Purchase photos

Reality show made in Topeka

7/1/2014

If there was a radio version of the "Bachelor" or "Bachelorette" TV show in which contestants compete for your favor, it probably would be a lot like the next few months when candidates for the Kansas House of Representatives ask for your vote.

The candidates are on their best behavior, and try to be as appealing and friendly as possible to convince you they are the ones you want to send to Topeka to manage your government -- and essentially your life in Kansas.

There's good reason for you to take a hard look at the qualities you want in your representatives. You don't have to marry them, of course, but you will be wed to them and their ideas for government for at least two years.

So, even though you probably have a real life and responsibilities, it's time to start thinking about those key questions you'll want to ask those candidates.

Party affiliation? That's probably the beginner for the primary election season but even at the primary level, if the candidate is on your doorstep or chatting after the Fourth of July parade or wandering the grounds at the county fair, you ought to find out all you can that matters to you about your party's candidates -- and even the other party's candidate for your decision in November.

Have kids or grandkids or neighborhood kids in school? You probably ought to consider where the candidate is on financing public education. Do you think the local youngsters are getting a good education -- especially those with special needs? You'll want to hear the candidate's opinion of your local schools and whether they have enough money to handle the kids, or not enough, or know. Or, if you feel the schools don't make best use of their finances, does your potential representative have a better idea?

Yes, there will be candidates who know less about public education and how it is financed and managed than you do. "I don't really know" might be the answer you get, but public education takes more than half of the state's budget, and it's probably reasonable to find out the candidate's inclination for financing schools.

If abortion or guns are your hot buttons, of course, get the candidate to be specific. An endorsement by an association is a start, but if those are big issues for you, press a bit to find out whether the candidate leans the right way for you.

Taxes? Nobody except those 190,000 Kansans who don't pay state income taxes at all because of previous legislative action thinks taxes are too low. But, you gotta also figure it takes some money to run the state and provide the services you want. So, be cautious about a candidate who just talks about cutting taxes without some sort of link to providing services you specifically want.

There are, of course, local issues that will be important to have a champion for during the Legislature -- maybe it is a new off-ramp from the highway or a plan to make sure your town doesn't run out of water. If your neighbors are talking about a specific issue, see where the candidate goes with it.

But the real key might be asking that candidate why he or she decided to spend the summer running for election to a job that pays less than $20,000 to winter in Topeka. Is there something here that makes sense to you locally or some grand design that sounds like it was pulled off an Internet website?

This election probably ought to be a workout for voters, just as it is for candidates. It's OK to be picky, and it's OK to present your issue to the candidate and see whether he or she will represent that issue for you under the dome.

And, the nice thing about this Bachelor/Bachelorette derby is it could be on radio, because it doesn't matter how cute they are. Your representative is your voice in the Legislature.

Syndicated by Hawver News Co. of Topeka, Martin Hawver is publisher

of Hawver's Capitol Report.

More Opinion