This past weekend at the 2020 Winter Expo at the Western State Bank Expo Center, the Wild West Republican Women’s Club hosted a meet-and-greet for Republican candidates vying to represent Kansas' 1st Congressional District in Congress.
On Friday, candidate Tracey Mann was found at the booth with WRWC president Laura Tawater, interacting and taking pictures with Expo patrons.
“I would say I am pro-ag, pro-life, pro-gun and pro-Trump,” said Mann.
His mission statement: “Washington, D.C., has lost its way. I’m running for the Congress to serve as a voice for agriculture and fight for our conservative Kansas values.”
Mann is a fifth-generation Kansan and a small businessman living in Salina with his wife and four children, who grew up working on his family’s farm in Quinter. His confidence in his running stems from his business background and serving formerly as the lieutenant governor under Gov. Jeff Colyer and a former board member of the Kansas Chamber of Commerce. By using his passion for farming, he hopes to build up and improve the field of agriculture.
“We have some unique issues facing agriculture. Trade right now is one of the biggest ones,” he said. “We have to have good access to markets and we have to add value to our ag product here in the 'Big First (Congressional District)' here in Kansas before they leave our borders and markets are a big part of that.”
Mann highlighted the United States-Mexico-Canada Act's passage by the Senate and House and recent trade negotiations with China as big steps moving trade forward again.
“Beyond that, we need to be looking at continuing to advance our trade relationships with all countries," he said. “We have to make sure that our federal laws and trade agreements are such that we can continue to trade and trade well because Kansas farmers can compete on the world stage like any other, but we have to have access to markets.”
Mann said the biggest issue in Kansas is that he wants to limit the control of the federal government over local matters.
“Decisions are made much better here than they are in Washington, D.C.," he said. “The more that government is on the local level and more the federal government is small the better, and that goes into decreasing regulations, having as low taxes as possible, and free trade.”
He also supports driving down the cost of health care, a mission shared with a fellow candidate, physician Bill Clifford, who arrived at the Winter Expo on Saturday.
Clifford visited the Wild West Women’s Republic Club’s booth to talk about what he hopes to bring to the table on the road to the primaries in August and following general elections in November.
“I’m a physician and an Air Force veteran, not a politician, and I’m running for Congress to stand with President Trump and bring Kansas common sense to Washington," his mission statement reads. "Rural Kansas is under attack from radicals who would outlaw private healthcare, destroy agriculture, and impeach our president, and erase our borders."
Clifford is a Garden City native with a history as an elected official, including currently serving as a Finney County commissioner and Republican Party chairman in Finney County, and previously serving on the Garden City Community College Board of Trustees.
“I’ve always been drawn to the federal issues,” Clifford said. “I’ve advocated for patients for the last two decades. I’ve made trips to Washington, D.C., on behalf of patients, advocating for better Medicare coverage, lower drug prices, all the things that concern just about everyone of us in this country.”
Clifford said he was approached by current incumbent Rep. Roger Marshall’s people about running for the 1st Congressional District seat. Marshall is running for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by retiring Sen. Pat Roberts.
“I think Roger has done a lot in health care, and with four years in the House, I think some of that work is incomplete, so having a physician succeed him provides somebody who can grab that torch right away and run with it," Clifford said.
With an agricultural background, he makes it clear that he knows he is running for a seat based in agriculture. He has an agricultural advisory committee and has made it a habit to travel to various farms, ranches and feed yards.
Clifford served for six and a half years in the Air Force, and he notes the importance of aviation in Kansas.
“All of a sudden it’s become a hot topic, with the Spirit layoffs and the problems with 737 Max," he said. "So even though Wichita is outside the 1st District, I’ve reached out to industry there to focus in in Wichita and I’m going to be a voice for aviation."
He also says he will be a strong advocate for education and will weigh in on that on the federal level if he can.
Clifford’s wife, Jean, serves on the State Board of Education and covers 40 of the counties in the 1st District, and that makes him confident he will have something to bring to Washington should he get elected.
Five of his six children are adopted, and he hopes to work to improve the adoption and foster care system.
“It’s not just about getting these kids born, it’s about taking care of them and the families once they are born and that means making sure the social safety net is there and making sure these kids and their families," Clifford said. "I’m going to be a very strong pro-life voice and that includes a lot of things that I’m going to be an advocate for.”
Originally from Bunker Hill, Troy Waymaster is the current state representative for the 109th Kansas House District, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee and has been serving in the Kansas Legislature for eight years.
He believes agriculture is suffering not only in Kansas but nationally.
“I’m a farmer, so I understand the turmoil that the farmers have been going through in the Big First and I want to represent the producers of western and central Kansas to Washington, D.C.,” Waymaster said. “We’re gonna be looking at a farm plan in probably two years again, and one of the things we have to address is crop insurance and I think there needs to be somebody in there who understands that, to help with the negotiations for the next farm plan.”
Much like Mann, Waymaster fervently believes trade needs to improve and notes how USMCA will be pivotal for Canada and Mexico. He said he feels rural economic development is critical for western and central Kansas.
“We need to address the rural flight that is happening in our communities, not only in Kansas but across the nation, to more urban sectors,” Waymaster said. “We need to put infrastructure into those communities so they can survive. We need to address health care, we need to address education, we need to address economic development and commerce.
"I want to represent the small communities in central and western Kansas.”
Waymaster plans to do this by addressing agriculture, saying that if agriculture is suffering then the rural communities are suffering as well.
Waymaster says the biggest thing he feels they could do is create jobs.
“I’ve always said it’s either the chicken or the egg effect," Waymaster said. "Do you have jobs first or do you hope the jobs will come? My personal opinion and the reason I introduced the Ad Astra Rural Jobs Act a couple years ago was to create jobs in rural areas of the state.”
Waymaster said that not only will this help rural communities survive in Kansas but will also merge into health care, education and an overall better livelihood.
He expresses that while he does not like over-involvement, the need to better work with the federal government is necessary for Kansas to thrive.
Waymaster said that since Kansas is an export state with its largest economical drivers being agriculture, aviation, and oil and gas, in that order, reliance on the federal government for trade relations is pivotal.
He believes his experience getting things through legislative processes positions him favorably in his run for Congress.