Archive for Thursday, June 15, 2006

Retired educator to challenge for 38th District seat

June 15, 2006

A retired educator is planning to put her new-found free time into a race for the Kansas House.

"I'm just old enough to retire, but still young enough to have some energy," the 57-year-old Diane Bryant of Lenexa.

The filing deadline passed without a Republican filing to challenge incumbent Anthony Brown of Eudora. Brown won the seat two years ago when he handily defeated fellow Republican Tom Marsh in the GOP primary and ran unopposed in the general election.

Bryant, who filed Friday, was the only Democrat to enter the race.

The race will not be Bryant's first. In 2002, she challenged then-incumbent Republican Dan Williams for his north Olathe House seat.

"I enjoyed it and think I learned a lot," she said. "I feel like I'm approaching it with a wider base of support and much more knowledge of what I'm doing."

Since that time, Bryant has retired from 35-year career, the majority of it as a middle-school librarian in the Olathe district, and moved to western Lenexa. The mother of an adult daughter also has a master's degree in educational administration.

With that background, it's not surprising that Bryant said education would be a key focus of her campaign.

"I'm for funding quality education, building quality schools and building for the future of Kansas," she said.

Bryant said she was also pro-business, which she said was consistent with her vow to support education. She has witnessed high school students learning advanced skills in technical, engineering and culinary education far beyond what was offered a generation ago, Bryant said.

"Kids are coming out of school learning a lot more than I did," she said. "One of the things that has made eastern Kansas and Johnson County as successful as they've been is the good schools."

In contrast to Brown, Bryant said she was pro-choice.

"I think that decision lies between a woman and her doctor," she said.

In a reflection of growth, the 38th District was essentially remade after the 2000 Census. It snakes from western Lenexa along Kansas Highway 10 to Lawrence, where it jumps the Kansas River to include precincts of old and new neighborhoods.

"It's one of the biggest districts in this area," Bryant said. "I've got much to learn. Eudora probably has different priorities than Lenexa."

It has also been a Republican District since redistricting. Rob Boyer of Olathe defeated Carlie Abel of Eudora in 2002 before giving up the seat in an unsuccessful bid to defeat fellow Republican Kay O'Connor in the state's 9th Senate District in 2004.

Bryant said she was aware of that history, but pointed to recent developments -- such as 38th District resident and former GOP state chairman Mark Parkinson's decision to run on Democratic Gov. Kathleen Sebelius' ticket -- that suggest many Republicans were rethinking their loyalties.

"It's symptomatic that the Republican Party of today is not the Republican Party of old," Bryant said. "I think a lot of Republicans are leaving because they want more moderate leadership."

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