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Why I'm Running

I have always been interested in politics, perhaps because I see politics as a noble cause, with politicians representing the best of us. Politicians should be the people in our communities that are able to talk to anyone, to withhold judgement and prejudice in order to hear the opinions of their constituents and make informed decisions on what is best for the community and the country. Unfortunately, when I see what is happening in Washington now and how our elected representatives act, I can’t help but feel that many of our elected officials represent the worst of us. Politicians hurl insults at their colleagues from the opposite party simply because they have a different perspective. They push partisan solutions that only serves to further divide our country. Unfortunately this problem continues to get worse instead of getting better. The most alarming thing to me is that as the partisan divide gets worse in Washington, the number of politicians that are willing to work across the aisle has continued to diminish. I think it is human nature to get frustrated when you try so hard to make our country and communities better, but you continue to see the atmosphere in Washington get worse because bi-partisan representatives continue to walk away from their very important jobs out of frustration.

When I think about how Kevin Yoder has represented this district and compare him to other representatives, I admit that we could do worse. But I also understand that Kevin has failed us in several notable ways. For example, Kevin Yoder has not held a public town hall in over two years. Communicating with constituents is one of the most important jobs of a representative, but Kevin has been ignoring his responsibility. Recently there was a town hall on gun violence hosted by an independent group that Kevin Yoder was invited to, but he said he wouldn’t attend because it was a ‘Democratic primary event’ even though all candidates were invited. I think that is very telling, because to me it shows that if you’re a Democrat, Kevin Yoder doesn’t care about your opinion. And if he is willing to write off all Democrats, what other groups does he write off? If you’re not a business owner, does he not care about you? A good representative needs to care about all of their constituents! Another failure of Kevin is that I don’t feel he is truly open and honest with us. For example, every comment I have seen from Kevin on the recent tax reform bill is focused on the benefit of the tax decrease, whether on more jobs or more take home pay. Obviously the tax bill has had these benefits, but the tax bill is also estimated to increase the national debt by over $1 trillion over the next 10 years. Kevin claims he is a fiscal conservative, but not once have I seen him express concern over the increase to the national debt that he approved. That is just one of many examples of Kevin trying to hide from negative consequences of his votes by not being honest with us.

Over the past several years as things have continued to get worse in Washington and Kevin Yoder has continued to fail us as a representative, I have felt an urge to stand up and make whatever impact I can to improve the situation. When I think about what we can do to make America better, the number one thing that comes to my mind is that we need to work together. If we can’t work together, America’s enemies don’t even have to try, we have beat ourselves. And that is why I have decided to run for congress, because I know that I can be a candidate that works across the aisle for solutions. I understand that I may not be the most qualified candidate, but I have the demeanor to listen to all sides of an issue. I also have the education and life experience to understand how to improve our government for all Kansans. Most importantly, I have the willingness to be the hardest working congressman that this district has ever had. I may not be able to sustain that level of dedication and commitment to this district for 20 or 30 years, but I know I can do it for two years, and that is all I am asking for right now. Give me two years and I know that I can make a difference! Thank you for your consideration.

The Issues

Abortion

It is my belief that abortion is wrong. However, I also believe the rules and regulations in place and being pursued related to abortion often misses the mark in terms of focus. Current regulations attempt to punish women having abortions and the medical professionals that support abortion. I believe that the problem is on unwanted pregnancies, and that if we can reduce those, then we will reduce the number of abortions. Our focus as a country should be on preventing those unwanted pregnancies, not on punishing those that are forced to make difficult decisions or those trying to support those individuals.

Unfortunately, I don’t see us being able to prevent unwanted pregnancies in situations of rape. That obviously is a very traumatic experience for any person to go through and forcing those victims to then endure the pregnancy seems inhumane. Therefore, I support exceptions for abortions in the case of rape. After that, I believe the best way to prevent abortion is to increase access to medical care for women. I believe this is one of the things that is often missed when talking about the Affordable Care Act (ACA). It is difficult to quantify this as the ACA was only fully implemented in 2014 and that is also the last year that I could find abortion numbers from the CDC for. However, per CDC numbers, 2014 had the lowest induced abortion rate per live births since 1972. From 2011-2014, abortion rates fell by about 11% compared to a 7.5% decrease for the previous 4 years. I think it is hard to argue that the Affordable Care Act did not have a positive impact on reducing abortions, which should be a key goal of every person in America. I believe this is because the law enabled access to medical care for women, which made birth control more affordable and easier to access. We need to continue to focus on how we can improve access to healthcare as a way to fight abortion.

