Student Senate held a virtual forum for Kansas House of Representatives District 10 candidates last Friday to discuss important issues facing the United States and the University of Kansas student body.
Democratic primary candidates Christina Haswood, A.J. Stevens and Brandon Holland answered questions from constituents and community members about their campaigns.
No candidates from other parties have entered the race, so the Aug. 4 primary will likely decide the outcome of the general election in November. Eileen Horn, a Democrat, currently occupies the District 10 seat and is not seeking re-election.
“As students, we have a unique perspective on the world, and this is an opportunity to see how these candidates align with your own beliefs,” said Student Senate Government Relations Director Logan Stenseng, who moderated the forum.
The event included three-minute opening statements from each candidate, followed by questions from Stenseng and other attendees via Zoom.
Haswood, who is from Lawrence, obtained her masters in public health and management from the KU Medical Center. She currently works as a research assistant for the National Council of Urban Indian Health, where she works on issues such as the effects of COVID-19 in Urban Indian Health organizations and the missing and murdered Indigenous peoples epidemic.
“In these unprecedented times, we really need strong public health leadership in the state capitol now, and I'm ready to listen to public health leadership and I'm ready to give it too,” Haswood said.
Holland, a KU graduate from Minneapolis, said most of his work is based around mental and physical health.
“I've dedicated my life to learning and studying government and figuring out how to make it work better for the people, because that's what really matters,” Holland said.
A.J. Stevens, who spent 20 years as a collegiate coach at different universities. He served on the Baldwin City Council from 2017 to 2020.
“I've got a good mix between the business sector, the private sector and working in higher education,” Stevens said.
Candidates were first asked how the state legislature can create economic growth during and after the coronavirus pandemic without endangering people’s safety.
Holland said prioritizing consumer spending, making people feel safe and establishing safe business practices will go a long way. He also said he supports expanding Medicaid.
Haswood wants to work at a federal level to push for another stimulus check to keep families going.
“When we look at the economy in Kansas, one of the biggest issues especially here in the district was, 'Do we feel safe enough to even go out and buy products and goods at a local establishment?'" Haswood said.
Stevens said the response to COVID-19 can’t be a political issue, and he wants to make sure everybody is safe and listening to science.
Candidates were then asked about criminal justice reform.
Stevens advocated for decriminalizing poverty, ending asset forfeiture and ending the use of private prisons. He also wants to legalize marijuana and invest in drug and alcohol treatment centers.
“We need a strong oversight as far as through the community,” Stevens said. “I’d really like to see restorative justice take place in Kansas.”
Haswood said she wants to address the systemic racism in the criminal justice system through data transparency and ending qualified immunity.
Holland said he wants to establish citizen review boards for all cases that involve the use of force, as well as defunding the police to reallocate funds to other organizations.
Candidates also discussed whether they would support legislation like House Bill 2266, which mandates all higher education institutions adopt policies on sexual assault and domestic violence. It would also establish a definition of consent.
Each candidate was in support of the bill.
“I have zero tolerance for predators," Stevens said. "And I especially have no tolerance for universities that cover it up."
The forum was then opened to the public to voice their opinions. One audience member asked about the candidates’ plans to protect women’s reproductive health and abortion access.
“That's one of the strongest things that I feel passionately about, being pro-choice,” Haswood said. “I strongly stand by it and that's one of the policies that I will not budge on.”
The candidates also discussed their views on climate change policy, gerrymandering, followed by their three-minute closing statements.
As the meeting concluded, Stenseng reminded everyone in attendance to vote during the primary election on Aug. 4.