The Kansas Senate District 12 race boils down to trust.

Republican voters in Ottawa and Franklin County need a candidate whom they can trust to serve their communities’ needs — not just the needs of special interest groups or allies in Topeka. They need a senator who will focus on the issues vital to Kansans’ daily lives, rather than getting side-tracked by inflammatory arguments and partisan distractions.

They need John Coen.

Many Herald readers are familiar with Coen, 55, Wellsville, because of a weekly personal column he previously wrote for the newspaper, which discussed local culture, politics, current events and lessons learned from his lifetime in Franklin County. Many more know Coen from his decades of community involvement, including service with the Ransom Memorial Hospital Board of Trustees, the Ottawa school board, Leadership Franklin County and a many other boards, councils, committees and organizations committed to making a better life for people in the place he calls home.

We know John Coen. You know John Coen.

And he knows you.

“The people in District 12 have many of the same issues, concerns, values of family and church,” Coen said.

Recent remapping by federal judges, he said, actually made Senate District 12 much better geographically for local constituents because it now encompasses more similar communities, which share similar concerns. Many of the larger cities in the district, such as Ottawa, Iola, Garnett and Osawatomie, all have such commonalities as hospitals and schools. In addition, Coen said, agriculture has fueled the engines of these cities’ economies for years — something he certainly knows firsthand as a former dairy farmer of more than 20 years.

A father of four, Coen understands the way of life for people in Franklin County and Senate District 12 — and he wants to protect it.

He believes state lawmakers drifted away from the state’s conservative approach to finances and the result could jeopardize generations of Kansans for years to come. Many constituents have told him they share that concern, Coen said.

“The state’s economic package or tax policy sets Kansas on the track to destruction,” he said. “If companies flock to Kansas, we will prosper. If they don’t, we have gambled away our children’s education dollars and our transportation dollars.”

That potentially means not enough money for schools or roads.

“It is a bet I am not willing to make. We must take a more conservative and responsible approach,” Coen said. “We have only ‘one bite at the apple’ on educating our students. ... And if we pause on maintaining roads and the state’s highway network, we’ll never catch up.”

Coen’s opponent in the Senate District 12 race, Caryn Tyson, was a big supporter of the state’s risky tax plan when she served in the Kansas House. Her recent campaign mailings boast that she “helped pass the largest tax cut in Kansas History,” calling the unproven move a “shot in the arm for the Kansas economy” and “a job creation accelerator.”

But what Tyson, 49, Parker, and many of her fellow legislators don’t seem to understand — and something Coen and others with small business experience already know — is that the tax plan is something of a reckless fire sale. It’s like a business posting incredibly deep — too deep — discounts in hopes of drawing in more customers. Unless a massive throng of buyers show up, the business likely won’t make enough money back to cover the cost of the merchandise or pay the employees, the electric bill or the debts. And in a down economy, you can’t always bet on even the best sale paying off.

None of us like taxes, but deep down we all know conservative and responsible taxation is necessary to maintain the quality of life and state services to which we have become accustomed.

Tyson and those like her are indeed gamblers.

And on this issue and others, she doesn’t seem to answer to the will and concerns of the voters — she answers to special interest groups and Gov. Sam Brownback, who endorsed Tyson in hopes of gaining a rubber-stamp vote in the Legislature. Her campaign mailings appear to mostly come from such groups as Americans for Prosperity and the Kansas Chamber PAC — not local donors and supporters.

Are these the people Republican voters can trust with the keys of the Senate? Shouldn’t local constituents have the most control over their elected representatives’ votes?

This isn’t Tyson’s first bid for Senate District 12. She hoped to inherit the seat from her father-in-law, Robert Tyson, when he left the Legislature in 2004. Fortunately for Ottawa and Franklin County, Pat Apple gained the office and represented the district well (though we’re not on board with all of his recent votes) until June’s redistricting put him in nearby Senate District 37.

Tyson wasn’t the right choice in 2004 and she isn’t the right choice now.

John Coen has served this community for more than 30 years in different capacities. Though he admits he’s made mistakes — and who hasn’t? — it was the people of Ottawa and Franklin County who helped him learn and grow. He now hopes to pay back the community for all he’s been given through greater service.

“I’ll never be a voice of the governor. I’ll never be a voice of the party leadership. I’ll be a voice of my district,” Coen said.

While others offer buzzwords, excuses and tricks, Coen offers ideas, passion and honesty. While others follow, he leads. While others argue, he works.

We trust John Coen.

Republican voters should too.

— Tommy Felts, managing editor