As I mentioned above, Kevin Yoder was a big opponent of the Affordable Care Act and yet he calls himself a proponent of pro-life policies. I believe those two things are contradictory. If you are pro-life then you should be pro-health care for women. As shown above, increasing access to health care decreases the need for abortion. That is good not only for the women that would otherwise need abortions but also good for the health of our country as a whole. The discussion on abortion and healthcare goes hand-in-hand. As your representative, I would work hard with both Republicans and Democrats to put in place policies that have an actual impact on reducing the number of abortions we have each year.

Education


Environment


Global Trade

Another frequent talking point of President Trump has been global trade. I remember during the election, the topic of the Trans Pacific Partnership trade deal (TPP) was frequently mentioned on the campaign trail. Both President Trump and Bernie Sanders were strong opponents of the TPP. I will admit that both as a traditional Republican and a farmer, I am a strong supporter of free trade. As an example of how good global trade is for US agriculture, according to the USDA, from 1992-2007, the value of U.S. agricultural exports worldwide climbed 65 percent. Over that same period, U.S. farm and food exports to our two NAFTA partners grew by 156 percent. If we can increase trade with other global partners similar as we did with NAFTA, I think that is good for the US, and especially good for Kansas and the 3rd district.

However, I do understand that agriculture is just one industry. And while it is a very large and important industry, especially in Kansas, we have to be aware of how trade impacts other industries, such as manufacturing. I think any trade agreement, especially as it ages, needs to be updated to keep it relevant and beneficial to all parties. I don’t think any of our politicians would deny this point. President Trump has been a big proponent of bi-lateral trade deals instead of large trade deals like NAFTA or TPP. To a certain extent, free trade is free trade, no matter if it is bi-lateral or multi-lateral. But, I think there are significant differences in the two. In multi-lateral deals, it is more likely to be truly free trade, as it is difficult to insert protectionist policies for a single group or country if all countries have to sign off on it. As I have read more about the benefits of global trade, one thing I realized is that global trade is often just as much about national security as it is trade. Our country has long used trade as a way to build diplomatic ties. Japan is a great example, as they turned from our bitter enemies during WW2 to one of our closest allies in Asia, largely due to free trade. And the TPP trade deal was at least partially intended to be a response to China’s growing influence in Asia, as China was intentionally excluded from the agreement. Now that the US has abandoned TPP, that has created a void for China to fill in Asia, and continue to expand their influence. That is clearly bad for the national security interests of our country!

I believe Kevin Yoder is also a supporter of free trade, but USA Engage (a trade advocacy group) rated Mr. Yoder at 63%, meaning he has a mixed record on trade engagement. As with many other issues, it is difficult to know exactly where Mr. Yoder stands. As your representative for the 3rd district, I will work hard to promote free trade policies that benefit not only the farmers in the 3rd district and around Kansas, but also our manufacturing workers and workers of other industries. Free trade done right not only helps our workers, but it also helps the national security interests of our country!

Government Regulation

When it comes to government regulation, I support what I will call ‘smart’ regulation. When I say smart regulation, I mean that I support regulation whose purpose can easily be explained and is also implemented in in a way that minimizes the cost of adherence. I am sure that many of us could think of governmental regulations that are difficult to explain, either at the federal, state or local level. And yet I feel that many people today feel that regulation is a dirty word. It would be nice if we could say that regulation was unnecessary, but unfortunately that is not the case. Regulations are necessary because there is always someone that is willing to cut corners and take advantage of others for their own benefit.

