76th District Kansas House candidates appear on KVOE Candidate Forum Featured

Eric Smith (left), Robert Harmon Eric Smith (left), Robert Harmon Courtesy photos

The primary election is now less than three weeks away, and KVOE began its slate of Candidate Forums on Tuesday with a look at the candidates running for the Kansas House 76th District.

Incumbent Eric Smith of Burlington and challenger Dr. Robert Harmon of Osage City touted their experiences, legislative and otherwise, and discussed the raft of issues that have been affected by the state's coronavirus response. Smith, a Coffey County deputy for nearly 20 years and the district representative since 2017, says experience in the Legislature is key with the list of issues to handle come January.

Harmon recently retired after serving the Osage City area as a dentist for four decades. He says he can be a "full-time" lawmaker with a fresh set of eyes on the issues.

When asked whether the state reopened too quickly as part of the COVID-19 response, both Harmon and Smith said Kansas actually didn't open fast enough. Harmon says "you hurt people when you keep them locked down."

Smith says testing has led to increased caseloads at a time when hospitalizations and deaths have dropped.

Both Harmon and Smith say budget adjustments are needed. Neither want to rely on tax increases. Instead, both are looking at spending cuts and, in Smith's case, tax abatements to help small business owners get through the pandemic. Both also say COVID-19 has pointed out the challenges evident in the state healthcare system, but they also say KanCare expansion is not the answer to solving healthcare in Kansas.

Tuesday's forum comes on the day voter registration ends for the upcoming primary Aug. 4. Requested mail ballots go out to voters starting Wednesday. In Lyon County, Flinthills Mall will host an offsite voter event from 8 am to 1 pm Saturday and in-office advance voting begins this upcoming Monday.

KVOE's Candidate Forum returns at 10:06 am Thursday with 51st District House candidates Ron Highland of Wamego and Gary Schuetz of Paxico.

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