I had the opportunity Tuesday afternoon to tape a to-be-televised debate between the two 112th District Kansas House candidates. For those of you living under a political rock, this includes Republican John Edmonds and Democrat Steve Muehleisen, both from Great Bend.
Now, there is a reason I am not in broadcast journalism. Brian Williams or Walter Cronkite I am not.
I would like to say me being on T.V. is like smashing a roll of newsprint into a square hole. We joke in the newsroom about reporters who switch to broadcasting as defecting to the dark side, seduced by the lure of bright lights.
Truth be told, most of us newspaper folks are just uncomfortable being in front of a camera or being in the spotlight.
None the less, it is interesting catching a glimpse at the man behind the curtain. I’ve done these before and it involves trekking up to the broadcast Mecca of Bunker Hill, population 95.
These debates are a production of KOOD Public Television and are done at the station’s studio in this small Russell County community. The limestone building on the sand street belies the state-of-the-art technology inside.
It is a little trippy prepping to ask serious, weighty political questions surrounded by posters of Big Bird and other Sesame Street characters. I don’t know, now that I think about it, if anyone out there is looking for a candidate to float as a write-in, consider Kermit the Frog.
Reporter at a news conference: “Is it true Mr. Frog that you have been in a relationship with Miss. Piggy?”
Mr. Frog: “No comment.”
Reporter: “Don’t you find it a little odd for an amphibian to be shacking up with a porcine?”
Mr. Frog: “Gulp.”
OK, maybe Kermit might not be such a good candidate after all. It ain’t easy being green.
But, with politicians texting nude photos of themselves and doing things with cigars, a frog and a pig might seem normal. This would give new meaning to having puppets in office.
Anyway, back to the debate.
Chap Rackaway of the Political Science Department at Fort Hays State University served as the moderator, and he and I took turns posing questions to Edmonds and Muelheisen. Each candidate had the opportunity for an opening, a chance to respond to each question and close.
Topics ranged from the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) to the state’s budget to education to economic development to immigration to taxes to agriculture to the aging population to the brain drain. Some questions involved all of the above.
There were global, state and local issues discussed.
Besides showing their conservative and liberal political leanings, both Edmonds and Muelheisen painted a bleak picture for Kansas. I asked if they saw any bright spots on the Sunflower State’s horizon. Both only saw challenges.
Really? Not one bright spot?
Sure, Kansas faces many daunting problems. I realize it is easy to dwell on the negative.
But, we do have a great way of life here, despite the drought and having to deal with so many crackpot political extremists on both ends of the political spectrum.
It’s sort of like looking at Great Bend and its troubles. Yes, our population is greying. Yes, the economy sucks. But, we do have leaders looking at the future through such efforts as the new Sports Complex, the plans to revitalize the Convention Center and a vibrant campaign to breathe life into the downtown.
It’s all a matter of prospective.
Hey, I may have hit upon a possible solution to our state’s fiscal woes. Taking a page from the PBS playbook, Kansas could hold a pledge drive, complete with a bank of volunteers answering telephones.
We could find some Jerry Lewis type to go on the air and beg for money. If a quota of phone calls isn’t met, then the state could interrupt programming (such as secondary education, road construction projects or Medicare reimbursements) until the phones start ringing.
There could be “thank you” gifts for contributing, such as handsome coffee mugs, colorful tote bags with sunflower prints, sweatshirts or signed copies of Governor Sam Brownback’s tax plan.
The debate will be televised probably in October, but a date has not been determined. Stay tuned to this channel for further developments.
This is Dale Hogg signing off.
Dale Hogg is the managing editor of the Great Bend Tribune. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.