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I was born (when the city still had a hospital), raised and graduated high school in Baxter Springs, Kansas.
My dad would take the family vehicles to Randall’s Tire Service (now Danny’s Tire Service at 3050 Military Ave.) for tires, oil and other auto needs. During the summers, Grant would work at the tire shop, and it was there that I began to know of Grant Randall.
After high school, I attended Missouri Southern State University. While in college, I started a band and one day I received a call: Grant (who also was playing music in a band) and his friends were putting together a music festival to raise money for the Children’s Miracle Network at Baxter’s Kiwanis Park called River Groove. “Did we want in?”
After that, Grant faded from my life. I finished college, found a job working in the newspaper media, and ended up moving from my hometown area to a new life in Lawrence, Kansas.
In 2001, I caught wind there were three guys moving to Lawrence from southeast Kansas to attend school at the University of Kansas. I was looking for a new place to live, so I and these three others guys from SEK moved in together in a four-bedroom house in Lawrence. We were a great match, because we were all musicians, all from SEK, and we had all been together once before – at River Groove.
My new roommates were Alex Kissel, Allyn Kaufmann, and Grant Randall. Little did I know, I was about to have one of the most challenging experiences of my life.
In high school one of my favorite pastimes was to watch Rush Limbaugh’s TV show (I’m showing my age now, I know). At Baxter High School, I found Mr. Kissel’s government class exciting, and I’d use my talking points from my TV watching to use in class.
Without any doubt, I was a Republican.
So there I was, settling into my new living quarters when I start rooming with Grant Randall.
At KU, Grant was a member of Kansas Young Democrats, a student organization that supported students in ways to be active in the Democratic party.
One of the things that especially got under my skin was this sign that Grant had. It’s wasn’t large, perhaps 2’ X 1’, but Grant liked to stick it in the front window of our rental house for all the world to see.
So, I would hide it. It became quite the game for me, taking this sign and see how long it took for Grant to find it. I reveled in those games.
But then the times for games ended.
And then, the economy soured, 9/11 happened, the Iraq War began. Four young guys who weren’t really sure what was going on in the world leaned on each other for strength, to find answers, and to find ourselves.
It was then that Grant and I began to talk instead of shout at each other (to be fair, it was me shouting). We began to discuss the issues that divided us, especially the one biggest hangup I had with the Democratic party – abortion. I am pro-life, but Grant told me of a movement within the Democratic party called Democrats for Life of America. He was a board member of the Kansas chapter of DFLA.
I told him that you couldn’t be pro-life and be a Democrat.
Grant told me I was wrong. The path for a pro-life Democrat is uphill; it’s against the grain. It’s certainly outside of the party’s norm. It’s a narrow road filled with difficulty. But that didn’t mean it couldn’t be possible. He pointed out that “abortion” was mainly a political tool in KS, and if I really wanted to make a dent in the issue, I needed to realize and to understand its connection to economics and the state budget
Then I began to see the difference between blindly voting Republican down the ballot sheet, rather than doing my homework and voting on the issues, and on the person.
He was right. I was wrong.
Up the street from me growing up lived a wonderful, silver-haired woman named Margaret Reddy.
Margaret was incredibly nice. She was the aunt of a childhood friend, and we’d stop in from time to time. I remember she kept her aluminum Christmas tree up year round, and she would give us candy. One day, she gave me a pen to take home as well.
The pen was inscribed with a few words that I didn’t even understand until decades later. It read:
“MARGARET M. REDDY – DEMOCRAT FOREVER.”
She died in 1992.
I wish I had a chance to ask her more about that pen and its meaning. Like many of her generation, I can only presume Margaret was a Democrat because of FDR. As for this Kansas man, I am a Democratic because of Grant Randall.
In 2008, I switched my party affiliation from Republican to Democratic. I don’t know if I’ll be a “Democrat Forever” like Margaret, but I became so disillusioned with the GOP and how things were being handled I wanted to do something different.
Being a Kansas Democrat is different than being a Washington Democrat. In Kansas, where I have lived most of my life, family, faith, and farms often weigh heavily in how we view our values and our livelihood. They shape who we are, and where we want to be in the future.
It’s these values that drew me to the Kansas Democratic party. Like others in Kansas, I value education. I feel as though I had a wonderful education in USD 508, but I worry for students today. I’ve started to see our schools slide down in quality as the current Kansas leadership bickers about how much not to fund schools.
As a web developer and author of technical books, I work in an industry that has negative unemployment; there are many more jobs than there are workers — and if our children want jobs, they’re going to need higher, more technologically driven skills from the ground up.
When Grant and I discussed his entrance into this race earlier this year, I didn’t take long to offer my services.
Grant and I talked about where the Cherokee County area is today, and how things need to change. Cherokee County is ranked near the bottom in health rankings and income. Grant expressed concern about the current bait-and-switch that is happening in Topeka; that slashing school budgets at the state level push the burden back to the local level. And since no one wants to worsen schools, it tends to lead to raised property taxes to keep them afloat, furthering the economic burden.
Grant and I discussed these issues, and about how it tears our hearts apart to see the area fallen. He believes it can be better. I believe he’ll make a great representative for the people of the 1st District House of Representatives. As a resident of Lawrence, Kansas, I cannot vote in the 1st District. However, I do have family there. I have business ties to the area. I visit often and spend my money there. And, if it’s possible again some day, I would like to live there. But as for right now, I’ll do my best to help him get elected.
I know Grant’s heart and I know his love for southeast Kansas.
You see, Grant’s not a party line Democrat. He wants to make a difference. We’ve talked about things we like in the Republican and Libertarian parties, and things we’d like different in our own party.
But the main thing I want you to remember on Nov. 6 is that Grant Randall wants to work for you. I support Grant Randall for State Representative, and I hope you do as well.
Find out more about Grant Randall at one of the events left before Nov. 6 at https://www.facebook.com/VoteRandall2012/events.