A long-time public ser- vant from Kiowa County is throwing his hat into the special election for the Fourth Congressional District seat.
Democrat Dennis McKinney, former Kansas representative, Kansas House Minority Leader and state treasurer, has announced his candidacy for the seat being vacated by former Kansas U.S. Rep. Mike Pompeo, a Re- publican.
Pompeo has been con-
firmed as the new CIA director, and Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback has set April 11 to have a spe- cial election to replace him.
McKinney said people are frustrated with a lack of cooperation in govern- ment.
“In my public service, I have a record of working across party lines to try to find solutions instead of gridlock,” McKinney said. “I think most Kansans are more practical than they are ideological. They want to see problems solved.”
McKinney, 56, a farmer and rancher out of Greensburg, started his public service career at age 28 in 1988 when he was elected to the Kiowa County Commission. McKinney was appointed to the Kansas House of Representatives in May 1992 and was re-elected for nine terms. He served as House Minority Leader, leading Democ- rats in that body from 2003 until 2008. In that role, McKinney served on the State Finance Council, Calendar and Printing Committee, Interstate Co-
operation Committee and the Legislative Coordi- nating Council.
In 2008, then Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius appointed McKinney Kansas State Treasurer to replace outgoing Treas- urer Lynn Jenkins, who was elected to Congress. He was defeated by Re- publican Ron Estes in the 2010 election. Estes is running for Pompeo’s old seat on the Republican side.
A key issue McKinney mentioned was propos-als that would allow states to privatize Medicare.
"We tried that in Kansas with Medicaid – Kancare. It's been a disaster," he said. "I strongly believe our elderly have worked hard, paid taxes and they have earned the promise of Medicare and that should not be undone. That needs to be defended."
McKinney also said people in Kansas are frustrated with higher sales taxes, higher property taxes with fewer jobs while funding for schools is being slashed.
"That's fundamentally not right," he said. "We should not take that model to Washington, D.C.," he said.
McKinney said to support education on the federal level, the state should fulfill the funding commitment that exists in special education.
"The very first provision in the Kansas Constitution in 1861 provided for a system of public schools," he said. "The abolitionists who created the Constitution believed education is good for the individual, it's good for the economy and it's good for the future of democracy."
Investment in education and workforce development are needed to remain competitive in aviation, which like agriculture and energy production are the three components to the economy in the Fourth District, he said.
"A new farm bill will be drafted in the next couple of years," said McKinney who grew up along the Kiowa/Comanche county line, farming and raising cattle. "It's important that we have state legislators cooperating and it's important to have a Congressman who understands agriculture. When it comes to putting a farm bill together, maybe it's good to have a Congressman who knows how to run a scoop shovel."
He favors a dual approach to energy in which investments are made in new technologies while remembering clean burning gas complements those technologies.
“Many, many jobs in this area are created by the oil field,” McKinney said. “As prices go up we want to have the right policies in place to encourage exploration and job creation.”
McKinney talked about the progressive history of Kansas, how it was one of the first states to enact workers compensation and unemployment compensation. McKinney mentioned the Menninger family, who were instrumental in advancing mental health care in the state.
“What the Menninger family helped us learn was good mental health care did not bankrupt the state,” he said. “We were a leader in mental healthcare. It made the state a richer, better place to live.”
A member of the Greensburg United Methodist Church, Menninger said his faith is a big part of who he is and how he sees things.
“I think I'm called to use the abilities God has given me to help people find opportunities for themselves and their families,” he said. “If someone's willing to work hard, they should have the opportunity to get ahead.”
McKinney and his wife, Jean, a paraprofessional at Kiowa County High School have two grown daughters, Lindy McKinney and Kelly McCarty, and one grandson.