Incumbent Republican candidate John Wheeler unofficially won reelection in the Kansas House of Representative’s 123rd District Tuesday night, beating Democratic opponent Pedro Rodriguez with 63 percent of the vote.

Wheeler, coming off his first two-year term in the House, said he was honored to be selected to return to the House. He said he felt the House was able to accomplish a great deal over his first term and armed with colleagues and friends, he looked forward to what they could do moving forward.

He has said it would “take a generation” to fully recover from former Gov. Sam Brownback’s tax experiment.

Priorities would be meeting the Kansas Supreme Court’s standards regarding K-12 funding, tightly budgeting and revisiting the federal tax rebate, now that lawmakers had more information, and he will continue to serve on the judiciary committee and the Supreme Court judicial council, which he said was working on several important projects.

“I’ve served Finney County for my entire professional career, and I was born and raised here. This is my town. I am just honored to be able to continue to serve my community,” Wheeler said.

The former Finney County attorney first ran for the House seat in an attempt to correct the damage done by Brownback’s tax experiment. He is a supporter of the Second Amendment and not in favor of tighter gun control policies, in favor of Medicaid expansion and would like to see improvements to area highways, Kansas Highway 156, U.S. Highway 50 and U.S. Highway 83.

The Kansas Department of Transportation would need to be refunded to make that possible, and the state Department of Commerce would need to be restored to better impact Kansas’ economic and workforce development, he has said. For Garden City’s growth, he said he would do what he could to assist and advocate for local leaders on a statewide level.

He said he believes the bill the Legislature passed to fund K-12 schools is adequate and will soon meet the Kansas Supreme Court’s standards, and does not support a constitutional amendment that would limit the Court’s power to decide the adequacy of public funding.

Rodriguez, a former deputy sheriff in Wichita County and seven-year city council member in Denison, Iowa, stood by a mix of conventional and unconventional Democratic values. He’s a strong supporter of the Second Amendment but in favor of background checks for gun owners.

He supports Medicaid Expansion, additional support for veterans, expansions to U.S. Highway 50 and U.S. Highway 83, and two-term term limits for legislators, believes the state Legislature has not yet adequately funded K-12 education and does not support the constitutional amendment.

The results were “hard to swallow,” Rodriguez said, but he was “truly honored” by the support he did receive. The campaign, Rodriguez’s first, was the beginning for his political career, he said, and he planned on running for seats in the future, though at this point he was not sure exactly which ones.

“I thought that the people were more aware of what’s going on and would be more involved in making a difference…” he said. “I’m a winner no matter what. I now have many, many things to do. But, to be honest with you, this is the beginning of future generations and change must come and it must (bring) visions to our party.”

 

Contact Amber Friend at afriend@gctelegram.com.