Gardner, Edgerton and Spring Hill will have new representation in Topeka once the 2011 Legislature starts in January.
Precinct committee men and women selected Rep. Rob Olson, R-Olathe, to replace Sen. Karin Brownlee, R-Olathe, on Monday night.
“I’m going to fight for you guys in Topeka,” Olson said, taking the podium after the announcement that he would replace Brownlee in the Kansas Senate. “I will be out in all of the communities to find out what we need to do.”
Olson needed 48 votes from the 94 precinct voters in order to take Brownlee’s place. He earned 51 of them to his opponent, Olathe City Council member Ron Ryckman’s, 43.
According to precinct people, the battle was hard fought. Several precinct people reported numerous visits and phone calls from representatives of the two candidates and from the candidates themselves.
During the almost two-hour replacement convention, both candidates and the people who nominated them gave speeches. Precinct voters could then ask both candidates a series of questions.
Brownlee, who will serve as Labor Secretary in Gov.-Elect Sam Brownback’s cabinet, nominated Ryckman to take her place. She said she asked Ryckman to consider running to replace her for three reasons – he follows Jesus Christ; his experience in Olathe shows that he knows how to live within his means; and he is a man of integrity and character.
“This is a person I believe will fill my shoes best,” Brownlee told a roomful of more than 120 people in Spring Hill High School. “He has the character to be a leader in the Senate.”
Mike McGovern, an Olathe precinct person, gave the nomination speech for Olson.
“Rob is a Christian gentleman who is true to his word and a principled conservative who is known and has proven these past 16 years by his performance fighting for his convictions – our convictions,” McGovern said. “I respectfully submit to you, Rob Olson, the most substantiated, prepared candidate to represent Senate District 23 in Topeka.”
Both candidates told the crowd they were concerned with Kansas’ spending.
Ryckman said as a city council member in Olathe, he fought for a budget that didn’t increase taxes while maintaining services. That budget required that the council let go of 20 employees.
“The city of Olathe lives within its means,” Ryckman said. “When you have less money, you spend less.”
Olson said Democrats, with the help of a few Republicans in the Senate, are responsible for the 1 cent sales tax increase this year.
“I stand against tax increases,” Olson said.
Several precinct people brought up the 1 cent sales tax during a 30 minute question-and-answer period. The very first questioner asked if either of the candidates had supported a tax or fee increase in the last two years.
Olson said he voted against the 1 cent tax increase and fought and argued on the floor in opposition.
“I haven’t supported a tax increase,” he said.
Ryckman said he was also disappointed that the Legislature implemented the 1 cent sales tax last year. While he hasn’t supported a tax increase, he said fees in water and sewer utilities are separate from the tax rolls.
“Those fees are driven by costs,” Ryckman said.
Another questioner asked what specific programs both candidates would consider eliminating or reducing to balance next year’s state budget.
Ryckman said the anticipated budget shortfall will be almost $500 million.
“There’s going to be a half billion dollar deficit,” Ryckman said. “There are lots of places we need to look (for cuts)… Specifically, when over 50 percent of our budget goes to education, we have to look at it. There’s going to be lots of other things to look at.”
Olson also said education funding will need to be considered. He said he supports a post legislative audit of all school districts in the state to determine where cuts can be made. He said the budget will also be helped by new Brownback appointees who will likely request smaller department budgets.
Both men voiced their support for gun rights and said they are pro-life. The candidates also agreed that in-state tuition should not be given to illegal immigrants and said they planned to run for the seat again in 2012 if selected to replace Brownlee.
Olathe precinct people will now replace Rep. Rob Olson in the state House of Representatives at a future meeting.