To the editor:
As Election Day finally approaches and we fill our recycling bins and wood-burning stoves with over-sized mailers, I wanted to thank the voters of the 41st District for giving me the opportunity of a lifetime. This has been a truly eye-opening experience. Over the course of the last two years I’ve seen first hand the many different lives and concerns of my constituents. With differing ethnic, religious and economic backgrounds, we are a unique community with many shared priorities. I am honored to have been a small but key piece in unifying our community. I believe this role is much more than pushing a button to vote – it’s about understanding the many stakeholders in our district, proposing legislation, building bi-partisan cooperation, and, most importantly, advocating for our community and the people in it.
To me, the role of state representative is also about using the position to highlight and support community initiatives, being accessible to constituents and helping those I can. I’ve been lucky enough to be given the opportunities to highlight the best that our district has to offer. From being invited as the keynote speaker at the CGSC graduation last year, highlighting our community’s role in educating our top tier military officers, to being asked to honor some of our long-standing local African Matrons in a recent event at the Sunflower Pentecostal Church, to being honored as the first state-level public official to be given the National Theater Association advocacy award for work I did on behalf of our kids; these are experiences I will remember and cherish for the rest of my life.
Just as fulfilling has been working for our local state employees, especially our corrections workers and teachers. I sponsored legislation to prohibit the privatization of prisons across our state, ensuring that those that put their lives on the line to keep our communities safe will continue to receive the benefits of being a state employee that they deserve. We were also able to secure 7.5 percent to 15 percent pay raises for employees at the Lansing Correctional Facility where many hadn’t had an increase in wages in five to 10 years, while also resorting $1.5 million in education funding for our community that had been cut as a direct result of the actions of my predecessor and the disastrous Brownback tax experiment. A teacher thanked me the other day. As a single mother living on a teacher’s salary, she was having trouble making ends meet. Thanks to our decision to restore funding to public education, she got enough of a raise that she wouldn’t have to leave the profession she loved.
The role requires finesse as well, as I discovered while helping our local CASA get their payments from the attorney general’s office. Locally we have seen the Alliance Against Family Violence struggle with cash flow issues. I didn’t want to see that happen with CASA, the organization that works with at-risk and abused kids in the court system. With negotiations, we were able to get delayed payments released and come up with ways to ensure the grant money wouldn’t get delayed again so that CASA can continue to be there for the most vulnerable in our community.
But the most rewarding part of the job isn’t legislative achievements or honors; it’s being able to make a real difference in the lives of the people in our district. I had a parent contact me because their kids had fallen off of the Medicaid rolls due to paperwork mistakes. His son had brittle-bone disease. His daughter was set to receive an athletic scholarship, but because they had lost coverage, was at risk of losing her chance at higher education. Without access to quality health care through Medicaid, every single day was a perilous journey for that family. To be able to tell that parent that I was able to get his children back on Medicaid by making a few simple phone calls was perhaps the most gratifying moment of my time as your representative.
We need less of the divisive rhetoric, the half-truths and the outright lies. I have been shocked by what has been said about my family and me over the months of this election cycle, as well as the twisted portrayal of my voting record. In particular I am disappointed at the cowardly attacks on my wife who has been one of the biggest advocates for positive change in our community.
Over the course of my time in office I have done my best to put Leavenworth first. Two years ago you elected me to represent Leavenworth, not a particular legislative agenda or a political party, and that is what I have done. Needless to say, if I am re-elected I will continue to make our community my No. 1 priority and will make sure that we have a strong voice in Topeka. We need balance and moderation as we look for ways to efficiently run our state government and ensure fairness when it comes to tax incentives. We need less blind ideology and more practical evaluation and transparency. Ours is a state that has stood as a bulwark with Brown vs. Board of Education, a consistent supporter of military and veterans, and a leader in educating our youth. I have faith in our community and our state. I look forward to a bright future. Thank you for your support over these past two years years and I humbly ask you for your vote again on Nov. 6.