Written by Don Ratzlaff Tuesday, 12 June 2012 12:01
Marion attorney Bob Brookens decided over the weekend not to seek a third term as representative for the 70th District in the Kansas House of Representatives.
Brookens said the seed for his decision was planted in early May when Keith Collett, longtime partner in the Brookens & Collett law office, was appointed as magistrate district judge for Dickinson County.
“With Keith not being in the office, I?need to tend to my law practice,” he said. “It is not only something I do in the community, it’s something I do for the community.
“To not have a viable practice in Marion County, both Hillsboro and Marion, does a disservice to my family but also does a disservice to the communities.”
Last week, Josh Boehm joined the practice to fill the void created by Collett’s departure. But Brookens concluded it would be unfair to expect the recent law school graduate to carry the load Collett did while Brookens served in Topeka.
“To be gone the better part of two months this summer followed by the four months of the session—that would be dumping too much in his lap,” Brookens said. “He’s been in the office three days and he’s already doing terrific stuff.”
New district map
Brookens said the release Thursday of new district maps that radically altered the boundaries of the 70th District and likely would have placed him in a competitive race for the Republican nomination was a catalyst for reconsidering his priorities, but not the reason for stepping away from politics.
“I looked at it, and as much as I would be eager to engage in another race, it just doesn’t make sense,” Brookens said. “In reality, with the other (former) map I probably would have run—and somewhere around November I would have said, ‘What was I thinking?’”
Brookens said he is aware of two Dickinson County men who are likely to run for the office, including John E. Barker of Abilene, the judge Collett succeeded after Barker retired effective April 16 presumably to run for a House seat.
“In this race, the people of the community do have the opportunity to select the person they want to represent them with me stepping out now,” Brookens said.
First elected to the House in 2008 and then re-elected in 2010, Brookens had already filed for a third term. The filing deadline for candidates across the state was noon Monday.
“It’s going to be a mad dash tomorrow,” Brookens said Sunday. “I need to unregister, so I will be in the car first thing in the morning.”
Brookens said the challenge of adequately representing his law clients and his political constituents was heavy while the Legislature was in session. But he said he has no regrets.
“To do this district justice, I’ve worked my tail off,” he said. “There are some things that I have slighted, but I’ve worked very hard to not slight clients nor constituents.
“I don’t think anyone will criticize my attempt to get back to people, or to try to do what I believe is right, or to speak truthfully to them,” he added. “That has always been my goal—to be open.”
Toward that end, Brookens was one of the very few legislators to personally write a weekly newspaper column to constituents during the legislative session. He used the column, which appeared as “Capitol Thoughts” in the Free Press, to explain issues of concern to his constituents as well as to ask for their input.
“I will say this: The entire 70th District has been fantastic to represent,” Brookens said. “These people get it. They understand. When I have said, ‘I need your help, for heaven’s sake answer me, tell me what you think’—people do. When I’ve asked if I’m wrong-headed, they have told me yes and no.
“You don’t just wet your finger, hold it in the air and go with the wind, but some people have made some really good observations that I’ve not thought of, and it was incredibly valuable.
“The people of this whole district have gone, I think, with me during my four years,” he added “I have nothing but the utmost respect for everybody in this district.”
Brookens said one of his primary goals as a House representative was to preserve the integrity of the state’s public education amid a movement among the more conservative wing of the party to significantly reduce state funding.
“It is a deliberate attempt on some people’s part to under-fund the schools,” he said. “It was my intent to fund them appropriately so that every child has a chance at a good education. That was my goal and would remain my goal if I were to remain in office.
“Kansas was built on, and Kansas will live or Kansas will die on, its public education. I believe that with all my heart.”
Brookens’ duties as the 70th District representative will not end officially until the newly elected class is sworn in during January. But barring the calling of a special session, Brookens said his work in Topeka is now complete.