The last time Calvin Hayden and John Toplikar ran for the 6th District seat on the Johnson County Commission, the race made national news and ended in criminal charges.
Hayden, now the incumbent, won the seat in 2008, after Toplikar was caught on video stealing Hayden’s campaign signs. The video found its way online and the story received national attention, including a feature on National Public Radio.
Toplikar had been on the County Commission since 2003 and lost the race by 42 votes. He received diversion on a misdemeanor theft charge and served 12 months’ probation.
On Nov. 6, the two will face off again in a nonpartisan race for a four-year term. There have been no reports this year of missing signs. Instead, the candidates are talking about jobs and government spending.
Hayden, a Republican from De Soto, said the No. 1 issue in the county is job growth. Johnson County’s unemployment rate is about 6 percent, and poverty has increased along with a rising population. He said the best way for the county government to combat those trends was to support cities in economic development efforts such as the $750 million railroad center and warehouse complex being built in Edgerton.
“The county doesn’t do development,” Hayden said. “But we back up cities in a supporting role. If the mayors call, I come.”
Another top concern for Hayden is the coming of KanCare in January. That’s when the state of Kansas is scheduled to replace Medicaid — the state’s program of medical care for the poor — with a private, managed care system. Hayden said he expected the state government to push some costs to the county level, which could affect senior citizens.
“That’s why we’re here,” he said. “We’re just not going to allow our citizens to be at risk.”
Toplikar, a Republican from Olathe, said his No. 1 priority was cutting wasteful spending.
Toplikar is a former Kansas state representative and Olathe city councilmember. He said performing a top-to-bottom review in search of waste could reduce the county budget. Toplikar wants to bring more scrutiny to future budgets, and suspects the county spends more than it realizes on office furniture and travel for county officials.
“The budgets grow every year,” he said. “The county needs to stop increases in spending.”
In July, the County Commission passed a $815.1 million budget for 2013 with no increases in taxes. That budget was about $5 million larger than this year’s.
Toplikar has consistently come out against spending on proposed county projects including a new outer-loop highway, a new courthouse, and infrastructure at the Edgerton rail site. He does support allowing citizens in unincorporated areas of the county to vote on annexation into a city.
Toplikar said he was not likely to support more county funding for arts programs, and that he disapproved of the county’s $3.6 million purchase earlier this year of the vacant King Louie West bowling alley.