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Re-election should not be this easy

Local legislative candidates unopposed

By The Mercury

We’re glad Manhattan is represented in the Kansas House of Representatives by responsible individuals, but we still don’t like the idea that they can skate to re-election. That is the case.

That’s because neither 66th District Rep. Sydney Carlin, a Democrat, nor 67th District Rep. Tom Phillips, a Republican, has an opponent in either the primary or general election. For that matter, Ron Highland of Wamego, who represents the 51st District, also is unopposed.

Barring a successful challenge from an independent or a write-in candidate, Rep. Carlin will win her seventh term and Reps. Highland and Phillips will win their second terms, although Rep. Phillips served part of an unexpired term before seeking election in 2012.

It could be that the three of them are simply so good at what they do and so popular in their districts that no challenger would have a chance. If that really is the case, we hope none of them contemplates taking voters for granted.

In a visit to the Mercury on Tuesday, Rep. Carlin said she enjoys visiting with her constituents and will keep in touch with them in the coming months; there’s no reason to doubt that Reps. Phillips and Highland would do likewise in their districts.

The least that would do is show respect for the citizens they serve, even those citizens who voted for other candidates or didn’t vote at all.

Our form of government functions best when individuals with competing views seek office and when voters show enough interest in the candidates’ respective positions and philosophies to make informed choices.

Too often it’s been voters — or, more accurately, registered voters who don’t bother casting ballots — who have let our system down. The best-intentioned candidates and elected officials are handicapped if they don’t know what their constituents want.

More recently, however, some candidates and elected officials in Kansas and elsewhere have increasingly taken their cues not from their constituents but from well-funded interest groups. These groups are often opaque and often from out of state. And too often, their priorities don’t coincide with those of local residents. Given the power that some of these groups have acquired, elected officials and candidates sometimes defy them at their peril.

We hope voters, particularly at the local and legislative levels where they can have direct contact with elected officials, can tune out the machine-driven noise. And we hope legislative candidates, even when they don’t have opposition, remember that the interest group that matters consists of the citizens of their districts.

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