Suzy Finn - YPW Executive Director
On April 11, Kansans in the 4th Congressional District will go to the polls to elect a new Member of Congress to the seat that was recently vacated by CIA Director Mike Pompeo. YPW was able to ask each of the candidates—Ron Estes, Republican; James Thompson, Democrat; Chris Rockhold, Libertarian—a set of questions to raise awareness about the candidates’ views on subjects that will likely be addressed during the 115th Congress (2017-2018).
Early voting in this election starts Monday, March 27. Click here to learn more about your options to vote early. You can use the following links to check your polling location and your voter registration status.
For additional information on each candidate, please check the resources below. This article also summarizes the televised debate in late March.
If elected, what can you do to promote the retention and growth of young professional talent in Wichita and across the 4th District of Kansas?
Estes: The answer is to get the economy growing again so that there are entry level opportunities and greater opportunities for advancement here in South Central Kansas. Unfortunately, the 4th district has felt the pain inflicted by the Obama administration on our economy. As an engineer in the private sector, working in the aerospace industry and as former Sedgwick County Treasurer, I have seen firsthand what it takes to create jobs and the problems that occur when government gets in the way. I am committed to fighting to roll back the burdensome regulations and out of control spending that keep the economy from reaching its full potential.
Thompson: Wichita (and Kansas in general) has produced amazing talent but is not keeping people here in general. The need to encourage incentives that develop opportunity for all talent in our area is vital. While there will always be the appeal of re‐locating for the purposes of conducting business, the ability to develop in a place like the 4th District that has a history of entrepreneurship and innovation is one that deserves support.
Specifically, we need to ensure we retain young professional women in our district. Recently James Chung told us Wichita’s inability to retain these women costs our city $176 million a year in economic growth. That’s unacceptable. We need to work to make sure our city is a welcoming environment that has the benefits and policies in place to let young people thrive. Paid family leave and ensuring equal pay for equal work are two good ways to start.
Rockhold: Make it easier for people to go into business for themselves. Our current laws and tax practices make it very difficult for small businesses to thrive. Large corporations lobby congress for laws and policies that help them, and in the end, wipe out entrepreneurship.
What can Congress do to improve current US trade policies, and how would your position affect this region of the state?
Estes: South Central Kansas relies heavily on trade, with aerospace, agriculture and energy all tied directly to foreign trade. I support free and fair trade. Now is a good time to take a second look at what has benefited the district, and revisit parts of existing trade agreements that have had a negative impact on our communities.
Thompson: The U.S. government needs to execute better trade policies in general. While TPP was too broad of an agreement and would have done little to help local businesses and markets, there should be more that is done to help the people of the 4th Congressional District.
The major manufacturing and production sectors of our local economy have not been supported over recent years. This has resulted in developing a situation that has hurt local workers and businesses, meaning that the ability for our local economy has suffered. While Wichita is one that has supported a culture of creation, innovation, and entrepreneurship, that has been stifled. What is needed is support for creative ideas to take their ideas to the larger market, allowing for growth and innovation.
We need targeted trade bills that protect our workers, help our farmers get their product to market, and let the 4th District maintain its place as a global leader in aviation.
Rockhold: We need to look at our current trade partners and see if there are any obvious lopsided trade deficits. We should always encourage free trade with countries willing to buy US products and services. Countries which have a clear trade advantage should either pay tariffs, or level the field. We should stop giving tax breaks to companies who relocate their manufacturing abroad.
Comprehensive tax reform has been an elusive goal for many years. If the 115th Congress takes up this task, what are your priorities for tax reform?
Estes: Tax reform is a once in a generation event. The last time we had comprehensive tax reform was in 1986. We have an opportunity to create a simplified, fairer, flatter tax code free of ad-hoc deductions and tax breaks that will relieve the burden placed on American families and rein in the power of the IRS bureaucracy. What needs to be done is fairly simple, but getting it done is hard.
Thompson: While most of the issues that I have with taxation and tax reform come from the Kansas taxation codes, the current Federal tax plan is not fair. It’s far too complex, it often creates bad incentives, and primarily benefits those who know how, and can afford, to game the system. I would support a fairer tax structure that helps our middle and working class thrive. We need our tax policies to support those who need our help the most.
