Sherow makes bid for 'good representation' in Big First

3/19/2014

By SCOTT AUST

By SCOTT AUST

saust@gctelegram.com

Former Manhattan Mayor Jim Sherow's bid to represent the Kansas 1st District in Congress had to pass muster with one person first — his wife, Bonnie.

"I had to get one vote to get going. After a lot of caucusing, Bonnie said yes," Sherow said during an interview with The Telegram this week during a campaign trip through western Kansas to introduce himself to voters and listen to their concerns.

Sherow, a Kansas State University historian for more than 20 years, said his primary goal is to bring a better sense of decency, responsibility and representation to Congress than has been demonstrated by incumbent Republican Congressman Tim Huelskamp.

"Right now, the 1st District isn't being represented. Our representative can say he is, but when you've been kicked off the ag committee by your own party leadership, how does that serve the 1st District?" Sherow said.

Huelskamp was elected to Congress in 2010, and ran unopposed in 2012. He was removed from the agriculture and budget committees in 2012 by the House Republican leadership. Huelskamp maintains he was removed because he refused to compromise his conservative principles and vote the way party leadership wanted him to vote.

Sherow, a Democrat, said the economies of 35 of the 435 congressional districts in the country are predominantly agricultural, and Kansas' 1st District is the top agriculture producing district of those 35.

"It seems to me good representation for the agricultural interests of the 1st is best served by having somebody on the ag committee," he said.

The 1st District covers 63 counties, including most of western and central Kansas from Colorado to Emporia and Manhattan.

In addition to 22 years in the history department at K-State, Sherow served six years on the Manhattan City Commission until April 2013. While Sherow was on the commission, Manhattan created a new shopping district, an entertainment district and enhanced Main Street. He's also authored five books on Kansas, water issues and grassland issues.

Sherow and his wife, Bonnie Lynn-Sherow, raised four daughters. His wife, also a historian at K-State, teaches agricultural history and directs K-State's Chapman Center for Rural Studies. In 2010, they became small business owners, running the Daughters House Bed and Breakfast.

A variety of things prompted Sherow to run for Congress. Like many others, he's been sickened by the divisiveness in Congress, the government shutdown and the incumbent's lack of leadership.

Last fall's government shutdown cost the economy about $24 billion, Sherow said, lowered the U.S. bond rating and jeopardized American currency as the international standard.

"And when I saw the posturing that was done in front of the World War II memorial ... after it was closed and park service personnel were berated for closing down the monument that Congress had defunded, it seemed to me the height of hypocrisy," Sherow said.

As the son of a World War II Navy veteran, the nephew of veterans and a veteran himself during the Vietnam era from 1970-74, Sherow was disgusted enough to write a letter to the editor of his hometown newspaper and to Huelskamp's office criticizing the political posturing.

"I don't know how many times I've been told, 'I'm tired of being embarrassed being from Kansas. I'm tired of Kansans being ridiculed.' I am, too. I'd rather not be the butt of a late night talk show host," he said.

While in the area, Sherow said some of the things people expressed concerns about included the inability of members of Congress to work together for the common good, the national debt, immigration, voting rights and the future of agriculture.

"There's a tremendous amount of discontent with the way Congress is operating. People are tired of the bickering, the political posturing. They would simply like to see some things get done. That, more than anything, is what I hear over and over," he said. "There are serious concerns around the debt. It is a looming problem and more needs to be done to get a handle on it without jeopardizing the economic well being of the next generation."

Sherow said a recent poll he saw indicated 87 percent of Americans want to see members of Congress work together. The same poll showed 81 percent of Republicans, and 89 percent of Democrats agreed.

"My experience as a city commissioner showed that forgetting party labels and working with other people to address problems, goals, and aspirations worked. Now it wasn't without differences of opinion or interest, but pulling people together to reach a resolution, having the horses all pulling the wagon in the same direction, helps," he said.

If elected, Sherow wants to work with an emerging group in Congress called "No Labels," a bipartisan group that wants to work together to solve problems.

As a Democrat in the heavily Republican-leaning 1st District, Sherow understands the challenge that lies ahead. But he believes he can overcome it by getting out and talking to people about issues, understanding the things they're interested in and letting them know he plans to represent their interests.

Sherow feels Huelskamp's inflexible principles are hurting Kansas. Sherow said he, too, has principles but he's willing to find common ground with others.

"If your principle is that I'm going to stand over here, and I'm so principled that I'm not going to move until everyone else comes over here and joins me, then nothing's going to get done," he said. "When you know what the needs and interests of your district are, you work to meet those needs. You are a representative of the people, not a representative of your principles, per se."

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