Presented to the June 2014 Douglas County Democratic Party Candidate Forum
Good morning! My name is Boog Highberger. My mother calls me Dennis… and just for the record, I’m the one with the three-wheeled bicycle, not the one with the shopping cart and mannikin. [For those of you who don’t live in this Lawrence, this is a reference to another well‑known Lawrence resident also named Dennis.]
For those of you who live in Lawrence, it was an honor to serve as your city commissioner and mayor a few years ago, and now I would appreciate the opportunity to serve as your representative in Topeka– under our new Governor, Paul Davis.
Some of you have heard me say this before, but I was born in Kansas before it was a Southern state. By that I mean no disrespect to anybody here from the South. What I do mean is that the actions of our legislature and Governor over the last four years remind me a lot more of Alabama and Mississippi in the 1950s than they do of the Kansas I grew up in. I was born and raised in Kansas, and all of my ancestors have been in Kansas for over 100 years– and this not my Kansas.
In the Kansas where I grew up, people understood the value of education and were willing to make sacrifices to make sure that their children had a better future. In the Kansas of my childhood, people understood the necessity of good infrastructure for prosperity, and they wouldn’t have dreamed of doing something like raiding the highway trust fund to fill a short-term budget gap. In the Kansas of my childhood, people understood that in order to have a just and decent society we have provide assistance to our fellow citizens who need a little help taking care of themselves–the issue of Medicaid expansion wouldn’t have even been a question.
Kansas has always been conservative–well, not always–120 years ago it was the most progressive place in the country, but that’s another story. Anyway, Kansas has been conservative for a long time, but it was never mean, or ignorant, or selfish, or intolerant or short-sighted– but those are the values I see driving Kansas government today. But those aren’t Kansas values– the real Kansas values are reason and fairness and equality and compassion– and those are the values I intend to bring to the legislature if I am elected.
As you know, there hasn’t been a primary in this district for a long time–but I think a primary is a good thing–I am pro-choice, after all. And although I don’t really enjoy running in a primary, I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t think I was a good candidate. Especially with Paul Davis leaving the legislature, I think my skills and experience will be critical for providing good representation for this district.
I have been a resident of the district for over 35 years, and I think I know the district pretty well at this point.
As I noted earlier, I was a city commissioner in Lawrence for 6 years and mayor for a year, so I have experience governing. I think the legislature has very little understanding of the effect of its actions on local governments, so I think that that experience can be very important.
I worked for the Kansas Department of Health and Environment for almost 20 years, implementing and applying statutes, and occasionally drafting statutes and regulations, so I have an understanding of how state government works at that level.
I have been a practicing attorney for over 20 years. I certainly don’t think that every legislator needs to be an attorney, but given that the job of the legislature is to write laws, I think that having at least a few attorneys in the legislature is really important. It is my understanding that after Paul leaves there will only be one attorney left in the Democratic delegation– not even enough to staff the Judiciary Committee.
I have business experience– I served on the board of the Community Mercantile for about 15 years, including some times that were financially challenging, to put it mildly. Since the death of my father in 1997, I have been the president of our small family farm machinery dealership in Garnett, Kansas, and I have managed my downtown law practice for the last 2 years.
I have been an active and engaged member of my community for a long time. I have served on many local boards and committees, and I am currently a member of the City of Lawrence Sustainability Advisory Board, the Douglas County Food Policy Council, the city Public Incentives Review Committee, and I serve on the board of the Community Mercantile Education Foundation, which runs school gardens at West Junior High and Sunset Hill and Hillcrest schools.
And last, but not least, I am good listener, which I think is one of the most important skills for any elected official. One great example of someone who does that is my role model as an elected official– State Senator marci francisco. As you know, marci listens, she is everywhere, and she works really hard– and that what I intend to do if elected to be your representative.
But ultimately this election isn’t about me, & it isn’t about Abbie [Hodgson (the other candidate for the 46th District nomination)]– it’s about getting the job done for the people in the 46th District and in the State of Kansas. So whoever wins the primary will have my unconditional support– even if it’s me. (And for those of you who know me, you know that’s saying a lot.)
And no matter what, I look forward to working with every single one of you to bring common sense back to Kansas government and to make sure that a government of the Koch brothers, by the Koch brothers, and for the Koch brothers SHALL perish from the earth.