Republican Howell says he's 'just an average person'

In his own eyes, he's an average Jim.

"I'm not a politician and I'm not a lawyer," said Jim Howell, the Republican candidate for state House District 82.

He admits the sentiment is a thinly veiled jab at Lee Kinch, his opponent, a lawyer and Democratic national committeeman.

"I bring the perspective of what it's like to pay my bills and raise my family. I'm just an average person living in Derby. I'm an average 'Derbyite' from a middle-class family, middle income."

Howell, an Air Force veteran, works at the Boeing Co. in the division of flight test instrumentation. He and Kinch are running for a seat vacated by longtime Republican state Rep. Don Myers.

Howell says taxes are too high for the average resident, and government has grown too large.

"I'm frustrated with the direction of our government," he said. "I think we can do better."

Howell has no previous political experience. He beat two candidates in the Republican primary to advance to the Nov. 2 election.

He traces his political aspirations to a 2002 TV interview between then-U.S. Rep. J.C. Watts and the Rev. D. James Kennedy of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Florida. The pair talked about how many people with good ideas are passive when it comes to political involvement. Howell said it caused him to consider becoming more politically active — when the time was right.

He thought about the House seat for years, he said, but wanted to wait until Myers retired. After that happened, he called Myers. The two have spoken a handful of times since then, and Howell has Myers' support.

"I think that Jim will do a good job. I think that he and my feelings about what government should be are pretty parallel," Myers said.

Howell embraces the conservative ideals of a smaller federal government and state sovereignty.

He said the federal government has "violated the 10th Amendment of the Constitution," particularly through the federal departments of Education and Transportation. The state should not be bound by the recent federal health care law, he added.

On a state level, Howell said he thought the state should have tried to curtail spending instead of raising the sales tax.

He'd like to see more efficiency within government, particularly in education. Two items in particular that Howell said shouldn't have been added to the budget: an appropriation for Kansas Public Radio and an increase in state employees' wages.

In education, the state should consider consolidation of costly rural districts, he said. It also should analyze which districts get the best results on state tests while spending the lowest amount per pupil, then try to replicate those successful programs.

He also said the Legislature could have cut deeper into the transportation budget.

A 2010 Reader's Digest report ranked Kansas' highways the best in the country. Howell said delaying some road work could have lessened the tax burden on residents.

"I don't want roads to be poor by any means, but I don't want them to be No. 1 (right now), either," Howell said.

On immigration, Howell said the federal government hasn't been effective in dealing with illegal immigration, with either undocumented workers or the businesses that might knowingly employ them. So the state should address the problem.

He said participation in e-Verify should be mandatory statewide. E-Verify is an Internet program that checks a worker's immigration status with the U.S. government. That would stop companies who knowingly hire illegal immigrants, while ensuring that workers are legally in the country, he said.