Love upsets Neufeld in 115th

8/4/2010

BY SHAJIA AHMAD

BY SHAJIA AHMAD

sahmad@gctelegram.com

While most recent college graduates are out looking for work in the hellish economy, one young man from the area likely is headed to the State House of Representatives in Topeka next year.

Garrett Love, 22, of Montezuma and a 2010 Washburn University graduate running in the 115th district Republican primary in southwest Kansas, cruised to victory Tuesday night over Melvin Neufeld, R-Ingalls, a long-standing incumbent who has served more years in the Legislature than Love has lived. Love faces no challenger in November's general election, and barring a successful write-in campaign, will fill the seat long held by Neufeld.

Love garnered 67 percent of the district's votes, according to the Secretary of State's office. He finished with 2,076 votes to Neufeld's 1,041.

The former Washburn student body president didn't admit Tuesday night whether he was surprised by the results, but said he would be honored to represent his constituents.

"We've just tried to work hard all the way through," Love said. "We knew we couldn't control everything, so we tried to control the things we could and not worry about the rest."

Love, who obtained a business degree at Washburn, touts his experience as overseeing a half a million dollar student budget in addition to a stint as a legislative intern for State Rep. Scott Schwab, R-Olathe.

His opponent, Neufeld, who was seeking his 13th term in office, told The Telegram in a previous interview he was disconcerted by a "throw the incumbent out" mentality that he felt had pervaded the 115th district race.

"I thought the last election was for hope and change. Apparently they decided to try that again," Neufeld said today. "The important thing to me always has been to try to do the right thing. I've never run a negative campaign, and I've always done what I felt was best for the district."

The farmer by profession and former Speaker of the House said he could not say whether he'd ever make another bid for an elected office, but did have a few words of advice for his replacement.

"Listen to the people, the ones at home, not the ones in Topeka and figure out who you can and can't trust," Neufeld said.

Love told supporters in his latest tweet this morning he was "honored to have the opportunity to represent the people of the 115th district and look(ed) forward to going to work to create a better Kansas."

Love's campaign manager, Kyle Ross, acknowledged that the political campaign had a "strong online presence," which may have spurred the district's incumbent to also run a campaign website for the very first time, though Neufeld had run more than a handful of times opposed over the last dozen years.

Ross, a 20-year-old University of Kansas student, said Wednesday that part of the Love campaign's strategy was to connect to all voters,

"We used Facebook and Twitter, and our website to do that. Another strategy we had was to hit every voter in our district, whether on the phone or door to door," Ross, a friend of Love's who "shares his Christian values," said today. "We figured every person in our district was reachable, and not just once but multiple times."

The young college-student-turned-campaign-manager said he was more surprised by the number of votes — more than 3,000 — from Tuesday's win than the win itself.

The student of economics who is returning to start his second year of college in just a few weeks, said he doesn't yet know his future role in his friend's legislative term.

"I might not be on staff with him, but I'll sure help him out when he needs it," Ross said.

Love, a sixth-generation Kansan and lifelong Gray County resident, grew up on a family farm and graduated as a valedictorian from South Gray High School in Montezuma in 2006. He was elected president of the Washburn Student Government Association in 2009.

Love, a self-described pro-life candidate, has campaigned on a platform of fiscal responsibility, limited government and strong support for Second Amendment rights for gun owners.

Kansas House of Representatives

District 115

Republican

Garrett Love: 2,076

Melvin Neufeld: 1,041

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