Competition good for Huelskamp

Exchange of views can benefit voters as well

By The Mercury

We’re glad that 1st District Rep. Tim Huelskamp faces opposition in both the Republican primary and the general elections. We’re glad not because we disagree with many of his positions — though we do — but because voters benefit when incumbents must do more than shake hands and kiss babies to get re-elected.

Rep. Huelskamp, a farmer from Fowler who did not have a primary challenge in 2012, faces an individual in the GOP primary who shares many of his views. As an Associated Press story in Sunday’s Mercury pointed out, Alan LaPolice, like Rep Huelskamp, is a farmer and a staunch conservative. But there are differences.

Rep. Huelskamp has spent much of his adult life in politics, having served in the Kansas Legislature before getting elected to Congress. Mr. LaPolice is a veteran of the first Gulf War, and with the help of the G.I. Bill, earned a degree in the performing arts and English literature from U.C. Berkeley. After working as an actor, he became a teacher in Los Angeles before moving back to his home town of Clyde a decade ago.

Another difference between the two is that while Rep. Huelskamp, a tea party favorite, holds the mainstream Republican Party in contempt, Mr. LaPolice seems to disdain the entire Congress. “We need to replace all members of Congress right now, but we only have access to replacing one,” he said.

Rep. Huelskamp, who tells voters that he works for them, not GOP leaders, has continued the defiance of political authority that characterized much of his decade-plus tenure in the Kansas Senate.

That approach would be more admirable if it were productive. But Rep. Huelskamp’s actions have cost Kansas seats on important committees, most notably the House Agriculture Committee.

Mr. LaPolice, who lists his priorities as reforms to education, the economy and health care, says his first action would be try to to win back Kansas’ traditional seat on the House Agriculture Committee.

We don’t know whether Mr. LaPolice can oust Rep. Huelskamp, but the challenger could make the next few weeks interesting.

We also wouldn’t be surprised if the general election campaign also is interesting, at least in this part of the district. That’s because Jim Sherow, a Manhattan Democrat and KSU professor who has political and philosophical differences with both Republican candidates, can be expected to highlight those differences.

All three candidates would perform a valuable service for voters by focusing on the issues, rejecting personal attacks and by distancing themselves from any of the anonymous or opaque smears that have become part and parcel of American political campaigns.

That would be a welcome bipartisan reform.

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