Archive for Thursday, October 5, 2006

De Soto should gain from Senate change

October 5, 2006

The 40 Kansas Senate districts have an ideal population of 67,000. With Johnson County growing at 10,000 people a year since the 2000 Census, it's safe to say state senators in the district serve even more constituents than what was the statewide average at the start of the decade.

All that is to say with a population of 5,200, De Soto will not play a significant role in selecting the replacement of the retiring 9th District State Sen. Kay O'Connor. That person will almost surely be from Lenexa or Olathe and a conservative partisan in the longstanding Johnson County GOP civil war between the moderates and conservatives.

The social issues at the heart of the split among Johnson County Republicans are real and passionately important to their advocates. But their resolution will be on a much larger canvas than this corner of the 9th Senate District. A politician who makes them the primary passion of his or her legislative career can easily ignore De Soto and its needs.

O'Connor was more than a foot soldier for conservative causes. Ending abortion, school vouchers and shrinking government spending were her passions that drove her legislative agenda. The first and last of those issues surely had local adherents but the De Soto constituency for vouchers would be so limited to a fringe.

While O'Connor pushed those issues, it must be admitted she paid little attention to De Soto save to publicly feud with the local school administration. She was never seen at community festivals or events, was last in the city for a routine issues exchange in 2001 and didn't share the confidence of elected officials in the city or school district. It is little wonder this community was at odds with the rest of the district in voting for her challenger in the 2004 Republican primary.

With conservatives holding a solid majority of precinct committeemen and committewomen in the district, O'Connor's successor will almost certainly be of her ideological mindset. It can only be hoped that person can take an interest in issues of a more limited and local scope that those that drive national conservative movement.

The new senator will have a fresh start with the community and a chance to enter in a dialogue with De Soto and with community leaders.

If that happens, De Soto will make a significant gain in the Legislature.

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