LaPolice hopes to be part of the Washington D.C. solution

4/25/2014

By SCOTT AUST

By SCOTT AUST

saust@gctelegram.com

On his campaign website, Clyde Republican Alan LaPolice says if you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem.

And LaPolice strongly feels incumbent First District Congressman Tim Huelskamp, whom LaPolice is challenging in August's Republican primary, has become a problem the people of the district can no longer tolerate.

"Tim's part of the problem because he can't be in the room," LaPolice said during a stop in Garden City this week, referring to Huelskamp being removed from both the budget committee and the agriculture committee.

"He'll never be back on those committees again because they know him too well. He wants to say he was kicked off because of (Speaker of the House John) Boehner, which is completely untrue. He was thrown off because of the way he practices politics," LaPolice said.

LaPolice said Huelskamp isn't interested in finding solutions to issues because he doesn't think government serves a purpose. LaPolice believes it does.

"It's a disservice to every member of the armed forces who ever put themselves in harm's way to say their government will collapse, and it can't provide for them anymore. That's Tim's government," he said.

Roots in Kansas

Raised on a dairy farm in Clifton in north-central Kansas, LaPolice joined the U.S. Army after high school and served as a combat infantryman in Iraq during the first Gulf War. Following military service, LaPolice used his GI Bill benefits and other scholarships to attend college at the University of California at Berkeley. He was a teacher for 10 years and earned a master's degree in education administration and became a high school principal in East Central Los Angeles.

While in California, LaPolice met and married his wife, who grew up in southern California and is originally from El Salvador. They have three daughters, ages 6, 3 and 1. His oldest daughter is actually attending first grade in the same elementary school LaPolice attended, he said proudly.

LaPolice maintained roots in Kansas. He has owned property here for a decade and came back each summer to help his dad on the family farm. Last August, LaPolice moved back to Kansas and, while waiting for a school administrator job to open up, became interested in finding someone he could support in running against Huelskamp, but became discouraged by GOP leaders. Eventually, after meeting with a group of close confidantes, LaPolice decided to run for Congress himself.

Politics and history have always interested LaPolice, and he taught high school government for some time. Calling himself a strict Constitutionalist, LaPolice said he also believes a thorough reading of the Federalist Papers, and specifically the writings of James Madison, are important in understanding the Founding Fathers' true meaning and intent.

"I'm a huge fan of history and of our government. I realize our government is cumbersome, and it fumbles sometimes, but it always produces the best possible results. It produces a strong and vital America. Right now, it's not doing that. We definitely are in the middle of a valley, and we need to get back up to a peak," he said.

Divisive politics

One reason Congress' approval rating is down around 12 percent and people have no confidence in the leadership coming from Washington, D.C., LaPolice says, is the impact of a new breed of politician so partisan, so divisive and so polarized as to want to completely stop government from functioning.

Being a conservative, LaPolice said he doesn't like big government. However, that doesn't mean he thinks there should be no government.

"I served my country. I got shot at. I got gassed. I appreciate that we have a federal government, and I'm a strong believer in a strong, centralized government, but it should be very limited, with a strong state and local government," he said. "We've got these guys that believe you can actually break government. That you can starve the beast, or go in there and completely make it collapse and then start fresh. That's the most naive approach I've ever heard of in my life. I believe that Tim right now is watching it burn."

LaPolice's top three issues are agriculture, education and economic policy.

"We need representation on the Ag Committee. To not have someone on the Ag Committee to set the farm bill is remarkably bad," he said.

Huelskamp's efforts to eliminate SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly referred to as the food stamp program, is doing more harm than good, according to LaPolice.

The SNAP program is not just food stamps, it also helps fund nutrition programs that benefit school children and the elderly. LaPolice agrees it's important to stamp out fraud and abuse, but he adds taht Huelskamp's efforts to remove it from the farm bill would hurt agricultural states.

The reason SNAP is important for passage of the farm bill is sheer numbers. The farm bill only directly impacts eight states and 35 districts, while SNAP is important to all 50 states, 435 representatives and 100 Senators.

"You can pass a farm bill every five years, so long as you've got leaders on the committee and in office who will pass smart legislation," LaPolice said. "Tim wants to remove SNAP. If he does, we no longer have a farm bill that gets passed, we no longer have an ag committee and, more importantly, farming gets regulated by three different departments."

Health and Human Services would take over the SNAP program, but farming would be doled out to Energy, Commerce and the EPA. The thought of leaving agriculture in the hands of the EPA is not likely something most farmers would relish, LaPolice said.

"If we destroy the farm bill by eliminating SNAP, we're left with the EPA up in our business. And Tim, in his amazing short sightedness, doesn't get that," he said.

Fueling consumer confidence

On the economy, LaPolice said there's plenty of investment capital waiting around to be invested, but venture capitalists, money people and job creators are waiting for consumer confidence to improve, and much of consumer confidence is affected by confidence in leadership.

"The economy isn't bad because there's no capital, it's bad because our legislators are acting like children," he said.

As soon as Congress demonstrates it can perform the basic functions of government — pass spending bills, defense bills, budgets and work together like adults — consumer and investor confidence will go up and help the GDP take off.

"Jobs are created not through the government, but through private citizens, private investor capitalists who want to invest their money. They just won't do it in an uncertain environment, which is what our leaders have created, which is what Tim has created," LaPolice said.

With 15 years as an educator and school administrator, education is important to LaPolice. He said attempts to undermine public education are a threat to the country's future.

"Now our budget is dangerous, and we need to get it back in line and pay off debt. But at the same time, if we choke our public education, then we will not have a future worth paying off," he said.

Not a fan of standardization

LaPolice is not a fan of Common Core, and said academic research shows standardization does not make teachers more effective or school districts stronger.

"The standardization movement is destroying education. The high stakes testing that accompanies every standards movement is killing public education. The de-professionalization, and ultimately the demoralization of our teaching professionals is killing public education," he said.

But that does not mean LaPolice is opposed to any educational standards. He said he's never met a teacher who didn't have standards they desired students to attain. But, he said, the problem with Common Core standards is they are coupled with an end-of-the-year, high stakes assessment that will never be graded by the teacher or seen by the student.

With a canned curriculum, teachers are more likely to have to teach to the test, which undermines the teacher's ability to be creative, autonomous, and to connect with individual students, he said.

To prepare students for future jobs, students will need to learn how to be creative, industrious, imaginative and how to be exploratory learners, LaPolice said, something he believes they won't get with Common Core.

State solutions

Regarding Obamacare, LaPolice believes it should be fully repealed and replaced with legislation that would require states to come up with their own policies, similar to how Massachusetts handled health care. But he agrees there is a crisis in health care.

States could come up with a range of solutions from 100 percent private to a hybrid of private and public, or even a true insurance marketplace across state lines. There could be many solid attempts at fixing health care that are easier to manage because they maintain local control instead of a federal, one-size-fits-all approach, he said.

"Obamacare cannot succeed, and it's unfortunate because there are parts of it that people really appreciate. They like no lifetime limits, the (keeping coverage with) pre-existing conditions. But it was passed in a partisan fashion, and nothing partisan can last," he said.

LaPolice also feels a different attitude, one more willing to find common ground, could result in a bill written so well that even some Democrats might be willing to support replacing the Affordable Care Act.

"That's something the incumbent is never willing to do. He's not willing to work with moderate Republicans, let alone Democrats," LaPolice said.

The Republican primary is Aug. 5.

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