In a state in which there’s supposedly no place like home, it will be fascinating to see what voters make of the half a dozen people who packed up and changed homes just to run for the Legislature. Skepticism is in order.
As Secretary of State Kris Kobach noted to a Democrat upset by the sudden move to Ottawa of one-term Rep. TerriLois Gregory, R-Baldwin City, Kansas doesn’t require a minimum length of residency before running for office within a given district.
Maybe it should.
Some extraordinary last-minute moves may be justifiable in this extraordinary year, in which three federal court justices had to clean up the Legislature’s mess last month by quickly drawing new districts for U.S. House, State Board of Education, and the Kansas House and Senate in response to 2010 census data.
The court acted June 7, variously pulling districts out from under incumbents, bunching incumbents together and creating districts with no incumbents. Would-be candidates had to act fast, before the noon June 11 filing deadline.
But Merriam-Webster defines “carpetbagger” as “a nonresident or new resident who seeks private gain from an area often by meddling in its business or politics.”
And that definition may fit some of the cases, especially where incumbents felt so entitled to a legislative seat that they proved willing to cut ties and move nearly overnight.
Eight-term Rep. Clark Shultz, R-Lindsborg, relocated to the McPherson address of an apartment leased for his daughter. “I have a lot of business and personal colleagues in McPherson, so it just makes sense to stick with District 73,” Shultz told the McPherson Sentinel.
At least two-term Rep. Melanie Meier, D-Leavenworth, and 10-term Rep. Jan Pauls, D-Hutchinson, didn’t have to leave the city limits to try to hang onto their seats. But Pauls had to convince the State Objections Board that her legal residence was an old church, pews still in place, that she and her husband are renovating.
The prominent case locally is that of Gary Mason, a Wichita businessman challenging two-term Sen. Carolyn McGinn, R-Sedgwick. He had lived in the same district as McGinn for more than a dozen years when he declared his candidacy last September. After the judges’ map left Mason outside McGinn’s district, he moved back into it, by moving to Park City.
Mason told The Eagle editorial board this week that voters deserve a choice, and that his moving reflected how he and his wife are committed people.
It will be up to voters to judge whether the last-minute moves by Mason and other candidates are impressive evidence of the depth of their desire to serve the public, or something else.