One recent example of a need of more government regulation was the risky investing that played a large part in the financial collapse of 2008 that led to the Great Recession. Immediately after the financial collapse, the government spent billions of dollars propping up financial institutions, then implemented new regulations to avoid this type of risk taking in the future. Now the current administration has specifically worked to eliminate just these types of regulations, ignoring the value that these regulations provide. As an example, President Trump issued an Executive Order that for any new regulation, two old regulations must be eliminated. I would like to point out that order did not require an evaluation of the effectiveness or even economic cost of the regulations. President Trump also used a comparison of the Federal Regulations from 1960 (20,000 pages) to today (185,000 pages) to prove his point that regulations are out of control. He conveniently did not mention the huge decrease in pollutants such as carbon dioxide (85% decrease since 1980) or ozone (31% decrease since 1980). I believe that this dramatic decrease in pollution is a direct result of the effective regulations enforced by the EPA. Unfortunately the EPA has done such a good job in reducing pollution, that people now feel that these regulations are unnecessary!

Like many issues, Kevin Yoder’s position on government regulation is not easy to determine. But based on his previous votes and his support of President Trump, who he endorsed in May of 2017, I believe that he shares many of the same views as our President. Mr. Yoder even pushed to eliminate the same regulations that were intended to prevent another financial collapse like we saw in 2008. Kansas needs a strong leader that is willing to stand up and acknowledge the benefits of government regulation, while also being willing to take a hard look at the effectiveness of regulation. As your representative, I would work with legislators across the political spectrum to improve the effectiveness of regulations while eliminating those that impose an undue burden on us all.

Government Spending

I have to start this section by saying that I am a fiscal conservative. I am a fiscal conservative because I believe it is wrong to borrow against our country’s future. I believe this is a misguided attempt to improve our lives by stealing from our children. I used to believe that Democrats were reckless with spending the government’s money, our money. But I now realize that Republicans can be just as reckless. We need strong leaders that are willing to make the hard decisions, and I would support a balanced budget amendment to require our leaders to make these decisions and be responsible with our money.

If we are really going to balance the budget, which I think should be a key priority, we are going to have to look at the biggest budget items. This includes Medicare/Medicaid, Social Security, and the largest discretionary expense, national defense. And when tackling these issues, the solution needs to be bi-partisan. If we work together, Republicans and Democrats, I believe that we really can create great solutions. One solution would be an adjustment to the retirement age for Social Security. When first enacted, the retirement age of Social Security was 65 years, but the average life expectancy was only 61 years. Since then, the average life expectancy has increased 17 years, but the retirement age has increased by only 2 years. Another possible change would be to increase the income limit subject to Social Security, which is currently $127,200 a year, even if it is at a lower tax rate. This is an example of a bi-partisan solution, as this includes both a tax increase on the wealthy, and an increase in the retirement age. I understand many older constituents rely on Social Security, so I believe changes to retirement age should be focused on the younger generation (e.g., those born after 1980). Something must be done to ensure the program remains solvent, and the longer we wait, the more difficult the changes will be.

Kevin Yoder will claim that he is a fiscally responsible congressman, yet this year he voted for a tax reform bill that adds over $1 trillion to the federal deficit over the next 10 years by non-partisan estimates. Regardless of your thoughts on the tax reform bill, the fact of the matter is that Mr. Yoder has chosen to add to our national debt, a debt that is already over $20 trillion dollars. That $1 trillion for the tax plan means that every man, woman, and child in this country will owe an additional $3,000 towards the national debt, not to mention the interest on that debt. That is in addition to the over $60,000 each person currently owns. We need a congressman willing to make the hard decisions, willing to make sure that our money is being spent appropriately. It is very easy to make decisions that make constituents happy like cutting taxes, but that doesn’t make it the right decision. Mr. Yoder is not doing us any favors by continuing to increase our national debt and I will make sure that I don’t continue his irresponsible actions. It is important to note that if we cannot agree on how to cut spending, the only alternative is to raise taxes until we have a balanced budget.

Gun Control

Let me start off by saying that I support the 2nd Amendment and gun ownership. However, I also support common sense legislation to make our country safer. Some people would say that these two positions are incompatible with each other, but I do not believe that is the case. I believe that guns serve a valuable purpose, whether for recreation in hunting, or for personal safety. I also believe that gun owners have a responsibility to be safe, and that is a small price to pay if it saves even one innocent life.

