Many candidates for local, state and federal elections gathered July 14 for a forum at the Moose Lodge in Bolton Township.
Candidates were given 10 minutes to introduce themselves to the crowd.
In all, there were approximately 150 to 200 in attendance at the event, which was sponsored by the Bolton Township citizens council.
The primary is Aug. 2 and early voting already is under way.
This is the second part of a two-part story. The candidates for 19th Judicial District Division 2, Cowley County Commission District 2, Kansas Senate District 32 and Kansas’ Fourth Congressional District will be profiled in this portion.
Republican Tamara Niles has served as Arkansas City’s city attorney and city prosecutor for 11 years.
Now she has her sights set on the bench seat being vacated by Judge Jim Pringle in Division 2 of the 19th Judicial District, more commonly known as Cowley County District Court in Arkansas City.
Niles also maintains her own practice and specializes in business law.
She currently is the general counsel for USD 470, serves as one of the Strother Field Commission’s two attorneys and presides over Kansas Department of Revenue cases, most of which concern driving under the influence.
Niles is not a native of Arkansas City, but she did marry a native son in local banker Lance Niles.
At the beginning of their careers, they lived in the Kansas City area.
However, after one visit to Arkansas City, her husband received a job offer from a local bank.
That was followed by the city attorney position becoming available and a possible pregnancy.
“When God tells you to move to Ark City, you pack up and move to Ark City,” Niles said.
Because the job of a judge is not to express opinions while in the position, but only to uphold the law, Niles did not share her political opinions during the forum.
When she started thinking about running for judge, she said, she noticed some things that she did not like. Her ultimate solution was to file her candidacy.
Niles said she would hold herself “fair and unbiased” if elected.
The very first thing Cowley County Attorney Christopher Smith said when he addressed people at the forum was to thank them for the last 12 years he has spent in that office.
Now “I want to be a judge,” Smith said. He ran six years ago against LaDonna Lanning in the Republican primary and lost by “less than 100 votes.”
“Never believe that God’s delays are God’s denials,” he said.
Smith lives in Winfield with his wife of 23 years. The couple have four children and two grandchildren.
For several years, he worked as the administrator of a nursing home.
“I probably practiced more law there than I did anywhere else,” Smith said.
It was through the encouragement of others, including his wife, that he chose to run for county attorney the first time.
“I bring Kansas values (to the table),” Smith said. “Common sense is another thing I bring. You can know all the law there is, but without common sense, you’re not going to be a good judge. I have that common sense. That common sense comes from having to make actual life-altering decisions.”
“I’ve always done what I believe to be just and fair,” he said.
Cowley County Commission
Democrat Gary Wilson currently serves on the Cowley County Commission. He has represented District 2 for 12 years.
The job is 24-7, he said — but one that he would like to do for the next four years.
Wilson said he ran for the seat because the county was an “absolute three-ring circus … very little was getting done.”
“We take care of the county’s business,” he added.
He said it did not matter what his constituents want — he would be their voice, “as he has been for the last 12 years.”
“That’s what the job is,” he said. “Most folks don’t understand what exactly what our job is.”
Challenger Bob Voegele, a Republican, was a man of few words at the forum.
“It’s been a long time since we have had change,” he said. “New ideas would be (beneficial) to the county.”
Kansas Senate District 32
Oxford Democrat Don Shimkus did not always reside in Sumner County.
He and his wife of 25 years met at Emporia State University and lived in Chicago for several years.
But the couple moved back to the area to have children, so they could be raised in a good environment.
Shimkus serves on the local school board and is bothered by what he called “payday loans” being made by the state.
Along with school funding issues, he also is concerned by the lack of respect shown to the individuals trying to make the most of the funding they receive at public schools, the funding of rural hospitals and public monies being funneled into private schools.
“We may not agree on everything, but I like to listen more than I speak,” he said.
If Shimkus is elected to replace retiring Sen. Steve Abrams, he promised to give his constituents “my time, my ear, my thoughtful consideration of your views.”
Republican challenger Larry Alley was not present at the forum, but a representative from the Southwestern College Republicans was present.
Jay Buffum said he has known Alley, a Winfield resident, for a couple of years.
“I believe he has run for elections several times because he truly cares about the people in this state,” Buffum said.
Fourth Congressional District
Democrat Robert Tillman was raised on a farm in Boley, Okla., and worked for 24 years in the judicial system as a court services officer.
“I’m running to make a difference. I’m running to make a change,” said Tillman, who hopes to compete for U.S. Rep. Mike Pompeo’s seat in November.
Tillman said he wants to bring business back to the states.
He was the only candidate at the forum who spoke about legalization of marijuana and stressed the amount of revenue Colorado has seen since it legalized the substance. “Something has to give,” he said.
Attorney Dan Giroux wants to bring back what made America great.
Among the items he would like to “fix” are Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and health care access in general.
Giroux lives in Wichita with his wife of 14 years and their four children. He is opposing Tillman in the Democratic primary.
He spoke about how Republicans and Democrats don’t mix in Washington, D.C., and how they don’t even eat lunch in the same room.
“If you can’t break bread together, how are you ever going to fix a problem?” he asked.