For Democrats, campaign was about a focus on the issues


Kyle Russell put in long days during his state senate campaign after quitting his job at H&R Block. Now, it’s back to the real world.

The cheering crowds have faded away. The long days of walking door-to-door are over. The adrenaline rush of the campaign is gone — and you lost.

What now?

That’s the question Democrats in northeast Johnson County are facing after a sweep of the state legislative offices by Republicans in Tuesday’s election. For state senate candidate Kyle Russell it means looking for a job. For Zach Luea it’s dinner in New Orleans (that’s where we caught up with him) and his community volunteer posts. For Megan England, it’s back to the work of the Roeland Park City Council. While no one is ruling out a future bid for public service, it is too early to say what the future holds. (Note that we couldn’t catch up with District 21 candidate Amy Bell).

England, Luea and Bell lost to Melissa Rooker, Stephanie Clayton and Barbara Bollier, respectively, for state representative seats while Kyle Russell lost to Kay Wolf for the state senate.

The common thread for the Democrats was loving the experience. The most gratifying part of the campaign, Russell said, was knocking on a door and being told, “I want to support you because you came by and I agree with you on the issues regardless of party.” For Luea it was much the same: “The response from people you have never met on the campaign trail — who like what you are saying — that’s most…enjoyable.”

In an e-mail to supporters, England also gave a nod to the campaign and her opponent: “I am grateful to my opponent for helping me to prove that our part of the world is ready for leadership from capable women that run clean, positive campaigns based on issues rather than negative or personal attacks.”

Contributing to the positive experience for Luea was the “clean campaign” that “focused on the issues — that’s how campaigns should be run.” Russell called Kay Wolf and her supporters “classy” for how they handled the campaign.

Now it’s back to the everyday world. Russell quit his job at H&R Block after eight years when the company announced layoffs in April and asked for volunteers. He took the buyout so he could devote time to campaigning. With experience as a Johnson County Democrat Party chairman and treasurer, he knew the challenge and the time commitment. But the district has voted for Democrats before — Dennis Moore, Kathleen Sebelius and Barack Obama — he points out, so winning is possible for a Democrat. Luea will be president of his Rotary Club next year and holds other community positions that will keep him in public service. England is still a council member in Roeland Park, which faces financial challenges with Walmart sales tax revenue leaving. But she told supporters, “It is clear my energy is still needed on the Roeland Park City Council for the two plus years left in my term. Although I was willing and ready to stand strong as a minority in the Kansas legislature to fight for those whose interests have been forgotten or trampled by the current, I am certainly okay with watching someone else have a turn. Perhaps a new office will await me in 2014.”