Northeast Johnson County moderate Republicans prevail, vow to work together on education

 

From left, Melissa Rooker, Barbara Bollier and Stephanie Clayton celebrated their elections to the Kansas House of Representatives.

The mood at in the ballroom of the Overland Park DoubleTree may have been somber as Johnson County Republicans watched the networks call the race for President Barack Obama.

But in a suite on the hotel’s second floor, a group of moderate northeast Johnson County Republicans has reason to celebrate: House candidates Barbara Bollier, Stephanie Clayton and Melissa Rooker had won their elections, as had Senate candidate Kay Wolf.

“It’s a big relief,” Clayton said, “and at the same time, you realize you’ve got a big job ahead of you.”

Clayton comfortably beat Democrat Zach Luea with 59 percent of the total vote, finding success in her second run for the Kansas House. She was defeated in the Republican primary by District 20 Representative Rob Bruchman in 2010.

Bollier was re-elected to her second full term, taking 53 percent of the vote to Democrat Amy Bell’s 47 percent. Wolf beat Democrat Kyle Russell by the same margin.

Rooker, who will represent the northeastern most part of the county, faced the toughest challenge, edging out Roeland Park city councilor Megan England, a Democrat, by 214 votes.

Rooker, Clayton and Bollier vowed to collaborate in efforts to fight for the issue they believe is most important to northeast Johnson Countians: public education.

“At the door, that’s the number one issue I heard people talk about,” Clayton said.

And while all three agree that getting the state’s school finance formula changed poses an enormous challenge, they see reason to remain hopeful.

“I’m optimistic that there is reason for a serious discussion about addressing the situation,” Rooker said. With so many new faces coming to the legislature — roughly 30 percent of the representatives will be freshman when the next legislative session opens in January — “it’s a clean slate.”