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GOP lieutenant governor candidate visits Pittsburg


PITTSBURG, Kan. — Katie Sawyer, Republican candidate for lieutenant governor and running mate of Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt, made a visit to Southeast Kansas on Tuesday, including a stop in Pittsburg to meet Dr. Dan Shipp, president of Pittsburg State University, where Sawyer earned her bachelor’s degree in 2006. 

In an interview with the Morning Sun afterwards, Sawyer noted it was her first time meeting Dr. Shipp, who took over as PSU president in June. 

“It was a good conversation,” she said. “He has lots of big plans for the university, so it was neat to hear his take on stuff.” 

Earlier Tuesday, Sawyer said, she was in Baxter Springs and Columbus. 

“I’ve been talking a lot about childcare as part of my campaign and the Baxter Springs school district is really doing some neat things in trying to fill a void of childcare need in that community by using some space within one of the elementary school buildings to start kind of childcare,” Sawyer said. “And then they have plans to kind of grow it from there in an older, unused building in town, and so talking to them about kind of what they’re doing, what some of the hurdles are, you know, some of the opportunities, that kind of stuff.” 

Sawyer discussed a range of issues that have come up in conversations with voters as she and Schmidt have been campaigning across the state, from crime to the economy. 

“Crime continues to be a top issue for people in Kansas,” she said. “We hear in a lot of communities it’s repeat offenders. Especially in this part of the state, it’s a lot of transient population. You’ve got people coming and going from different states and crossing state lines. We talk a lot about the impacts of fentanyl and some of the drug use in our communities and that leads to substance abuse disorders and, you know, problems from there.” 

She said she and Schmidt have focused on the need to work alongside law enforcement agencies and provide the resources they need to keep their communities safe. 

“And that’s communities large and small,” Sawyer added. “Wichita has the same issues as Pittsburg, Kansas, does.” 

On economic issues, Sawyer drew a connection between challenges people are facing locally, across the state, and nationwide, and pointed to Democrats’ leadership as the root cause. 

“We’ve talked a lot about the administration both here in Kansas and Washington, D.C., you know, really through big government spending causing current inflation, and I think we all can tie back what’s happening now in our economy to unnecessary inflationary spending that lit the fuse on what we’re seeing now in terms of our economy,” Sawyer said. “Governor Kelly has basically stood silent through all of it and allowed, you know, Kansans to continue to pay $3.50 gas and 8 percent inflation.” 

Sawyer also criticized Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly for how she has framed the issue of reducing the state’s food sales tax. Last November, Kelly appeared at a Dillons grocery store in Topeka wielding an axe during a press conference promoting what she dubbed her “Axe the Food Tax” plan. 

“She vetoed 20 different tax cuts, including the food sales tax back in 2019 when she had an opportunity to sign it the first time,” Sawyer said Tuesday. “She vetoed it. We would be marching toward zero percent sales tax on our food starting in January of [next] year if she had signed it then, so that would’ve been a huge relief for families. She didn’t, she signed it this year, and so now we haven’t even started to see reductions.” 

Sawyer said that she and Schmidt, if elected, would take a more fiscally responsible approach to spending than Kelly has. 

“This governor has grown the state budget over 35 percent in the last four years at the same time that the population of Kansas has declined and we have fewer people in the work force,” she said. “Simple math will tell you that every Kansas taxpayer is shouldering a larger burden of what she’s spending to operate this state.” 

With less than two weeks left until election day, Sawyer said she and Schmidt are busy traveling the state to meet with potential voters as the campaign season comes to a close, but they still hope to make it back to Southeast Kansas before Nov. 8. 

“Derek will be back down here I believe next week. We’re kind of dividing and conquering at this point. He goes north, I go south. He goes east, I go west,” she said. “There’s 105 counties in Kansas. We’re aiming to cover as many of those as possible, and you know, that’s opportunities to meet with folks we haven’t met with in a while and to see parts of the state we haven’t been in as much lately.”