Oct 31, 2022

🎥 111th Dist. candidate Hammond: 'Somebody has to represent our interests'

Posted Oct 31, 2022 11:01 AM
Ed Hammond, D-Hays, is running for the 111th House District of Kansas which includes Hays and Victoria. (Photo and video by Becky Kiser/Hays Post)
Ed Hammond, D-Hays, is running for the 111th House District of Kansas which includes Hays and Victoria. (Photo and video by Becky Kiser/Hays Post)

Hays Post

Hays resident Ed Hammond, the former president of Fort Hays State University, has come out of retirement to run for the state's 111th House District.

"I really love this community, and built a home in Hays after I left FHSU," Hammond, said in a recent interview with Hays Post. 

The Democrat is taking on Republican incumbent Rep. Barb Wasinger, also of Hays.

Tuesday: See Hays Post's interview with incumbent state Rep. Barb Wasinger, R-Hays

Hammond, who many years ago served as a city councilman while living in the small town of Douglas Hills, Kentucky, says he wants to serve Hays and Victoria constituents and to "advocate as a statesman, not a politician. ... Somebody has to represent our interests."

He believes Wasinger, seeking her third 2-year term, is not doing that. "I see things that make no sense to me," Hammond said.

He points to his primary three-point platform as examples of what he says Kansans want, and Wasinger hasn't supported.

The three issues -  Medicaid expansion, K-12 funding, and Fort Hays State University funding -  are also those Hammond says come up most often in his discussions with local residents.

"Kansans, nearly 7 out of 10, support Medicaid expansion. She's voted against it twice and didn't vote at all the third time."

Wasinger has said previously she's not necessarily against the expansion of Medicaid - known as KanCare in Kansas - if three criteria are met. They address federal funding of the program, disabled applicants, and employment requirements.

According to Hammond, those criteria have been met.

"There is really no reason not to support it. All three of her conditions have been met, either by the (U.S.) Supreme Court or language in the bill. 

"As a result, Hays is being disadvantaged and the whole state of Kansas is being disadvantaged. ...

"In fact, a K-State University economist who's done extensive studies on this has indicated there would be about a $700 million aid in tax revenue to Kansas if we do it." 

HaysMed and First Care Clinic are missing out on a combined $17 million dollars a year, according to Hammond. "That's our local economy that is impacted."

Education funding is the other area of concern for Hammond, both K-12 (the largest portion of the state's budget) and higher education.

He's critical of a last-minute move last session by the state legislature to fund special education - a federal mandate - at a lower level and calls it "a shell game," resulting in the loss of teaching positions in Hays USD 489 and Victoria USD 432.

Wasinger disagrees and says there is currently excess funding in special education unencumbered funds.

When it comes to higher ed funding, Hammond says FHSU received a considerably smaller block grant from the state than did Wichita State University, which has just 200 or so more students enrolled than does FHSU. 

He feels Wasinger - the vice-chair of the Higher Education Budget Committee - is not adequately advocating for  FHSU, the only university in western Kansas and one of the top three employers in Hays. 

During door to door campaigning and meet-the candidate events, Hammond is hearing more complaints about rising inflation and its negative effect on most Americans.

It's become the fourth major point in his campaign platform. 

He wants to help combat inflation in Kansas by getting property taxes under control with a return of funding the state Ad Valorem Tax Act.

Cities and counties received a portion of that state tax but had to reduce their local property taxes by an equal amount. "I believe it needs to be changed and upgraded." 

For the first time in many years, the state of Kansas has a large surplus in its budget and a so-called "Rainy Day Fund." It's money that Hammond says could go into the ad valorem fund and buy down the property taxes in Kansas. "They're couldn't be a better time," he says.  

Hammond considers himself a good communicator and someone who can work across the aisle with Republican legislators, as well as across the state with eastern Kansas legislators in the more populated areas.

During his 28 years serving as FHSU president, Hammond was often in the Topeka statehouse, "putting together interests that would help FHSU and western Kansas. ... I never cared who got credit."

If elected, he hopes to again bring together similar groups. 

"My interest is to try to put together the kinds of groups that would be necessary to get something passed that will really help Kansans. 

"... I try to operate my private life and my public life differently. In my public life, I'm more interested in what my constituents need and what they want done." 

"I've had my career.  ... I've got no political agenda to drive. I just want to make sure that Hays and Victoria get the resources that they should get," Hammond said. 

Hammond, 78, is married to Mary Hammond, the director of development at Fort Hays State University Foundation.

Barb Wasinger's interview with Hays Post will be published Tuesday.

The election is Tuesday, November 8. Advance voting is underway until November 7 at noon in the Ellis County Administrative Center, 718 Main, Hays. 

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