Local rep cruises to seventh term
For most political candidates, Election Day is a 24-hour grind that requires practitioners to calm their nerves, exhibit patience and temper their anticipation. For most, maybe, but not for Rep. Kenny Wilk, R-Lansing, whose 42nd District covers Tonganoxie, Lansing and parts of southern Leavenworth County.
For the second straight election, Wilk ran unopposed on Election Day; he also faced no opposition in the 2002 general election. Wilk secured Tuesday a seventh consecutive term in the House of Representatives by earning 9,111 votes, according to the final, but unofficial results from the Leavenworth County Clerk's Office.
"It certainly makes for a much more pleasant, less stressful Election Day," Wilk said.
On Tuesday, the veteran of 12 legislative sessions addressed his past tenure in the House, challenges for the future and speculated as to why voters in his home district continually nod his way each August and November.
"I've tried not to take the voters nor the job for granted," said Wilk. "I've tried to put a lot of time and energy into constituent service."
Working with legislators during the session and reviewing proposed new laws is important, Wilk said, but taking a telephone call from a constituent with a problem and being able to help that person is "really quite important."
"I just try to be real honest with folks and considerate of other points of view. I like to think that I've weighed in on their behalf."
Wilk's resume in the House includes serving as chairman of the House appropriations committee in 2001 and 2002, years in which the state budget, like the national economy, was struggling in the wake of post-Sept. 11 ripple effects.
Wilk said he's always maintained a philosophy of "raising the budget and decreasing taxes." In his years as appropriations chairman, Wilk and his committee attempted as best they could to "make limited resources work" with the same viewpoint.
But, perhaps Wilk's key achievement in the House came during the last legislative session, during which he was one of the main sponsors of the Kansas Economic Growth Act. The law creates a set of strategies aimed to strengthen and stimulate the state economy by offering economic development incentives to grow emerging industries, attract new businesses as well as support small businesses and existing employers.
For Wilk, who places continued and sustained economic development as a top priority, helping pass the law was a rewarding accomplishment.
"It helps Kansas create (jobs and new businesses) -- I really am quite proud of that particular piece of legislation," he said.
With the election now over and done, Wilk said he looks forward to the next two years of his term. He said there are plenty of problems Kansas politicos need to address -- Wilk listed fixing an ailing school finance system, continuing to make strides in economic development and addressing health care as some of the most pressing -- but that he looks forward to the challenge.
"There are some things that need some serious attention," Wilk said.
Late Tuesday evening, Wilk said he was pleased to continue serving his district, but that it was far too early to say whether he'll seek an eighth term in the House.
"That's a long way off," he said. "Right now my focus is serving this district for the next couple of years."