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It's time to mask up and vote

If you’ve been holed up at home since sweater weather, unwilling to venture out into our pandemic-plagued world, Tuesday should be an exception.

It’s Election Day in Kansas, and while it might seem from TV as if it involves nothing more than a bunch of mudslinging by indistinguishable candidates auditioning for roles in professional wrestling, you still need to mail in your ballot, vote early at the courthouse, or venture out to the polls.

Election booths are private and sanitized regularly, often by crews of community-spirited volunteers who understand the risks all too well because they face them, too.

You won’t have to worry about being within six feet of anyone for 10 or more minutes. Just do your duty: Put on a mask and vote. Doing so will protect others as well as yourself.

Imagine if the only people who vote are the self-absorbed ignoramuses who constantly complain that COVID-19 isn’t a big deal and that face masks infringe on their liberty. A government composed of people they might vote for could well be more dangerous than the disease itself.

As is our tradition, we won’t endorse any candidates. But because there have been so few opportunities for issues to be debated this year, we want to identify for you what we and others seem to think are the prime reasons for voting or against for each of our local candidates.

 County treasurer — Both Susan Berg and Rhonda Casey-Curry appear to have sufficient experience to run an office that, under law, allows little discretion for the officeholder.

Berg has more direct experience, having worked in the office itself, and might provide for a smoother transition.

Casey-Curry, who has worked in the clerk’s office instead, still is quite familiar with the treasurer’s office but is perhaps a bit less tied to the policies of incumbent Jeanine Bateman. Both candidates speak at length about ideas they have for improving operations of what generally has been a fairly well-run office.

The choice may come down to which of the candidates voters believe would have the best approach to customer service.

Berg emphasizes a more human approach — treating customers with respect and dignity and improving logistics. Casey-Curry emphasizes personally being more hands-on and increasing cross-training so all employees can help with all matters. She also wants to expand the office’s use of social media.

 District 2 commissioner — With respected Tampa civic leader David Mueller waiting in the wings as an independent challenger in November, the Republican primary Tuesday won’t be the final word on this race.

Unlike some candidates in other districts, both incumbent Dianne Novak and challenger Mike Beneke are known for aggressive approaches that include doing a great deal of research and sometimes presenting it with dramatic showmanship.

Novak, who declined repeated requests to be interviewed, frequently injects herself into discussion of details of how individual county offices are run. An extremely hands-on and activist commissioner, she appears to align herself with the more libertarian wing of the Republican party.

Despite a history of pulling rather impish political pranks, Beneke is perhaps the only candidate in any district to propose a specific, comprehensive plan for addressing the county’s most longstanding issue — roads. He is more knowledgeable than many might suspect about county issues and is a bit more pragmatic than doctrinaire.

 District 3 commissioner — If you oppose wind farms, Randy Eitzen is your candidate. Unfortunately, that’s about all we know about the positions of this extremely determined and passionate candidate, who says only that he’s in the race for the taxpayer. On advice of his attorney in various lawsuits involving the county and wind farms, he declined to be interviewed.

His opponent, incumbent Randy Dallke, is the longest-serving commissioner, has a wealth of experience, and is a steadfast champion of the interests of his district, sometimes to the detriment of other districts in the county.

 District 4 commissioner — Although most public attention has gone to District 2, the District 4 race is perhaps more interesting, with three candidates vying for a relatively new position on the ballot.

Incumbent Dave Crofoot is the established candidate, less likely to make specific promises than he is to say he doesn’t have answers and will try to approach each situation anew and judge options on their merits.

Challenger Amy Soyez wrongly is thought by some to be another anti-wind-farm candidate. She has amassed extensive experience observing the commission for years and speaks passionately about the need to bring a younger, less entitled perspective and fresh ideas to county decision making.

The third challenger, Tom Britain, has long opposed wind farms, but as with Eitzen, we know little about his other positions because he declined repeated requests to be interviewed.

 Congress — Amid all the mudslinging, it’s hard to distinguish the candidates in this race. All seem to be competing to be more conservative and more connected to established power bases than the next guy. Even those who started out seeming otherwise are now singing the same tune.

Tracey Mann and Bill Clifford are the only two who availed themselves of opportunities to be interviewed. Both intimated that they have been forced by political realities to deal more in hot-button issues than they would like. Both also stress the need for economic development. Mann is more youthful and rooted in Kansas. Clifford is a longtime military veteran and health care provider.

 U.S. Senate — Only one candidate, incumbent congressman Roger Marshall, availed himself of an opportunity to be interviewed. He displayed impressive command of a wide range of issues beyond hot-button topics and lamented the degree to which he has been attacked in the campaign by groups he says are tied to Democrats who hope that one of his more radical — and more easily defeated — opponents wins the primary.

There you have it. These are just our opinion, of course. We could be wrong. But in this COVID-infested election season, we wanted to share whatever we could glean after having had opportunities to talk at length to candidates. Now it’s your turn. Decide on your favorites — or, at least, the least offensive — and go out and vote.

— ERIC MEYER

Last modified July 31, 2020

 

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