The election for state representative in Southeast Kansas in November of 2010 was a battle to be sure. The candidates agreed to meet in a public forum to participate in an open debate at the invitation of the local newspaper. It started off like any other debate. The moderator began the proceedings with some announcements that helped settle the crowd. The room in the Community Building was full. (Volunteers had to pull out more folding chairs.) The order of speakers was decided by a coin toss, but that really didn’t matter.
Doug Gatewood started and showed his polish at the top of the show. “First of all I would like to thank the Columbus Advocate and the Chamber of Commerce for hosting this debate….”
Mike Houser stumbled a little early on but by the second and third questions he let his own personality and charm shine through.
Houser knows himself well enough to know he can’t be someone he isn’t. He doesn’t have a lot of public speaking experience. Nevertheless, the audience senses his sincerity in this bid to serve the people of the district. He was emphatic that the county and the rural parts of the state of Kansas need to stop being subjected to increasing taxes, find ways to attract new business and help small businesses grow. Gatewood responded to the issues raised and offered insights from his many years of public service.
Both candidates performed well. In fact, the publisher the newspaper said she thought the contest was a “dead heat.” The moderator of the debate seemed to agree. We saw two genuine candidates. One was a more a polished politician, but both made their points. Both were gentlemen.
This debate in a small rural community in Southeast Kansas was a joy to behold. Not because I cared about the outcome so much as I was proud that this kind of open exchange of ideas is a part of our system in this country. It is the democratic process in action. It doesn’t matter what political party you belong to – you have to love the fact that a healthy airing of issues is at the central core of how our country elects officials in our government.
It might not have been the great Lincoln-Douglas debate, but it was a little bit of history just the same. The incumbent won by a narrow margin. Time marches on. God Bless America.