I believe legislation is a necessary tool in making our country safer. I support legislation including requiring background checks for all gun purchases, requiring gun owners to complete safety training, restricting gun purchases entirely for mentally unstable or violent offenders, and restricting purchase of specific weapons or accessories like the bump stock that was used in the horrific Las Vegas massacre. I believe this type of common sense regulation is widely supported, with nationwide support for these types of regulation greater than 70%, as shown by this Gallup poll. And yet the National Rifle Association (NRA) and the Kansas State Rifle Association (KSRA) often impede progress on passing these types of laws.

We need a strong leader in Washington that is not beholden to the NRA. Kevin Yoder is not that leader. Since 1998 Mr. Yoder has received the most money of any current Kansas congressmen from the NRA, as reported by the KC Star. Mr. Yoder has shown time and again that he votes with the NRA interests over his own constituents’ interests. For example, his vote on H.J. Resolution 40 helped rescind a law that was intended to prevent approximately 75,000 mentally ill individuals from purchasing firearms. I will do what Mr. Yoder has not, listen to the 3rd district constituents and stand up to the NRA to pass laws that will make all of us safer, while also allowing those of us that enjoy using guns legally to continue to do so.

Healthcare

Healthcare is another topic that has been in the news a lot, not just lately but over the past decade with the push by the Obama administration to change healthcare, and then the implementation and push to repeal the Affordable Care Act. I will readily admit that when discussions were first ongoing about the Affordable Care Act I did not support it. First, as I mentioned with tax reform, the bill was a partisan bill passed with only Democratic support. Also, the bill required people to get health insurance or pay a penalty. That is not a very Republican approach, as obviously that gets the government more involved in your life. As I researched it though, I found that many hospitals are required by law to treat patients if they show up. The government is already involved in our healthcare, whether we like it or not.

I feel there are two possible solutions; either require everyone to get healthcare or require patients to prove that they are capable of paying their bill before they receive treatment. The Republican in me feels that everyone has a responsibility to take care of ourselves and that if someone is irresponsible and does not have health insurance then they have no right to treatment at a hospital if they are sick. But the Christian in me realizes that is a very callous attitude and that if our hospitals have the ability to treat someone that is sick then they should. It is for this reason that I believe that requiring everyone to have health insurance may be the best solution. Now that the individual mandate has been repealed I worry how much that will cause insurance prices to go up, which will impact all of us. It is interesting to review polls on the popularity of the Affordable Care Act. Many people say they don’t support it, but those same people do support specific provisions in the act. Provisions such as the rule preventing insurance companies from dropping your coverage for getting sick or the coverage for pre-existing conditions are both very popular. I am sure that the Affordable Care Act can be improved upon if we come together and work towards a solution to benefit everyone.

I have taken the time to attend several of the virtual town hall meetings that Kevin Yoder has held. One question specifically stands out to me when I think about how Kevin Yoder represents the third district. During the town hall a man asked Mr. Yoder about his support for fully repealing the Affordable Care Act. He was specifically concerned about what guarantees could be provided that his sick wife would not lose their coverage if the bill was repealed. In typical Kevin Yoder fashion, the answer that he gave ignored the question entirely. His answer focused on how many people had contacted his office voicing support for repeal and he had specific examples of how insurance rates had risen on constituents in the district. We need a representative that is willing to be honest, not a typical politician that gives the safe answer and ignores the hard questions. I understand that our representatives have to make decisions that are not popular with all of their constituents, but in those situations I would be willing to answer questions directly and explain my position. Even if an individual does not agree with my position, I want to make sure they understand why I support it.

Immigration

Immigration became a big issue in the 2016 presidential election and has continued to be a topic of discussion with the policies that President Trump has supported. Unfortunately, I feel that the rhetoric that President Trump has used has not been helpful when discussing how we as a country should address immigration issues. I believe that showing empathy towards immigrants is a good place to start when considering how to handle immigration issues. I am supportive of legal immigration, but I also realize the need to discourage illegal immigration. I believe that immigrants make our country stronger, both by the skills that they bring and also by their perspectives. In my job as an Information Technology manager I have had the opportunity to work very closely with a lot of immigrants. I have seen that they, just like us, want to make a good life for themselves and their families. They work hard and they believe in the American dream.

