Service begins at home.
The Ottawan-versus-Ottawan race for Kansas House District 59 boils down not so much to stark ideological differences, but to the candidates’ backgrounds, experience and previous work in the local community.
Republican Blaine Finch, 35, and Democrat Caleb Correll, 27, are vying for the Statehouse post, which was made vacant by redistricting decisions earlier this year. Both graduates of Ottawa High School, as well as longtime residents, Finch and Correll share similar concerns about growing jobs, economic development and education. The fine points of their positions reflect their respective political backgrounds — Finch being a moderate Republican and Correll a fairly traditional conservative Kansas Democrat.
But which candidate is best prepared to represent Ottawa and the rest of House District 59 in the next sessions of the state Legislature?
To determine what kind of leader a person might be in the future, it helps to look back at the type of leader he or she already has been.
Finch, an Ottawa attorney, began serving his community at an early age with stints on the Ottawa City Commission and as Ottawa mayor. He has maintained involvement with a number of local organizations’ charitable foundations, pushing Ottawa and Franklin County forward, as well as promoting the community and working to better its image and increase its potential.
The Republican candidate was an early advocate for the newly completed U.S. 59 freeway, which not only has decreased the travel time between Ottawa and Lawrence, but boosted the safety of the nearby highway. As a top economic development leader in the county, Finch has put in countless hours to foster an environment friendly to new businesses and industries, helping to open more jobs to county residents. Most recently, he has served as interim director for the Franklin County Development Council, which leads local efforts to attract the growth needed for the community to prosper.
Correll’s service largely includes work within the political arena. Now an assistant manager at The Liquor Store, Ottawa, he previously helped to reorganize the Franklin County Democratic Party. At age 23, he was voted chairperson of the Democratic group, which made him the youngest county party chairman in Kansas, he said. Correll also worked on Democratic State Sen. Tom Holland’s 2010 gubernatorial campaign, and served as a “tracker” for the Kansas Democratic Party, following now-Gov. Sam Brownback’s tour across the state, recording everything the Republican candidate said on the campaign trail.
The young Democrat has a more firm grasp of the issues than many of his contemporaries and isn’t afraid to break from the party line on such topics as illegal immigration and Second Amendment rights. But with such little comparable leadership experience and community involvement, we’re uncomfortable sending him to Topeka to represent local interests. We’d like to see Correll get more involved with groups outside the political world and become a community leader at home first.
Finch already has demonstrated proven leadership skills and a commitment to bettering Ottawa and Franklin County. He has the right experience and common-sense approach to bring economic development to the region, as well as to the state as a whole. We’re confident a win for Finch will be a win for voters.
With more effort, Caleb Correll might be ready to lead tomorrow.
But we know Blaine Finch is ready to lead today.
— Tommy Felts, managing editor