’s regional headquarters.

Yoder is able, ambitious and energetic, and he has scored some welcome points with shows of bipartisanship. But when the full measure of his congressional stint is taken, he has shown a disappointing tendency to abandon the needs of his diverse constituents while polishing his political credentials on the GOP’s right flank. He has tried to paint himself as a moderate but many of his votes in Congress paint him otherwise.

He voted against ending the government shutdown a year ago - although he’ll finesse that by pointing to rather meaningless votes that took place before the final showdown. His stands on immigration reform and the Affordable Care Act come straight from the hardliner playbook.

Kultala has personal experience with a health-care system in need of the kind of overhaul that the Affordable Care Act has begun to address. Her husband has had a serious medical problem that almost forced her family to file for bankruptcy, she said.

“I don’t think any family has to face financial ruin when someone gets sick,” she told The Star’s editorial board recently.

The 3rd District spans a wide spectrum of income levels from the poorest urban dwellers of Wyandotte County to the richest of the rich in Johnson County. Its residents increasingly reflect immigrant cultures from the world over. Kultala appears to have the talent, the sensitivity and the genuine political radar to address the needs of all.

2nd District

Margie Wakefield has practiced law in Lawrence for 29 years and has a family history of public service. She worked for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign in 2008 and now is waging an uphill though not impossible campaign against three-term GOP incumbent Rep. Lynn Jenkins.

Wakefield says that as she travels the 25 eastern Kansas counties in the district, she is consistently surprised by the level of frustration expressed toward Congress in general and Jenkins in particular over the appearance that nothing good is being done in the Republican-controlled House.

In more than five years as a House member, Jenkins more often than not voted on behalf of business interests rather than consumers and workers. She has voted to cut education spending, Head Start programs and Pell grants for college students. Wakefield, by contrast, would make support for public education one of her top priorities.

If elected to Congress, Wakefield also would first ask to serve on the House Agriculture Committee, providing a voice on that panel that farmers in the district and across Kansas have lacked for a few years. Jenkins voted against the 2014 Farm Bill. Wakefield and many farmers she has spoken with in her travels recognize that the Farm Bill was not perfect. But they’re willing to trade off the things they don’t much like for some of the certainty of doing farm business that the legislation provides. That sounds like rational compromise, which the U.S. Capitol sorely is in need of and which partisans like Jenkins have failed to provide.

Wakefield has been boosted by increasing attention on this and other nail-biter races in GOP-dominated Kansas.

Despite being outspent by a wide margin, she feels confident about her campaign’s efforts on television and in door-to-door appeals since Labor Day. She praises the work that 6,000 volunteers are doing on her behalf.

Second District voters should feel comfortable sending this moderate Democrat to Washington at a time when the nation’s capital can use much more moderation and a genuine feeling for the lives of real people.

___

The Wichita Eagle, Oct. 16

Kids losing in DCF audits:

The Kansas Department for Children and Families has found a new way to make life difficult for struggling families and the agencies that help them.

DCF has been conducting aggressive audits of Early Head Start programs. The preliminary audit reports recommend that DCF force 12 programs to repay about $650,000 in grant money - not because of fraud or waste but because of accounting issues such as missing forms (even when those forms don’t exist).

The harassing and uncertain nature of the audit was one reason why Wichita-based Child Start, one of the state’s largest child-development programs, decided earlier this year not to reapply for nearly $1 million in state grant funding. As a result, about 90 area children are no longer in the program.

“I’ve never seen anything like this,” said Teresa Rupp, who has been executive director at Child Start for 31 years.

Early Head Start supports low-income families with pregnant women, infants and toddlers. It is federally funded, with some programs receiving state-administered grants, and is regularly audited. Rupp said that the federal government conducts a full independent audit of Child Start every year.

In December 2011, DCF decided to change the scope of its own audits. Now it is examining every transaction and virtually every time sheet and form.

“It is kind of like going after a fly with a sledgehammer,” Rupp told The Eagle editorial board.

The auditors recommended that Child Start be required to pay back almost $85,000, primarily because it didn’t have written approval from DCF to spend more on home visitations than was originally planned. Rupp said that DCF approved the expenditure.

“We called DCF and asked if there was a form we needed to fill out, and they said ‘no,’ that as long as we let them know, that was enough,” she told the Kansas Health Institute News Service.

Other Early Head Start programs have received similar notices. A Topeka program was notified that hundreds of thousands of dollars in funding might be withheld because it changed some job titles without notifying DCF.

“We’re talking about the same people with the same responsibilities, working the same hours with the same funding stream - but with different titles. And they were all disallowed,” the program’s director told KHI News Service.

A DCF spokeswoman said the agency has an obligation to taxpayers “to ensure that funds are being used as intended.” So far, it has spent $222,000 on the audits. But KHI News Service noted that some in the Head Start community think the audits are connected to the Legislature’s rejection of Gov. Sam Brownback’s 2011 proposal to eliminate state funding for Early Head Start - a claim DCF denies.

The audits do fit a pattern. In recent years, DCF has raised eligibility requirements for receiving welfare and food stamps, turned down federal funds aimed at helping needy Kansans, and intimidated agencies that challenged it.

The audits are the latest example of DCF treating providers and the people they serve as if they were crooks.

___

Lawrence Journal-World, Oct 17:

Voter trends:

As the voter books closed this week, the good news was that despite new registration requirements and a barrage of negative campaign advertising, Kansans still care enough to register and, hopefully, vote on Nov. 4.

According to preliminary numbers released by the Kansas Secretary of State’s office, the state gained about 8,370 voters between the August primary and Tuesday, the registration deadline for the Nov. 4 election. The state now has a total of about 1,743,790 voters.

The latest registration numbers show a decline of 8,970 unaffiliated voters. Republicans picked up 12,265 new registrants, while Democrats picked up 4,813 statewide and Libertarians gained 262 voters. Statewide, 44.6 percent of voters are registered as Republicans, 24.5 percent as Democrats, 2.1 percent as Libertarians and 30.2 percent as unaffiliated.

It’s not a surprise, that the breakdown is a little different in Douglas County, which had an increase of 833 voters between the August primary and Wednesday. Douglas County Clerk Jamie Shew says county voters traditionally split about evenly among Democrats, Republicans and unaffiliated, but recently the total of unaffiliated voters has been rising. In the most recent figures, Democrats gained 768 voters and now represent 34.3 percent of county voters; Republicans gained 504 voters and now have a 28.7 percent share. However, even with a decline of 473 voters, the unaffiliated category still is the county’s largest, with 35.8 percent of the voters.

Shew said his office is working to collect proof-of-citizenship information to complete registrations for about 900 county residents, a number that has swelled recently because of local voter registration drives. Statewide, he said, about 23,000 voter registrations remain “in suspense,” awaiting proof of citizenship. Those voters can complete their registrations by presenting a birth certificate or other documentation up to the day before the election, he said, but bringing those documents to the polls on Election Day will be too late.

One discouraging note for Douglas County is a downward trend in total voter registration. For the 2008 presidential election, voter registration spiked at 83,175 and, by the midterm election of 2010, had fallen to 79,820. The county’s current registration of 75,760 is about 5 percent below the 2010 figure.

Even though this is a midterm election, Kansas has a number of important and hotly contested races on the Nov. 4 ballot. It’s too late to register for that election but, if you’re registered, it certainly isn’t too late to become educated and cast a ballot. County registration numbers may be down, but we hope voter turnout and participation still will be high.

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