As far as specific immigration policies, I will start of by saying that I do not support building the wall that President Trump likes to talk about. I understand that a wall could be a useful tool in specific situations, especially in urban areas. But I would rely on the border patrol to determine how best to use the budget that they are provided. I feel that more agents would likely be a better use of our tax dollars. I believe the latest number discussed is that President Trump wants $25 billion to build a border wall on the Mexican border, with no specific plans on how to pay for it. As a fiscal conservative, I cannot fathom how to justify spending that much money on a wall. It would be one thing if it would guarantee our borders would be 100% secure, but I know that will not be the case. If we build a wall, people will quickly find a way around it. As far as the policy on DACA, or ‘dreamers’, I believe that the policy that was in place that allows them to stay in the country as long as they are productive members of society makes a lot of sense. These are people that were brought to America illegally without being given a choice. There are specific guidelines that these individuals must meet, such as not committing crimes. In addition, the program pays for itself through application fees. All of these reasons makes the DACA a great program in my mind. Just like all other policies, I think that if our representatives would work together we could come up with an approach that is a good balance and supports responsible immigration.

I believe Kevin Yoder and I likely have very similar views on immigration. From what I have seen, Mr. Yoder is generally supportive of immigration, although I think he has shown that he is also supportive of some of the more conservative approaches, such as fully funding and building a wall, which I would not support. But I believe that Mr. Yoder supports skills based immigration, which I think is a good starting point on responsible immigration policy.

Money in Politics

I am a strong believer in the need to limit the amount of money involved in politics. Our politicians should be in office to represent their constituent’s interests, not the interests of corporate donors or political action committees (PACs) that can donate an unlimited amount of money. It seems like every year there is a new report of a public official coming under investigation for corruption or improper use of their elected position. As an example, Senator Robert Menendez recently had corruption charges dropped against him. Whether Mr. Menendez’s action truly represent corrupt actions or not, I think the point is that it is difficult to claim that our elected officials are acting in our best interest when they are often focused on securing political donations. At the end of the day, I feel that our politicians are more focused on getting re-elected than they are on being good public servants and representing their constituents, and this should not be the case.

Several years ago, 60 Minutes did a story on how one of the first priorities of politicians once they are elected is to start fundraising for their next election. It is hard for me to explain how upset I was when I first saw the story. The fact that elected officials make it a priority to spend time on fundraising instead of representing their constituents is everything that is wrong with our government. There are several ways we could work to address these issues. First off, I think passing campaign finance reform that would fix the issues raised by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision is a first good step. Limits on political contributions ensures that the rich cannot ‘buy’ political favor. All people should have equal representation in our government, and the Citizens United ruling tilts the tables in favor of the wealthy. There also needs to be more transparency in donations accepted by our elected officials. If we cannot make reforms to money in politics, then I think creating term limits for our elected officials might be a logical step to take. By implementing term limits, donations will naturally have less of an impact, because the political favor a donation gets will be limited to the term of the politician, and then everything starts over when a new representative takes office.

Even though I am sure Kevin Yoder would never admit it, he is a huge beneficiary of corporate money that flows into politics. One obvious example that first made me consider whether Kevin Yoder’s actions as our elected representative were impacted by political donations was when he added an amendment to a must-pass appropriations bill. You can read more about that amendment in this article. The amendment, which eliminated risky investments by FDIC insured banks, was initially drafted by Citigroup lobbyists. Kevin Yoder receives tens of thousands of dollars from PACs run by big banks like Citigroup. If you have never looked, I encourage you to look at the campaign donations Mr. Yoder has received. For example, QC Holdings, a payday loan company, is a big contributor. I personally think payday loans are predatory, and it would cause me to question whether Mr. Yoder’s votes to ease banking restrictions are in his constituent’s best interests, or in the best interests of his donors. As your representative, I cannot promise I would never take campaign donations, but I would do my best to be as transparent as possible with donations I receive, so my constituents are confident that they do not impact how I represent them.

Social Issues

There are many issues that could be classified as a social issue, but I am going to focus on LGBTQ rights and marijuana legalization. First off, let me say that I feel that every human deserves respect and dignity. Therefore, I support LGBTQ rights. I think one of the largest problems with our society today is the lack of empathy shown by people. If I put myself in the shoes of an LGBTQ individual I can imagine that all they want is to be accepted and be allowed to live their life the way they want to just like the rest of us. And I think they should be allowed to do just that. I personally don’t believe that the government should be in the business of issuing marriage certificates anyway, but if our government is going to issue marriage certificates then we cannot discriminate against anyone.

