LAWRENCE — Several Democratic gubernatorial and congressional candidates gave endorsements of “progressive values” at a forum hosted Saturday by the Kansas Young Democrats, where a new candidate joined the growing field of governor-hopefuls.
Arden Andersen — a doctor and member of the U.S. Air Force Reserves and a former teacher — has joined the Democratic gubernatorial primary race and advocated for more spending on healthcare and education Saturday at the Kansas Young Democrats Convention in Lawrence. Andersen, 59, said he is a family practice and occupational doctor in Lansing and lives in Olathe. He appeared alongside fellow Democratic candidate and former Secretary of Agriculture Josh Svaty, who also advocated for investment in education. Gubernatorial candidate and Former Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer also spoke and took questions from the audience in a later session.
“Education is really the economic generator, not tax cuts,” Andersen said in an interview.
John Gibson, chair of the state Democratic party, said he didn’t expect Andersen’s candidacy and that he met him for the first time Saturday. Gibson said the party supported any candidates who wanted to throw their hat in the ring.
Andersen said he supported the Kansas Legislature’s decision last month to override GOP Gov. Sam Brownback’s veto and increase taxes by $1.2 billion over two years. He said he doesn’t have experience in politics and has historically been an independent, but that he decided to run because he and his wife, Lisa Everett Andersen, constantly discuss the problems they see in their health care practices. Andersen said the state should allocate more resources toward health and education and that his expertise as a doctor and former teacher would help him be an “advocate” for those programs.
“We can say all day that, ‘Oh we don’t want to pay for this. We don’t want to pay for that.’ But we are paying for it in the quality of our society,” he said.
One of those programs he’s interested in is Medicaid expansion. Even if the federal government rolls back the funding for it, Andersen said Kansas should expand Medicaid and find ways to curb costs of the program by ensuring that patients are getting access to preventative care. He suggested raising taxes on tobacco and alcohol to pay for increased health care spending. Taxes on cigarettes are already higher in Kansas than in surrounding states, according to the Tax Foundation.
“We have to have a funding system where we bring funds in so that we do cover that health care cost,” he said.
Svaty and Andersen both encouraged young people to get involved in politics and urged support for education. Svaty said teachers need better pay and to have tenure restored.
Brewer took audience questions at a later session during the convention and said he would support strong education to stop the “brain drain” of students leaving Kansas.
Svaty, a farmer from Ellsworth County, was in the Kansas Legislature during former Democratic Gov. Kathleen Sebelius’ administration and said lawmakers were able to work on “reasonable and sensible state government.”
“For 150 years, the brand of Kansas was a good one,” Svaty said. “I tell people we were in many ways the kind of state that our nation wanted itself to be.”
He said he thought that history had been challenged during the Brownback administration and that Republican gubernatorial candidate and Secretary of State Kris Kobach would be worse for the state. Svaty advocated for reasonable management and “taking care of people” in state government.
Svaty and Andersen also addressed their stances on abortion. Svaty has been called “pro-life” because of his voting record in the Legislature. He said he has taken heat for that from people who support abortion and that he voted according to what his then-constituents wanted. He said he wouldn’t support further restrictions on abortion, but he did not say whether he would roll back any existing abortion policies, like a law passed this year that requires that abortion providers give patients biographical information.
Andersen said he did not support abortion as a “method of birth control,” but he said he supported abortions in cases where a doctor finds a birth defect or in cases where the mother is a victim of rape or incest.
Brewer said in an interview that he supported the right to an abortion.
Democratic congressional candidates urged young voters to get excited about “progressive values,” and several candidates said they would support universal health care. Andrea Ramsey, a Democratic candidate for U.S. Rep. Kevin Yoder’s seat, criticized Yoder’s vote for “Trumpcare,” and said she thought it made him vulnerable in the 2018 Congressional election.
Former gubernatorial candidate Paul Davis also spoke to young voters as he considers a run for the second-district congressional seat that Republican Rep. Lynn Jenkins plans to vacate.