A 90-minute debate between candidates running for local and county offices took place Tuesday night in the Memorial Union Ballroom. The debate was open to the public and featured candidates running for Lyon County Clerk, County Treasurer and Commissioners for the second and third district. Emporia State, the American Democracy Project and Associated Student Government sponsored the debate.
The candidates running for Lyon County Clerk are incumbent Republican candidate Tammy Vopat and Democratic candidate Billy Garner, a sophomore secondary social science education major and ASG senator.
“I started this campaign because I want the opportunity to give something back to the Lyon County community,” Garner said. “I believe I have the determination, will and perseverance to be successful in this office.”
Vopat said she is a lifelong resident of Emporia and has worked for Lyon County for 10 years.
“Public service is the most important need to me,” Vopat said. “When someone comes into my office, what they come to me with becomes a priority, if it will help the community.”
Garner said that he opposes the current voter ID legislation, which is one of the primary issues he wants to focus on.
“The voter ID law marginalizes voting rights for students, elderly and low income citizens,” Garner said. “As County Clerk, I would introduce better legislation to address to the voter ID issue. All individuals need to be able to get out there and vote.”
Vopat said that the voter ID law had to be dealt with, but it also shouldn’t be a hindrance to voters.
“The new Voter ID law is very complex – however, we have to work with (it),” Vopat said. “But we are taking measures to get those without IDs to get them and be able to vote. We would be willing to bend over backwards to get more people without IDs to register and vote.”
Vopat said although she is not necessarily opposed to voter ID legislation, she does support making the requirements more flexible for citizens without an ID card.
“It’s cumbersome and not voter-friendly,” she said.
One point Garner made was that reducing funding would have a “terrible effect on the speed and function of the office.”
“Things may need to be cut, but not everything needs to be cut,” Garner said. “There definitely needs to be a change in how the budget is handled.”
In Vopat’s case, she said she would make the budget more efficient.
“During my experience as four years in office, I’ve made local government more transparent,” Vopat said.
The candidates running for Lyon County Treasurer are Democratic candidate Sharon K. Gaede, who is currently the county motor vehicle supervisor, and Republican candidate Lisa Jones, a cash clerk for the Treasurer’s office.
“I am honest, dependable, trustworthy and reliable,” Gaede said. “I pledge to have an open door policy. I believe in the Golden Rule, and I will apply it to my policies in office.”
Gaede said she opposes cuts to the Motor Vehicle Department.
“The Motor Vehicle Department has made vast improvements as of recently,” Gaede said. “It is faster than recent years. Production has increased, not decreased. I am still working diligently on improving the new system.”
Jones said she disagrees with Gaede’s position on the Motor Vehicle Department’s current efficiency, but she does agree with Gaede’s position against cuts to the department.
“The (current motor vehicle) system is slower than the old system,” Jones said. “I would make changes that reflect the older system. I don’t see how the (department) can function with any less people, though.”
Gaede said she thought the Motor Vehicle Department had enough staff already.
The candidates running for Second District Commissioner are Democratic candidate Mike Dorcey and Republican candidate Dan Slater, who is currently County Controller.
“I have demonstrated my ability to lead,” Dorcey said. “I’ve worked with other community volunteers to revamp Peter Pan Park and provide aid for the victims of the Reading tornado.”
Slater said the reason he is running for office is to manage the budget, and he would like to see an increase of jobs in the community. He also said he supports the sales tax extension.
“It seems unfair, but places in our community really need that money,” Slater said.
Dorcey said he supports a sales tax extension in short term, but not the current extension proposed – he does not support long-term sales tax. Dorcey also said he would oppose most of the proposed cuts to local departments.
“We live in difficult times,” Dorcey said. “We have to live more prudently, but if we keep cutting, we will bring down the living quality of the community. I doubt there are that many efficiencies to cut, but there may be a few.”
Slater has a different position than Dorcey’s on the law enforcement consolidation issue.
“Law enforcement is tricky to consolidate,” Slater said, “but it’s something that will have to be looked at in the future.”
The candidates running for Third District commissioner are incumbent Republican candidate Rollie Martin and Democratic candidate Richard H. Kennison Jr.
“I decided to run because I believe the people need a representative that will truly represent them,” Kennison said. “They need someone who will listen to them.”
Martin said he believes he has an open mind to deal with the issues he is currently facing. He also supports the sales tax extension.
“It will present a diversity of income to benefit the community,” Martin said. “It helps the county, helps the city of Emporia and it helps the small towns.”
Kennison said he does not support the proposed sales tax extension and that he will work with any political party, as long as it helps the people.
“Lyon County needs three things,” Kennison said. “We need increased jobs, decreased government spending and relief from an unbearable tax burden. I can achieve these three things.”
Elections are Nov. 6, and the voter registration deadline is Oct. 16.