“Enough’s Enough” / Dahl makes late decision not to seek re-election

Don Dahl said he decided to not to seek re-election as 70th District state representative because during the recent legislative session fellow lawmakers in Topeka seemed more interested in short-term political gains than the long-term economic well-being of the state.

?Finally, I just sort of said enough?s enough,? said Dahl, a Republican from Hillsboro who also had served as speaker pro tem during his last two terms.

He said he made his decision not to seek reelection to a seventh term on Friday, June 6, four days before the June 10 filing deadline.

Since then, three Republicans from Marion County have filed to succeed Dahl as the representative for the 70th District, which includes Marion, Chase and northern Butler counties.

William J. ?Bill? Spangler of Burns filed prior to Dahl?s decision while Roger Hannaford III and J. Robert ?Bob? Brookens, both of Marion, filed in Topeka on deadline day, June 10.

Dahl said he had previously contacted Hannaford about running for the position. When Hannaford said Friday he had decided to file, Dahl said his decision not to seek a seventh term was sealed.

Dahl has since formally endorsed Hannaford as his choice to succeed him.

?I asked him to run,? Dahl said. ?When I held (annual legislative) coffees in Hillsboro and Marion, of the three candidates who are trying to replace me, he was the only one that would show up and express interest in what was happening in Topeka, and in regard to what?s happening in District 70.?

Key disappointments

Dahl said he would have sought a seventh term if a few key issues had gone differently in Topeka during the 2008 session.

Heading the list was the effort of like-minded legislators to overturn the decision of Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, through Kansas Department of Environ?ment of Health Secretary Robert Bremby, to deny a permit for Sunflower Energy Cooperative to build two new coal-fired power plants near Holcomb.

?We had probably $13 billion of private money that would have been invested in Kansas, and we blew that?I should say the governor did with Bremby?s decision,? Dahl said.

Republican-led efforts failed to muster sufficient support to overturn Sebelius? veto in March of a bill that would have reversed Bremby?s decision.

?People can complain about the high price of fuel right now, but I can tell you that we?re going to have high utility rates staring us in the face in the future,? Dahl said. ?It?s really going to be detrimental to older people living on a fixed income, and especially to younger people who are starting to raise a family.

?I?m not against wind power, but that?s not the solution,? he added.

?We needed those coal-fired plants in Holcomb to keep our utility rates down, but that?s about gone by the wayside now.?

A second frustration was the failure of the Legislature to pass a bill drafted by House Republi?cans Lance Kinzer of Olathe and Brenda Landwehr of Wichita that would have tightened restrictions on illegal immigration.

?We had an outstanding bill,? Dahl said. ?Then the Kansas Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Kansas Livestock Association, Kansas Farm Bureau and those people who are after cheap labor, they fought and killed that bill.

?If you look long-term again, this illegal-immigration thing is going to cost the state big time in social costs and education costs,? Dahl said. ?But we don?t want to address the issue because we want to have cheap labor.

?I told the Kansas Chamber of Commerce at the beginning of the session, ?Hey, I understand where you?re coming from, but let?s do it legally? (by having the federal government raise quotas for workers from Mexico and South America).

Beyond partisanship

Dahl said his frustration was not strictly partisan.

?It seemed like it was the general atmosphere of the statehouse in regard to short-term, ingrown eyeballs versus a long-term, forward-looking philosophy,? he said.

?That came from both the Senate and the House, both parties and the governor. It just seemed like we were caught in a short-term philosophy of fiscal responsibility.?

Dahl said his departure wouldn?t necessarily make it more difficult for the state to make the kind of changes he feels are critical to its future.

?There are other people who can go out there and do it,? Dahl said. ?But it also takes the interest of the local populace. There are a lot of people that I just thought didn?t show much concern. People need to get involved in what?s going on in Topeka and in the country.?

Dahl bristles at characterizations, particularly from the governor?s office, that 2008 was a ?do-nothing? session.

?To me, that ?do-nothing legislature? means we didn?t do what she wanted to do,? he said. ?How????ever, if we can keep spending growth at 5 percent when in the last several years it was 9 and 10 percent, that?s quite something. There?s a lot of things you have to do to keep from spending.?

Dahl said the Democratic governor should consider her own performance during the session.

?She?s a fine one to say we?re a ?do-nothing? when she spent a lot of her time in other states campaigning for (Democratic presidential candidate Barack) Obama and wasn?t sitting in her seat and doing anything for Kansas,? Dahl said.

Fond memories

Despite recent frustrations, Dahl said he will look back on his 12 years in Topeka with fond memories.

?I thought it was a privilege and an awesome responsibility representing this district,? he said. ?We have great, great people living in this district.

Dahl said he feels positively about his efforts to represent them.

?I go away thinking I did a good job,? he said. ?Otherwise, they probably wouldn?t have kept re-electing me. I think I left Topeka at the top of my game.?

Dahl said he is proud of the way he was able to maintain communication with special-interest groups and fellow legislators even when they didn?t agree with him politically.

?I tried to treat everyone with respect, not just pushing people aside saying, ?I don?t agree with you, get out of here,?? he said. ?I tried to sit down and talk to them and see if we could arrive at a fair solution.?

Dahl said his efforts as speaker pro tem the past four years to run an efficient and fair floor session were appreciated by lawmakers from both parties.

At the end of the current session, Dennis McKinney, the ranking minority leader, made a special point to express appreciation for Dahl?s effort.

Said Dahl: ?The whole body stood up and clapped. That makes a person feel good.?

Dahl said he has had some second thoughts about his decision to step down.

?I sort of leave with kind of a broken heart,? he said. ?It?s been good, and I really learned to love all the people in all the different towns (in the district).

?But I think the people of Kansas deserve more than what they?re getting out of Topeka. But I can?t really fault Topeka because a lot of the people (at the grass-roots level) are not getting actively involved in what?s going on up there.?

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