Saturday, December 20, 2014

Finch offers more than ‘majority rule’ with balanced leadership for district


Next week’s Republican primary election race for Kansas House District 59 boils down to two words: Majority rule.

Whomever the majority of GOP voters pick for the position — challenger Bob Fluke or incumbent Blaine Finch — will be the Republican candidate in the general election and likely the person who heads to the Statehouse in Topeka. Yet, depending on the outcome of the Aug. 5 primary, that person might not actually represent a majority of Franklin County voters.

It all depends on who you identify as the “majority”: Conservative Republicans? Or a community of friendly conservative and moderate Republicans, along with unaffiliated and, yes, even Democrat voters who are willing to work together?

Fluke, 64, Ottawa, believes, without a doubt, his conservative values wholly represent the people of Franklin County and House District 59, and he pledged to vote accordingly if elected as representative. He said the incumbent too often voted against legislation — like a religious freedom bill opponents said would have legalized discrimination against homosexuals — simply because he was afraid how it would make him or the state look to people on the national stage.

“It’s not my job to make Kansas look good or bad,” Fluke told The Herald. “It’s my job to represent the district. ... I have to vote my faith.”

Asked whether representing the district would involve advocating on behalf of constituents outside the “conservative Republican” label, Fluke reiterated his zeal for majority rule. He noted he’d do whatever the majority of voters want, but quickly qualified the statement by firmly saying, “I don’t believe moderates are a majority in this particular district.”

In other words, no, Fluke’s tenure, if elected, would involve solely representing the interests of conservatives — particularly those in the rather exclusive and hard-right Franklin County Republican Central Committee, of which Fluke also serves as chairman. But while Fluke likely has a lock on voters within that GOP committee, he and his views don’t actually align with the majority of voters in the county.

It’s true: Franklin County has a lot of Republicans — 8,594, according to the Franklin County Clerk’s Office. But that doesn’t necessarily mean all of them lump themselves in with the “conservative” crowd. Fluke’s majority claim also doesn’t take into account the county’s other 8,748 voters (Democrats and unaffiliated) who, like Republicans, deserve to know their representative in Topeka has their backs — even if he or she doesn’t agree with them 100-percent of the time.

(If majority rule means the greater number should exercise greater power, then Fluke should cede the race now, based on the county clerk’s data.)

The idea a representative would brazenly choose to only serve the perceived “majority” of his district’s constituents not only is flawed, but dangerous.

On the campaign trail, Fluke has welcomed discussion of his children as they relate to his position on pro-life issues. His daughter, a former Miss Wheelchair Kansas, lives with a rare spinal defect, and his son is adopted. We applaud Fluke’s commitment to living his pro-life beliefs and rearing the two children despite the adversities they faced, but how would they have fared if such black-and-white “majority rule” sentiments were the area’s dominant political thought?

In such a world, it’s unlikely the City of Ottawa would consider the plight of people with disabilities (a minority of residents) when planning the city’s growth, meaning Ottawa’s newly formed Accessibility Advisory Board, on which Fluke’s daughter serves, probably wouldn’t exist. (Nor would many of the accomplishments of decades of advocating for greater access on behalf of those living with disabilities.)

Why? Because hard-liners of the “majority rule” mentality wouldn’t recognize the unique needs of those in the minority.

Fluke’s primary opponent, Blaine Finch, 37, Ottawa, on the other hand, has a proven track record of not only digging into issues on behalf of all House District 59 voters, but doing so with independent insight based on the Republican principles shared by many across the Sunflower State.

“I was raised to put people before politics,” Finch said. “For me, that means serving our community with integrity, providing thoughtful and responsible leadership, and being willing to work with others to find solutions that are right for our state. I am committed to researching the issues and communicating what’s happening in the Legislature back to everyone here at home. I’m also not afraid to speak up when I see things happening in Topeka that would impact our local schools, our jobs or our families.”

Though Fluke is quick to insinuate Finch isn’t a real Republican, the incumbent was selected to serve as chairman of the House Republican Freshman Caucus, and worked closely with House GOP leadership and Gov. Sam Brownback to solve complex legislative issues.

“I was proud as a freshman to have sat across from the governor to craft legislation,” Finch told The Herald, later referencing a bill he filed to help expedite adoptions to shorten waiting for Kansas children. House Bill 2205, which was supported by state Rep. Kevin Jones, R-Wellsville, and state Sen. Caryn Tyson, R-Parker, and signed into law by Brownback, addressed a real concern of youths awaiting adoption, as well as families like Fluke’s — a minority of Kansas residents likely ignored if we all operated under a “majority rule” priority system.

Some of Finch’s other work on behalf of all Kansans, regardless of their political stripes, dealt with chairing a subcommittee on juvenile justice that resulted in reforms in the youth corrections system, and working with the Kansas Attorney General’s Office on changes to keep the state’s “Hard 50” sentence as punishment for some of the most heinous crimes against residents. He also worked thoughtfully behind the scenes to help craft important budget and education bills, sacrificing time with his family and Ottawa law office for the betterment of his district.

“It’s not always pleasant,” Finch said. “That’s why it’s called ‘service.’”

With so much swirling at the Statehouse, how does the incumbent determine his focus? Majority rule? Not exactly.

“I look at the best interest of the district first, then the best interest of the state,” Finch said simply.

It’s a nuanced difference of philosophy that defines the candidates and the race for Kansas House District 59.

The winner in the Aug. 5 election will be determined by the majority of Republican primary voters. But should those people — regardless of the election’s outcome — be the only ones whose voices are heard during the next two legislative sessions? Fluke’s “Majority rule” means if one candidate wins, some voters lose.

A Blaine Finch victory would be a win for all.

Tommy Felts,

managing editor

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