Rockhold: Abolish the IRS. Adopt a flat tax, or consumption tax without loopholes. End corporate welfare. Stop subsidizing large corporations.
It appears that Congress is set to take up a major health care reform debate for the second time in less than a decade. What do you think Congress should focus on in terms of improving our nation’s health care system?
Estes: Families and individuals in the 4th district should be the primary voice in making their healthcare decisions, not unelected Washington bureaucrats. I support replacing Obamacare with a state based free market solution that gives each of us greater authority over our health care decisions.
Thompson: The Affordable Care Act was not perfect, but it took major strides towards improving the access to health care resources for many in the United States. The recently introduced Republican plan does not extend those protections in the same way as the original bill does. We need to work on a policy that doesn’t fully repeal and replace the ACA, but one that improves upon it for all people.
We can’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. This rushed approach of uprooting the entire system could throw 24 million people off insurance, and that’s a misguided approach.
Rockhold: We need to look at why healthcare is so expensive. We need to examine rules at the FDA that favor big pharmaceutical companies. We need to legalize marijuana use especially for people that see it as an alternative medicine.
Should Congress address the subject of immigration during the 115th Congress? If so, in what areas would you focus your attention during that debate?
Estes: For decades, Washington insiders have ignored the realities on our Southern border. This is unacceptable. The American people are not safe when we do not know who is entering and leaving our country. Securing the border must be our first priority. Our immigration process must deter criminals and terrorists from entering illegally while providing a fair, efficient process for law abiding individuals wishing to pursue the American dream.
Thompson: Immigrants want what we all want: to work hard, play by the rules, and achieve the American Dream. We need to build a firm, fair, inclusive system that encourages the best and brightest to live, work, and raise families in Kansas. We need to discourage illegal activity while protecting the Constitutional rights of those who live among us. We must reward those families who have served our nation through military service with special consideration for citizenship. And we must continue to be a safe harbor for refugees whose lives are threatened by evil in our world.
Since its founding, our nation has been strengthened by immigrants of all races and faiths. Immigrants fought for America at its birth. Immigrants helped build soaring skyscrapers in our cities. Today, many immigrants power our South Central Kansas economy in agriculture, high tech, and manufacturing. We send our kids to school with immigrants during the week. We worship with immigrants on Sunday. They’re our friends and neighbors.
I will fight for a firm but fair immigration reform plan that protects hardworking families while beefing up enforcement against criminals. It’s imperative we fight for a pathway to citizenship for those whose families served our national and positively contribute to our society. As with every policy, our Constitution and the Bill of Rights must be the guiding influence in our decisions.
Rockhold: Of course, we should address it. We need sensible immigration policies. We need to find a way to enable people who are here to have legal working status, and make sure they are being treated fairly. If we want to make sure people are integrating into society, have a path to citizenship which they can earn, while learning English, and American history and civics.
On March 6th, the President signed a revised executive order that now excludes travel into the U.S. from six countries (Iran, Syria, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen, and Libya), and temporarily bans the admittance of new refugees for 120 days. Will this make the country safer?
Estes: It can help make America safer. The United States relies, in part, on other countries to provide information about their citizens traveling to the US. The six countries listed in the executive order do not provide reliable information, yet are common sources of terrorist activity. Until the six countries are willing or able to provide credible information about their citizens traveling abroad, it makes sense to restrict travel from those countries. Similarly, a four month pause in the immigration program to review the vetting process will help ensure the safety of all Americans.
Thompson: No. This ban is a politically-motivated, divisive distraction. While those that support the president claim that these are the most dangerous nations that cannot protect their own citizens, there are noticeable omitted states, like Saudi Arabia. This attitude of religiously-motivated bans strikes against the core of what America stands for. It hurts our standing on the world stage. It hurts real people. Perhaps most important, it strikes me as flatly unconstitutional.
Rockhold: No. What I find ironic is when people say Libertarians are “isolationists” for not wanting to go to war, yet when it comes to people coming here to escape hardship, now we’re building walls and banning entrance. This does nothing to make us any safer.