The Democratic challenger to Rep. Tim Huelskamp says the incumbent has lost west Kansas's influence in the House, particularly on issues of agriculture.
With a severe drought inflicting the American west and aquifer replenishment rates failing to make a difference, it's a failure of leadership that west Kansas does not have a voice on the House Agriculture Committee, Democratic congressional candidate Jim Sherow said.
Sherow, a historian for 22 years at Kansas State University and a former mayor of Manhattan, is running against Rep. Tim Huelskamp, whom he said has become too extreme for his own party, and too extreme to adequately represent the 1st District.
"It's irresponsible to be so hard to get along with your own party tosses you off the ag committee," Sherow said, referring to Huelskamp losing his seat on that committee and the House Budget Committee for refusing to back House leadership over the debt limit and funding of the government.
There are 435 Congress members fighting for their constituents in the House, Sherow told the Daily Globe in an interview while campaigning in Dodge City, in order to get anything done, House members need to be able to find allies.
"I'm not going to stand to the side and say, 'Here are my principles and I'm going to stand here until you work with me.' I am principled, but I'll get work done," Sherow said at gathering of residents alongside Kansas Secretary of State candidate Jean Schodorf at the Dodge House Monday.
The future of west Kansas is in developing new ways to grow using less water, and to continue to tap into wind energy — and store and transport it through a "Smart Grid" — and continuing to manufacture goods and products for export, Sherow said.
Huelskamp, along with the rest of the state's congressional delegation, voted against the Farm Bill, claiming it did not cut enough from the food stamps program. Sherow characterized that as a gamed vote and that Huelskamp consistently relied on the work of "responsible" congressmen and congresswomen to pass votes important to west Kansas.
Huelskamp and other Tea Party caucus members are playing a dangerous game with the economy, Sherow said, and that the partial government shutdown was bad for business, bad for the economy and threatened the dollar's place as the worldwide exchange currency.
"It's Nero fiddling while Rome burns. Maybe he was a principled fiddle player, I don't know."
Sherow describes himself as a centrist, and if elected plans to join the "No-Labels" caucus made up of moderate Democrats and Republicans that seek consensus on major issues. He is not against the Keystone XL pipeline, for example, as long as there are sufficient protections in place for the states and their natural resources along the proposed path. He is not against the expansion of coal power, such as the plant in Holcomb, as part of a comprehensive energy policy.
Sherow, an Air Force veteran, also thinks decentralization of the VA will be necessary to provide adequate care for service members long term. The centralized VA system poorly responds to the needs of rural veterans, he said, and he supports plans like Project ARCH, which allow veterans to get care through community health care providers.
Pratt County was one of the five test communities for Project ARCH.
"I don't care about left or right. I care about problems that need to be fixed," Sherow said.
Issues like water, the national budget, debt, social security and immigration, things the House leadership would like to address, are "bottled up" until the GOP leadership in the House thinks they can find a workable coalition. Huelskamp and other Tea Party Republicans make that difficult, Sherow said.
Sherow said his time as a Manhattan city commissioner and mayor is indicative of the kind of work he would like to do in Washington. When he took office, the commission had to make difficult decisions on large redevelopment projects.
Ultimately, as an idea started to become brick and mortar reality, deals had to be struck and decisions made. It's easy to continuously vote "no," Sherow said, it's much harder and riskier to do the job you were elected to do.
He's proud that CNN named Manhattan one of the 10 best cities "to retire young" and Forbes Magazine listed it as one of the 10 best small communities for businesses and careers. The Census Bureau has listed it as one of the fastest growing small cities.
"That didn't happen by accident. It happened by hard work — a lot of late meetings, working with the chamber, working with citizens' groups. ... I want to take that same approach to working with others."
Come to Manhattan, he tells people.
"I think if you see what we've accomplished through cooperation, it's remarkable."