By EARL WATT
• Daily Leader
Democratic candidate for the Big First District Alan Jilka made one more pass through Southwest Kansas Thursday, and he believes his Republican competitor Tim Huelskamp is running against Nancy Pelosi instead of him.
“Huelskamp was unwilling to appear with me jointly west of I-35,” Jilka said, referring to Huelskamp not appearing at or refusing to debate Jilka in Western Kansas.
Huelskamp appeared at two debates with Jilka after the primary, and both were on the far east side of the district where Jilka may be favored. One was in Jilka’s hometown of Salina that Jilka claims Huelskamp would not allow TV cameras, and the other was in Emporia, the hometown of Jim Barnett who Huelskamp defeated in the primary. But on the western side of the district there were no debates. A debate sponsored by KWCH-TV out of Wichita only had Jilka and the Libertarian candidate.
“I think he has a feeling that the less people know about him the better his chances of winning,” Jilka said. “That has allowed him to duck questions about his state senate record. Most people are interested in knowing he spent 14 years in Topeka and has little to show for it. He was kicked off the Ways and Means Committee by his fellow Republicans. Can anyone imagine Jerry Moran doing that? Do you get anything done for your district like that?”
Jilka, usually a soft-spoken candidate who has been focused on the issues, has sharpened his attacks on Huelskamp, saying that some may vote for the Republican simply because he “has an ‘R’ on his forehead.”
But Jilka said that he believed he had a more balanced approach. The pro-life Democrat said he was running to represent the people of the Big First District, and that he was not running to represent the national platform of the Democratic Party. Because the Big First District is predominantly Republican, Jilka said he would have no problem voting for what is best for his district and not have to worry about consequences from Democratic leadership in Washington. But he said Huelskamp’s approach would be vastly different.
“He’s one of 18 or 19 endorsed by the Club for Growth,” Jilka said. “They brag about delivering his primary victory. They spent $110,000 on attack ads against Jim Barnett. That group’s agenda is for a 24-percent flat tax, privatizing social security and eliminating all farm payments. In an ag district with aging population like ours, is that the agenda we want for our district?”
But Jilka has not been able to expose these issues in Western Kansas in a debate since there have been none.
“By avoiding debates, he has somewhat been able to duck legitimate questions,” Jilka said. “Our campaign wants to get in front of everybody. These are things we think should be considered when people go to the voting booth.”
Nationally, almost a third of voters remained undecided the weekend before the election.
And Jilka said there were still more facts to get to the voters in too short of a time.
“The voters need to know his legislative record,” Jilka said. “He has voted against every highway bill, he has a zero percent voting rating from school boards, and a 13 percent from the teachers association.”
When it came to immigration issues, Jilka also believed there was a significant difference to the approaches between the two candidates.
To understand the issue, Jilka took a trip to the border. He talked to sheriffs and legislators with districts bordering Mexico. He talked to the mayors in El Paso, Juarez and Tucson. He also considered the economic impact on Kansas with the number of immigrant workers in the cattle industry and beef processing plants.
“In typical Tim Huelskamp fashion, who deals in the realm of fantasy, he thinks it is possible to find and report 12 million people, round them up and deport them,” Jilka said. “It’s simple, enforce the law. But people want their Congresssmen to deal in reality, and since that is not possible, the only logical thing, for economic reasons, is we should give the people who have been here living in law-abiding fashion some sort of pathway to earned citizenship. A background check should be part of that, and anyone with criminal activity is deported. Huelskamp ignores the potential economic impact of his suggested policy of deporting everybody which would be disastrous to the economy of Southwest Kansas. If you deport everybody, where will you get the laborers for these meat packing plants and feed yards? His thinking on that defies logic.”
Jilka said that border security must be enhanced and that a recent bill that provided $600 million was signed into law.
Voters who have not yet cast their ballots will have a chance to decide the next Big First Representative beginning at 7 a.m. Tuesday at the Seward County Activity Center. Voting will cease at 7 p.m.
For results, start watching www.hpleader.com at 8 p.m. or keep up with the local and statewide results on Facebook with the High Plains Daily Leader.