“Educate Andover” hosted the first of two Kansas House of Representative candidates at an open forum on Thursday at the district main office.

“Educate Andover” hosted the first of two Kansas House of Representative candidates at an open forum on Thursday at the district main office.

Randy Banwart (R) is running for the District 99 seat currently held by incumbent Dennis Hedke. District 99 covers most of Andover and part of East Wichita.

Banwart spoke to a small group that included members of the Kansas National Education Association, Women for Kansas, Andover teachers and school board members.

Banwart, a production manager at Spirit Aerosystems, introduced himself as a life-long Kansan who moved to Butler County in 1972, lives in Andover with his wife and has five children.

“All five of my kids have been educated in the public school system,” said Banwart. “In that area, I think we are not doing our kids justice.”

Teachers in the audience had a lot of questions for Banwart and his feelings about funding education.

“We need to make sure they are all funded adequately,” said Banwart. “We shouldn’t have to go through the judicial system to get funding for schools.”

Banwart also talked about his experience in business. He said his grandfather owned a manufacturing company in Wichita and his dad was an entrepreneur.

“Being one of three boys, I was the labor,” said Banwart. “I know what it takes to run a business.”

Banwart said there are a lot of opportunities for business in Wichita and Andover.

“We are outsourcing to Turkey and other countries, work that could be done here,” said Banwart. “We need these businesses in Wichita; we need to find those little niches we can get into.”

According to Banwart, getting people back to work also involves getting them educated to fill the jobs that are available. He said supporting tech schools and making college more affordable is one of his top priorities.

“I have interviewed people right out of high school and people in their late 50s,” said Banwart. “They are begging for a job and willing to work hard, but it is hard to find a job when you don’t have an education.”

This is the first time Banwart is running for office. He said he got involved because he didn’t like what he was seeing coming out of Topeka.

“I will be engaged with you,” said Banwart. “That is what we have been missing. I will be a guy that will be representing all of us, not just myself.”

Banwart plans to take a leave of absence from his job every spring when the legislature is in session, and said he wants to make himself available to the people he represents as much as possible.

The next candidate forum, with incumbent Dennis Hedke (R), is at 11:30 a.m. Thursday at the USD 385 district office at 1432 N. Andover Rd. Primary election day is Aug. 5. Since there is no Democrat running, the District 99 race will be decided by the primary election.