Thompson, Rockhold rep discuss issues in WSU forum, Estes absent


TJ Rigg

Jordan Husted, campaign manager for Libertarian Chris Rockhold, and Democrat James Thompson participate in a forum for the 4th District Special Election candidates Wednesday in the CAC Theatre. The empty chair between them was for Republican Ron Estes, who did not attend the forum and did not send anyone in his stead.

One 4th District candidate and a representative for another candidate attended a forum held at Wichita State Thursday.

Democrat James Thompson and Jordan Husted, campaign manager for Libertarian Chris Rockhold, participated in the forum. Republican Ron Estes did not attend. Student Government Association Legislative Director Marilyn Morton moderated the forum, held for an hour in the Campus Activities Center Theatre.

The forum was in question and answer format, with audience members, a mixture of WSU students and Wichita residents, asking Thompson and Husted questions on various topics.

Higher Education

One question posed from the audience was about higher education costs and how they can be reduced.

“We have seen this exponential increase as to how much people are leaving college with debt, and honestly I think it has to do with how much money is being thrown at them,” Husted said.

Husted mentioned the availability of several options on campus to sign up for a credit card, which he said leads to more chances for students to have personal debt.

“It’s not just there is student loan debt they’re leaving with, they’re also being coerced into walking out of here with personal debt, credit card debt, so there’s a lot of issues that kind of brought up here,” he said. “We need to address them. It’s not just the federal education system, it’s a lot of variables going into this that we need to fix.”

Like Husted, Thompson mentioned education costs going up, with wages remaining stagnant for decades. Thompson graduated from WSU in 1999, when the cost of tuition was $120 an hour, he said. For Fiscal Year 2017, the cost of tuition for an undergraduate student is $212.84, according to data on WSU’s website.

“When I went to Washburn, I think my credit hour cost was $354; I’m afraid to know what it is now,” Thompson said. “As somebody who will be paying on student loans until 2034 when I’m 64-years-old, I very much sympathize with the issues we’re talking about here.”

Working with others on policy

Both Husted and Thompson stressed the importance of working with others in Congress in order to get policy passed.

Thompson said he’s not afraid to disagree with the Democratic Party on issues.

“The thing that we’ve got to realize is there are going to be issues we don’t always agree on, but we need somebody who is willing to listen, sit down and go, ‘OK, this is what I think’ and sit down with the people we’re supposed to represent,” he said.

Husted stressed the importance of working with other elected people, regardless of party.

“We’re gonna caucus with both Democrats and Republicans, depending on where they stand on issues,” Husted said. “If they stand on the right side of issues, we’re going to stand with them, we’re going to stand strong.”

Husted also mentioned the possibility of Rockhold working with President Trump on issues.

“If Donald Trump actually gives a good policy — I don’t know if that’s gonna happen — but if he gives a good policy, we’ll stand up for it,” he said. “We’ll work with him. If he gives bad policies, which is his track record so far, we’re going to fight him constantly.”

Estes’ absence

A campaign spokesman for Thompson said the forum marked the 11th time Estes has not shown up for an event with the other candidates. So far, the only time all three candidates — without one of them sending a representative — have attended an event together was a debate hosted last week by KWCH, Channel 12.

Several times during the forum, audience members said something similar to, “I was going to ask Ron Estes this, but he’s not here, so I’ll ask you two.”

Both Thompson and Husted made references to Estes’ absence during the forum. At one point, Thompson said of elected officials, “We’ve got to make sure they’re showing up,” with a sideway glance at the empty seat for Estes.

Husted took it a step further, writing Estes’ name on a piece of paper and placing it in front of the empty seat, as if creating a nametag for the empty chair.

Both Thompson and Husted have their own theories on why Estes repeatedly does not show up for events.

“When you’re looking at trying to determine future performance, you should look at past conduct and the fact that he doesn’t show up for debates is a good indication that he’s not going to show up for the people of Kansas,” Thompson said.

Husted said he was not at all surprised by Estes’ absence, adding that Estes showing up to events would hurt him more than help him.

“He doesn’t know how to discuss things properly,” Husted said. “He doesn’t know how to articulate his answers to the best of his ability. I can’t blame him, he’s an accountant and that’s what he specializes in.”

Thompson said he, too, was not surprised by Estes’ absence.

“I find it interesting that he won’t show up for a debate, but he will dump $100,000 into advertising at the last minute in an attempt to buy a campaign rather than go out and earn it,” he said.

Election Day for the Special Election is Tuesday. The Sunflower will have coverage Tuesday night on its website announcing the winner. Whoever wins the Special Election will serve the 4th District before being up for reelection in the 2018 midterm elections.