One of the state’s political leaders said Congress needs a facilitator to bring parties together on the issues.
Paul Davis, a Lawrence Democrat who is running for the 2nd Congressional District seat, said legislators are not doing their jobs representing the people.
“We have too many people in Washington — in both political parties — that are creating noise,” Davis said. “They have no interest in creating a dialogue with the other party — really trying to figure out what we have in common and what can we do to solve problems. There are so many [issues] whether it is immigration or healthcare, they keep kicking the can down the road. The American people never get any results.”
Davis figures he could be a catalyst for bringing legislators together to tackle important issues. He said there needs to be more problem-solvers in Congress.
“There is a big void for that,” Davis said. “My skill set can fill that void.”
Davis said when he was in the state Legislature for 12 years, he sought Republicans to find common ground to form a working relationship.
“I developed a lot of relationships that I have to this day,” he said. “It is one of the reasons when I ran for governor [in 2014), we had a huge amount of Republicans endorse my campaign. They are with me in this campaign as well. I can’t tell you how many rooms I was in where I was sitting at the table with Republican legislators where we were figuring things out and solving problems. I did it over and over again. That is what I hope to be able to do in Washington.”
Davis said Kansans are tired of the political fighting and feel the representatives are disconnected from them.
“We had two really big policy issues in the past year, healthcare and taxes,” Davis said. “There were people with a lot of opinions and wanted to be able to voice their opinions to their representatives. You had members of Congress that were hiding from their constituents. There is this feeling that people in Washington are not listening to their constituents and are listening to the people who are funding their political campaigns. It is important to have [elected leaders] who are connected to the district.”
Davis said his main responsibility is to be a voice for the Second District. He said, if elected, he plans to have at least one town hall meeting in all 25 counties he represents per year to give people the opportunity to voice their opinions on issues.
“I can’t do my job if I don’t know what is on their mind,” he said.
Davis said there are four main hot button items in his campaign: agriculture, the economy, healthcare and infrastructure.
Davis said farmers are concerned about trade and tariffs.
“We have made this a big part of our campaign because this is a big part of our economy here,” he said. “We had a lot of discussion about trade and tariffs here recently. The rhetoric we are hearing from the White House is concerning to a lot of people in agriculture. We produce more than we consume as Americans. We have to be able to move our products to other markets. Our relationships with Canada, Mexico and China are really critical.”
Davis endorsed a proposal to require the President to receive Congressional approval to adjust imports in the interest of national security.
“[Tariffs] are a powerful weapon we have and one that should be used with deliberation and input,” Davis said. “The legislative process allows for that. There are people on both sides of the aisle from farm states that said ‘we want to weigh in on this.’ Hopefully it will smooth out some of the problems.”
He said Kansas farmers need markets to sell to and it is the government’s responsibility to keep those doors open.
“We have to be aggressive in pursuing new markets,” Davis said. “Agriculture is a fundamental part of our state’s economy and way of life, in large communities and small. They need someone who will fight for them in Washington and reach across the aisle to get things done. I’ll work with anyone in Congress, no matter their political party.”
Davis said the economy is working well for the rich and the gap below keeps growing.
“We have to understand the economy is changing in many ways,” he said. “The federal government does not get what is going on in many communities like Ottawa and how the economics are shifting.”
He said a big part of sparking growth in the economy for the middle class lies with education and workforce issues.
“I am a huge advocate of technical education and job training programs,” Davis said. “What you hear from employers all over the place is we can’t find the kind of people we need for our workforce. There are great things that are going on at Neosho County Community College which has a presence here. It is an example of a community college that is training people well for the jobs that are there right now. They need more help. I met with the president and he said ‘if we can expand the Pell Grant program that would help us significantly.’ We need to restructure our educational system so we are helping direct more people into the pipeline.”
Davis said rural hospitals are in trouble financially along with having a shortage of nurses. He cited the closing of Independence’s hospital and how it adversely affected southeast Kansas.
“A lifeblood of a community oftentimes is your school and hospital,” he said. “People left Independence because of that. Nobody wants to be the next community that loses their community hospital. We have several of them hanging on by a thread. We have to be able to get the message clear in Congress the importance of [the role] rural hospitals play and support what they do. We need more telehelp and telehealth capabilities. The ability for hospitals to get reimbursed for that is a problem. They need more tools to recruit and retain doctors in those hospitals.”
The cost of healthcare is another topic Davis wants to pursue, he said.
“The Affordable Care Act has done some good things and some bad things,” Davis said. “It has brought more people into the insurance umbrella. What it has not really done is attack the issue of cost. The biggest driver of cost in the health care system is prescription drugs. We as a country pay vastly more for prescription drugs than any other industrialized country. The drug companies right now have a stranglehold on the U.S. Congress. They have been getting their way for a long, long time. I am a big believer in research and development, but it does not give them the right to gouge the American people.”
Davis said there are needs for infrastructure upgrades throughout the nation.
“We have a very aging infrastructure in our country,” he said. “Especially in the transportation area. I don’t believe the state of Kansas is going to be able to fund a new 10-year transportation plan like they have done for many decades. We are going to be looking for more help from the federal government to be able to maintain our roads that we have always taken a lot of pride in. It is a job creator and a safety issue.”
He said President Donald Trump understands the importance of infrastructure, but his plan has not received traction in Congress.