Written by Don Ratzlaff Tuesday, 06 April 2010 18:23
Even though he has close ties with the man he’s seeking to succeed, Tracey Mann was in the coffeeshop section of Vogt’s Hometown Market in Hillsboro last Tuesday trying to cook up a few votes for the Republican primary election for the 1st District seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.
“I’m the business candidate with an agriculture background, and I feel that’s what we need right now,” he said.
Mann grew up on a farm near Quinter and went on to Kansas State University, where he earned a degree in agriculture economics and served as student body president.
While there, he said his life changed when he became the first intern for the first-term congressman from Hays, Jerry Moran, in 1997.
“I had never met him before; he hired me sight unseen,” Mann said. “I expected to work for a congressman who had a big ego, and it was all about him. But I met Jerry and realized it was about everybody else. That really impacted me.”
Of his summer experience he said: “It was a great experience. He instilled in me a love for Kansas, and I think he’s done a good job.”
After graduating from KSU, Mann returned to Washington for two years doing faith-based leadership programs with members of Congress.
When he became engaged to wife Audrey, a Tabor College alum, he decided it was time to get a “real job.” He moved back to Quinter, but soon realized the family farm would not support both him and his brother.
He’s been selling commercial real estate in Salina ever since.
Mann joins six other GOP candidates for Moran’s seat, including State Sen. Jim Barnett, whose district includes most of Marion County.
Several present and past members of Moran’s campaign organization are now involved with Mann’s. Even so, Mann said what separates him from what he called “the other top-tier opponents” is his background.
“My background is in business, not politics,” he said. “And I really believe we need business people in Washington, not more politicians.”
As he’s been traveling among the 69 counties of the “Big First,” health care and the growth of government have been the hot-button issues.
Mann is for repealing components of the recent health-care reform law and feels it’s important to personalize the size of the national debt.
“We are $12 trillion in debt,” he said. “Every trillion dollars is about $3,300 per person. So we’re $40,000 per person in debt. And the entity we’re mostly in debt to is China. You wouldn’t borrow money from competing businesses, so why are we doing that?”
Mann outlines his specific strategy for change in what he calls the “Mann Plan.”
The key to being effective in the current political environment in Washington, he said, is building relationships.
“My experience is in business, and things get done through relationships,” he said. “We’ve got to have a bridge builder.
“I’ve been able to build relationships with people my whole life. I may not always agree with them, but you can still have a relationship and not compromise your core convictions.”
His stop in Hillsboro was the start of the second day of a five-day campaign tour through 22 of the First’s 69 counties.
“Often in a week we’ll drive a thousand miles and maybe have 25 to 30 minutes at each stop,” he said. “But it’s a blast because there’s so many great Kansans all over this state. It’s such fun to go and meet them.”
The primary election is Aug. 3.