As far as marijuana legalization, while I have never personally had any interest in trying the stuff I can understand why certain people would be inclined to do so. While there are arguments to be made for and against the efficacy of marijuana as a pain reliever for medicinal purposes, I think the argument for it is strengthened when you look at the issues legal opioids have caused. Perhaps if marijuana was legal we would have less of a problem with addictions to other types of drugs. As far as recreational use, I believe consenting adults should have the option to use marijuana just as they have the option to use alcohol. That being said, just as with alcohol I believe there should be restrictions on when and where you can use it. Also, similar to alcohol, I believe the states should have the option to enforce their own laws similar to how states have done since the relaxation of the marijuana enforcement at the federal level. When you look at states that have relaxed their marijuana laws, you see that this can have a positive impact on state tax revenues. I also feel that the amount of money the government would save from not having to enforce marijuana laws or incarcerate violators provide more reason to relax federal marijuana laws.

Kevin Yoder has indicated previously that he is supportive of LGBTQ rights but it is not exactly clear where he stands on marijuana legalization. I believe that is another one of the problems with Kevin Yoder. He is perfectly happy to keep his positions hidden from view. During the 2016 election, when I visited Kevin’s website to review his positions I did not find any signs of the normal ‘Issues’ page. I feel this does a disservice to his constituents. If we do not know where Kevin stands on specific issues, how can we let him know when we disagree with those positions? We can’t! And that is how Kevin wants it. He doesn’t want to have hard conversations with constituents that disagree with his positions. As your representative, I will be willing to have these hard conversations and make sure that all constituents feel represented!

Taxes

Tax reform is something that has been in the news frequently this year with the Republican led tax reform bill that was passed. There are several reasons I do not like the tax reform bill. First, non-partisan projections estimate that it will add over $1 trillion to the national debt over the next 10 years. Second, it is a partisan bill that was passed with nearly no Democratic support. Third, while it may have been discussed for years, the actual bill was rushed through congress, which led to mistakes, such as the tax differential for farm revenue through cooperatives vs. privately owned firms. However, for now I will focus on the merits of the tax reform itself and not the other issues.

Overall, it is hard to argue that the tax reform bill won’t benefit nearly everyone in the country. However, I think the tax bill definitely picks winners and losers, and the winners are the rich. I support tax cuts, but I think they should start with the poor and middle class. But I also believe that everyone should pay something since everyone benefits from government services. I do believe that the corporate tax rate needed to be updated. It is clearly not right when a multi-billion dollar profitable company like GE can get by paying a nearly zero effective tax rate. I also believe in cutting taxes in a way that will benefit middle class workers. But trickle-down economics like many in the Republican party, and Kevin Yoder, advocate, DOES NOT WORK! Cutting the corporate tax rate should be done in conjunction with closing tax loopholes. You can tell that this is not what happened because of the large deficit the tax reform bill causes. If you really want to help middle class workers, I feel the best way to do it would be to increase the tax deduction for salaries paid by companies. This would give companies a direct incentive to increase salaries and hire more workers. The corporate tax reform that was done will accomplish one thing, line the pockets of investors. While that does benefit the middle class, the rich will benefit the most. Another example of how the tax bill benefits the rich is that the estate tax exemption doubled from $11.2 million to $22.4 million for a married couple. It is estimated that a total of 5,000 estates would have been subject to the tax via the old law and will therefore benefit from the change. This is clearly a tax benefit that is intended to benefit primarily a very small handful of the rich, and I do not believe that should be a priority for where to cut taxes.

There are many good ways that taxes could be improved, and some were included in the tax reform bill. Increasing the standard deduction was a good way to simplify the taxes for many. However, tax reform needs to be done with cooperation between Republicans and Democrats. By working together we can identify better solutions. As all the residents of Kansas have seen first-hand, trickle-down economics does not work. Kevin Yoder continues to support this approach and we have seen the disastrous results first-hand. We need someone willing to work together with Democrats and to be an independent thinker. Kevin Yoder has shown that he is good at one thing, doing exactly what is asked of him by the Republican leadership. This is not always the best approach for the constituents of the third district. As your representative I will work hard to make sure that the tax code works for our district!