Mathew Clark, a Libertarian from Overland Park running to represent the 23rd District in the Kansas House of Representatives, became the first confirmed speaker for The Kansas Forum on Public Safety and Justice when he completed the corresponding candidate survey shortly after it was sent out on Wednesday night.
The forum, which will take place on the south steps of the State Capitol on October 31st, will be the culmination of a public engagement process that includes surveying every candidate for state legislature on public safety and justice issues. Candidates can express interest in speaking at the forum by completing the survey. There are limited speaking slots available to each party, but since Mr. Clark is one of only five Libertarians running for the state legislature in 2020, he was eligible for an automatic invite.
In an email to Free State Kansas, Mr. Clark said, "I am so glad you are doing a survey and forum on these important topics. These topics are 90% of the reasons I am running and why I became involved in the Libertarian Party."
Jeff Coen, a Republican running in Topeka's 32rd district against incumbent Jim Gartner (D), also locked in his speaking invitation by completing the survey. Gartner has not yet completed the survey.
The forum's speaker selection rules reserve courtesy invitations for Shawnee County candidates first, since they represent the forum's host county and are more likely to draw an interested local audience to the event. If some Shawnee County candidates fail to complete the survey or decline the opportunity to speak, those speaking slots will be made available to other candidates in their party. There are currently several Democratic and Republican candidates from outside of Shawnee County who have completed the survey and requested to speak at the forum, but they will have to wait until the RSVP deadline of October 21st to find out if a spot is available.
Since Mr. Clark is already a confirmed speaker, his opponents, Susan Ruiz (D) and Jeff Shull (R) are the first two alternates on deck if they complete the survey and request to speak. The same opportunity will be given to opponents of other Libertarian candidates who confirm they will speak at the forum.
Limited space is also available for prominent write-in candidates, such as the 37th District's Stan Frownfelter (D) and Kristina Smith (R). If they accept and a Democratic speaking slot opens up, their opponent, Aaron Coleman (D), will also be invited if he completes the survey and requests to participate in the forum. Coleman, who is the only candidate who will appear on the ballot for his district, has apologized for his history of revenge porn. Coleman defeated Frownfelter in the Democratic primary and has rejected calls from his party to step down.
As for our first two confirmed speakers, Mr. Clark is running on criminal justice reform. His website outlines a platform that includes cutting probation lengths in half, legalizing cannabis, and eliminating registry programs for drug and violent crime offenders.
Mr. Coen has spoken at recent events supporting Topeka police, and his website notes his record as a Topeka councilman supporting safe neighborhoods and adequately funding law enforcement.
These two candidates offer very different perspectives on public safety and justice, as will the other speakers who join them at the forum, but that's ok. Differing opinions are healthy for democracy, and the goal of this forum is to respectfully exchange ideas that challenge all of us to makes our state a safer and fairer place to live.