One newcomer candidate carrying that centrist, commonsense, Kansas mind-set is Margie Wakefield, D-Lawrence. Presuming her victory in the August primary, Wakefield will face off against incumbent 2nd District U.S. Rep. Lynn Jenkins, R-Kan., in the Nov. 4 general election. Wakefield is gaining ground on fundraising from ordinary Kansans, as opposed to special interest groups. Her appeal is understandable — she wants to help Washington, D.C. leave gridlock behind and move toward solving problems for Kansans with an open mind and big ideas.
Those ideas have been neglected by Jenkins, who is so intent on carrying the GOP party line that she missed opportunities to foster job growth and help the Sunflower State’s rural residents and agricultural interests.
Congress should be a platform for its lawmakers to do good work, but Jenkins’ votes could be predictably dictated by the party line, rather than the legislation’s impact on her constituents. Kansans want their lawmakers to sidestep partisanship in favor of listening to the majority of voters’ interests, rather than just a select few. Kansans aren’t the only ones taking note of Wakefield though. She has been named one of 36 women to watch in 2014 by MSNBC.
“Women are a driving force in our economy and should be in our government,” Wakefield said following the announcement. “I am thrilled to stand up and be one of the many women who want to lead our country to a better future.”
Wakefield is an attorney with significant experience with mediation in her family practice law office. That experience could prove quite useful in Congress where we need people bridging gaps on policy and ideology to come up with solutions. Wakefield learned from one of the best too. Former U.S. Sen. Bob Dole taught her by example, she said, providing lessons on compromise and civil discourse during her time working for the state’s top statesman. She also learned to listen to constituents, she said.
Jenkins’ ability to listen with empathy was tested in Ottawa several years ago when, at a 2009 town hall meeting at the Franklin County Office Annex, she told an uninsured waitress with a 2-year-old child that she should be a grown-up and get an advanceable tax credit to go buy her own insurance. You can watch the embarrassing scene at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kNfdNs-NrWk
In a community with more than 50 percent of students receiving free or reduced price lunches, we clearly need an advocate in Washington to help improve life in Kansas with more and better paying jobs. And those jobs need to be created, rather than stolen from our neighbors in Missouri. The economy continues to grow more stable, but it won’t happen without focus. Focus on constituents’ needs is a good start.
— Jeanny Sharp,
editor and publisher