Over the years, I have sat in on a number of Congressman Tim Huelskamp’s town hall meetings, but was glad to be conveniently out of town the last time he came to town. At a meeting held in Belleville last year, I asked Huelskamp why he directed his staff to deny constituents information on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA). Huelskamp’s answer was simply, “I don’t like it, I don’t agree with it, and I don’t want my tax dollars going to something I don’t like or agree with.”
I challenged Huelskamp on his statement. As a U.S. Congressman, it is his duty to represent all of his constituents, regardless of their political affiliation, personal opinion, or beliefs. It is his duty to provide the information requested, regardless of whether he personally or politically supports said information. His reply to my challenge was, “I represent those who agree with what I agree with. I represent those who believe what I believe.”
If I said I was shocked by his reply, I’d be lying, because what he said next shocked me to my core. Huelskamp told the crowd he was extremely upset K-State Research & Extension (KSRE) was traveling the state “using our tax dollars to advocate and promote ACA through navigators.” Navigators are individuals or organizations trained to help people as they look for health coverage. These individuals and organizations are required to be unbiased, and their services are free to consumers.
Roberta Riportella, Kansas Health Foundation professor of community health at K-State, heads up the effort to help Kansans learn more about how the new law will affect them. “I very much want people to know that I’m not saying ACA is the best or the worst; it just ‘is,’ Riportella said. “It’s the law of the land and I am here to make sure that people understand what the criteria are.”
In educating more people about the law, Riportella is being careful not to position herself as being in favor of or opposed to ACA. “What I’m an advocate for is good, quality care,” she said. “I or others may have chosen to make that happen in a different way than how the Affordable Care Act is making it happen, but I do believe that ACA will help to insure more Americans, and I think that’s a positive thing.”
Huelskamp used blatant lies and fear-mongering to mislead his constituents that day, and in turn, gain support for his personal ideology. He shamefully attacked K-State, and made no apologies for his comments. In fact, when approached about his comments by KSRE officials at a town hall meeting in Manhattan a few days later, Huelskamp defiantly stood his ground, and vehemently refused to apologize for or rescind his comments.
It is one thing to stand on your principles, but quite another to stand on false claims, misinformation, and attacks. Tim Huelskamp is part of the problem in Washington, not part of the solution. When voters elect people whose only stand is to “be against government,” this is what they get, and frankly, this is what they deserve. Mature and rational Kansans deserve much better than Tim Huelskamp and his unprofessional tactics.
I refuse to support someone who spreads lies and misinformation, and who thrives on personal attacks. I refuse to support someone who voted against the 2014 Farm Bill, a bill that touches every single person in this nation – farmer, rancher, and consumer. I refuse to support someone who was removed from the House Agriculture Committee, a committee Kansas was represented on for well over a century. I refuse to support Tim Huelskamp in the November 4 General Election. There is a better alternative in the upcoming election, and I respectfully ask you to join me in voting for James Sherow; a common sense Kansan, Vietnam veteran, and proven, respected, bipartisan leader to be our next Congressman.
On a final note, when it comes to paying taxes for things you don’t like, I leave you with a quote from “The West Wing” TV show character Toby Ziegler, “I don’t know from where you get the idea that taxpayers shouldn’t have to pay for anything of which they disapprove. Lots of ‘em don’t like tanks, and even more don’t like Congress.”