Candidates compete for the 36 District seat for the second time
By Kathy Feist
Democrat Mark Sharp, 34, grew up in the Hickman Mills area. He has a degree in Business Administration from Clark Atlanta University and an online teaching degree. He has taught at public schools around Dallas, Tex., and at KIPP Endeavor charter school near 18th & Vine. Sharp played baseball for two independent leagues. He ran for and won the House seat last November in a special election in which he ran against his current opponent. He is currently on the Work Force Development and Urban Issues committees, but he hopes to be on the Budget or Education committees if reelected.
Sharp says he has a narrow focus on issues going into the upcoming General Assembly: Crime and Crime Prevention.
This year, Sharp co-sponsored a bipartisan piece of legislation that would create a statewide pretrial witness protection fund. The bill provides funding to law enforcement agencies to protect witnesses, victims and their immediate families whenever their testimony would jeopardize their lives. “In order to get enough evidence to make convictions, we need to give these witnesses the tools to show up at court and the tools to want to come forward,” he says. The program also helps get repeat offenders off the streets, he added, thereby reducing crime.
Sharp would like to expand school mentoring programs. “A lot of kids lack direction after high school,” he says. “Sometimes kids don’t have a coach to boost them up or a teacher they look up to.” He says he would like to generate more volunteers to mentor juniors and seniors. He also believes schools should provide an avenue to trade schools after high school. “It all comes back to reducing crime: trying to get to the youth before they go down a bad path.” To that end, public schools need more funding, he added.
Sharp was a strong advocate for Medicaid expansion, which passed in the August primary. He would like to see more oversight on statewide prescriptions, particularly regarding opioids.
Sharp believes it’s important to keep the community safe from the pandemic and believes the nation should heed the advice of experts in the field.
Republican Nola Wood, 69, Wood, 68, was born in St. Louis, and moved to the Kansas City metro area in the mid 80’s. Since 2001, she has lived at Terrace Lake Gardens where she recently served as chairman of the neighborhood association. She homeschooled and raised her three children as a single mother and has held professions as a realtor and insurance underwriter. She feels her experience on a wide range of issues qualifies her as a better candidate.
On health care, Wood says the current Affordable Health Care Act is too burdensome and overregulated. “I call it the unaffordable health care act,” she says. She would like to see health care return to private health insurers, noting there are better choices now.
In education, Wood would like to see students’ needs made a priority, rather than teachers’ unions. “The opinion by the teacher’s union should not be the only one considered.” She is a supporter of education freedom, allowing families to choose charter, private or homeschool education using a voucher program. “This is the year people want to look at options,” says Wood.
Wood does not believe unelected beurocrats like the Health Department should determine how faith communities are allowed to meet. “There’s been a lot of concern over how much the First Amendment freedoms have been relegated to local authorities, determining what is an essential business versus non-essential,” she says, pointing out that casinos can fully open to the public but churches cannot.
Wood believes last year’s increased property tax assessments in Jackson County were incompetent. “Some people believe there was inappropriate targeting of certain areas,” she says. “If the Jackson County assessor’s office and chief executive are not abiding by the constitution and rule of law, then at what point do you need the state legislature to regulate [the county]?” The result of increased property taxes could create a glut of homes for sale and consequently a depression of property values, she says.
Wood has seen an increase in vacant housing and is concerned that rental property owners, wishing to keep costs low, are holding off on leasing for fear of an eviction moratorium which would force them to rent property for free.
”There are really a lot of issues that should be bipartisan or nonpartisan,” says Wood in terms of reaching across the aisle. “But unfortunately a lot of the big money in politics has tilted the conversation.”