In this screenshot pulled from a Facebook Live video of the GOP candidate forum Wednesday evening, Geary County GOP Chair Rick Roberts addresses the crowd at the start of the event.

At the Geary County Senior Citizens Center, members of the Geary County Republican party gathered Wednesday for a forum between candidates for District 1 County Commission seat. The candidates from the republican party are Mike Rhodes, Todd Godfrey and Brad Scholz, who was appointed to the position late last year after the sudden passing of Ben Bennett.

Prior to the forum, Rick Roberts, Geary County Republican Central Committee chairman, introduced the speakers for the event who are local and state representatives running in various capacities.

During the forum, candidates were asked seven questions — six that they all answered and one personalized question for each.

The first question for the candidates was split into three parts and asked why they were Republican, do they believe in the party’s platform and if they didn’t win the primary would they support the winner against the other candidates in the general election.

Godfrey said he is a Republican because he believes it’s a group that shares his beliefs and the things he is concerned with. He admitted he didn’t know what the party’s platform was but if it “had anything to do with conservative values, pro-gun and pro-life, he believes in it. He said if he were not selected during the primary, that he would support a fellow Republican in the general election.

Rhodes said he has been a Republican since he first registered to vote at 18 years old.

“It’s a party I believe in,” he said.

He said he is pro-life and pro-gun, so he believes in the party’s platform.

“I don’t have a problem if you don’t want a gun,” he said. “I don’t have a problem in that. But I think everybody should be able to have that right.”

Rhodes also said he would support a different Republican candidate if he was not selected.

Scholz said he is a Republican because of the same reason the others are, that he is pro-life and pro-gun.

“I’m a member of the NRA and have been for several years,” he said.

He said he believes in the Republican values and would support a Republican candidate if he doesn’t make it through the primary on Aug. 4.

The next question asked of the candidates were about the Strengthening People and Revitalizing Kansas or SPARK program and if they thought the current commissioners were handling it correctly.

Rhodes said he applauded the current commissioners on the way they are handling the distribution of the funds.

“I think they’re doing a good job of it so far,” he said. “And the important things are to make sure that we’re doing it correctly so, I think it’s a great idea that we’ve got this outside firm looking and helping and has the expertise to be able to help us with that.”

Scholz said the commissioners are taking the necessity of what needs to be done with the funds seriously.

“Our main goal for the commission is no money goes back to the state,” he said. “Because if we don’t utilize that $6.3 million, it goes back to the state and that would be a huge injustice to our community.”

Godfrey said other than a concern that was brought to him about the possible use of the funds for a new radio system for law enforcement, he has no complaints on how the funds are being handled.

In the individual questions, Godfrey was asked if he had changed his viewpoint of the Economic Development Commission. He said he was very passionate about the creating small business in the community, but he is upset because it isn’t happening.

“We need to work together,” he said. “Because we all need those things in our community. And we have to work together and put our egos aside, we have to do that.”

Rhodes was asked how his experience as a city commissioner would help him if he were to become a county commissioner.

His experience with handling budgets is one of the things that he believes would help him as a county commissioner.

“I’ve worked on 14 of those, and none of them wherever easy,” he said. “Every one of them was harder than the last one.”

He said that working on a local level with legislators helps because these are people in the same community. They are the people you see every day at church, at the store and the kids or grandkids baseball games.

Scholz was asked that as he was appointed to the county commission, why does he think that he deserves to be voted into the position.

“I deserve to be in the position because I listen to people and research things,” he said.

He talked the hospital saying that he is for it because the community needs a hospital not only for the growth but for the citizens.

“If we lost the hospital, those elderly in our community would have to go all the way to either Manhattan or Salina and that’s not fair to them,” he said. “My whole thing with the hospital is there has to be some form of accountability. And that accountability has to be some form of standard operating procedure that the Board of Trustees need to come up with to ensure that the CEO doesn’t do the same things that the past CEO has done, which crippled the hospital and put it in the position that it’s in now.”

Going onto the next group question, the candidates were asked if they agreed with raising the mill levy to save the hospital.

Rhodes said he was for saving the hospital as long as it was done correctly.

“I do not have any insight to what’s happened in the past,” he said. “But, from what I see that may not have been things that should have been done differently. I think they’re on the right track. I think the new board is looking over things a lot finer now. I think you’ve seen the management style change at the hospital, with the people that the Board of Trustees has hired now. They’re running things differently. They’re running things from the standpoint of business and they’ve been trying to get it into a business.”

The next question was about what their stance was on money from the county given to the EDC.

Scholz said he believed the money that is given to the EDC should be based upon how well they perform.

“One way to gauge that would be find out how many businesses have left in the last three years,” he said. “Then find out how many businesses have come in, and how many people have purchased homes, because you can quantify that. You can find out what they’re paying in property tax and bringing into the county.”

The final question of the evening dealt with property taxes and the measures used to lower the mill levy to offset that increase in taxes and if they would be in favor of using the extra money for the hospital.

“I would say I’m open to discussion and researching whatever we can to ensure that happens to ensure that our hospital does not shut down,” said Godfrey. “I think we’re still generating property taxes without raising the mill Levy, but it’s being manipulated through the property values.”

To view the forum in its entirety, see the video on the Geary County Republican Party’s Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/gearycountyrepublicanparty/videos/727614891386558.

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