Keep past GOP primary in mind

7/12/2014

People who run for office deserve praise for their willingness to engage in public service.

People who run for office deserve praise for their willingness to engage in public service.

The political hopefuls who attended Wednesday's local candidate forum also deserve credit for addressing issues important to the people they would serve.

Participants in the question-and-answer forum included all of the Finney County Commission candidates in the Aug. 5 GOP primary: David Crase, Lon Pishny and Charles Sinclair in the District 1 race, and two running unopposed in Bill Clifford (District 4) and incumbent Larry Jones (District 5).

Also attending were Rep. John Doll, R-Garden City, who's unopposed in Kansas House District 123, and District 122 Rep. Russ Jennings, R-Lakin.

Only one invitee — Lakin Republican Stan Rice, who's challenged Jennings — didn't attend. He told forum organizers his July calendar was too full to include such an event.

Yet all of the others managed to make time. They rightly acknowledged the importance of publicly answering questions on such key issues as budgets, transportation and infrastructure, economic development and more in helping voters evaluate them before the primary election.

That said, it's not necessarily difficult to predict where Rice, with support from the Kansas Chamber, might fall on issues.

The Kansas Chamber has endorsed:

* Income tax breaks for wealthy Kansans, a strategy creating huge revenue shortfalls that promise to lead to costly cuts in state services.

* Eliminating wind and other renewable energy development good for regional and state economies.

* Undermining K-12 public schools as a path to privatizing education.

Those who take marching orders from the Kansas Chamber wouldn't campaign on as much. Rather, they could rely on attacks of their opponents as a way to get elected and carry out an ultraconservative wish list from the Kansas Chamber and other organizations fueled by Kansas' own Koch brothers — namely the American Legislative Exchange Council and Americans for Prosperity.

Jennings, on the other hand, has put his constituents' interests first. In the recent legislative session, he was instrumental in the defense against the Kochs' desperate attempts to repeal a Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) key in wind development.

Because that made Jennings a prime target, he likely will face the same maliciousness that materialized in the August 2012 GOP primary, when several state senators were targeted because they resisted a radical Koch-driven agenda encouraged by Gov. Sam Brownback.

If another round of attack ads does appear in days to come, citizens should reflect on that 2012 Republican primary, when last-minute mailers from Americans for Prosperity bombarded voters with inaccurate claims about state senators — usually some far-fetched tie to the Obama administration.

Then-Senate President Steve Morris was among those who fell prey to the ugly scheme.

A traditional, Eisenhower-style Republican who coveted fiscally responsible solutions for such areas as schools, transportation and economic development, Morris was defeated because many voters were swayed by the onslaught of misinformation.

The Hugoton Republican's opponent — Rep. Larry Powell, a Garden City Republican with an unremarkable record — garnered Kansas Chamber support because he could be counted on to sign off on its agenda. He has done as much as a state senator, to include supporting repeal of an RPS that's been an economic plus in southwest Kansas — and among a number of savvy initiatives powered by Morris.

Powell even participated in efforts to dismantle another sensible law crafted under Morris' leadership in an oil-and-gas trust fund to aid counties facing hits in tax revenues, should oil and gas valuations fall.

Powell's blunders were proof of the staggering decline in quality of representation for the Senate's 39th district.

In looking back at the 2012 GOP primary, it's safe to say many area residents assumed the veteran lawmaker Morris was safe, and didn't bother to support him at the polls. That's a sure way to learn a painful lesson.

Jennings may be seeking just his second term, but has moxie, as he demonstrated in defending the RPS. As a result, he's annoyed ultraconservatives in charge.

Morris did, as well, and consequently was maligned in ways he didn't deserve.

Local and area citizens in a region well served by Morris now have an important House race to consider. They should keep the former Senate president in mind in standing against the very forces who angled to bring him down.

Email Editor-publisher Dena Sattler at denas@gctelegram.com.

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