Tonganoxie City Council's Reed to challenge O'Brien for Kansas House seat

KCKCC instructor looks to unseat local incumbent first elected in 2008

May 3, 2016

A Tonganoxie City Council member will be challenging a long-standing incumbent at the state level.

Democrat Kara Reed filed April 22 to challenge incumbent Connie O’Brien, R-Tonganoxie, in House District 42 in the November election.

Reed, in a press release, said she was motivated to run after repeatedly hearing concern expressed by friends and co-workers about not feeling heard or represented by members of the current Legislature.

“Being an elected official means listening to your constituents and representing their voice,” Reed said. “If you aren’t doing that, you aren’t doing your job.”

Reed, 42, and her husband, Aaron, moved to Tonganoxie in 2004 for a job opportunity and have lived here ever since. They have two children, Bryn (14) and Grant (8), who attend Tonganoxie public schools. Reed is an adjunct faculty at Kansas City Kansas Community College, where she has worked for 13 years as a biology instructor. She currently teaches online classes and dual-credit courses at Washington High School in KCK for the college. Her husband teaches at University of Missouri-Kansas City.

With her children in the public school system and as a higher education teacher herself, one of Reed’s top concerns is school funding.

“Every area of education has been attacked — from early childhood to K-12 to higher education,” Reed said. “We are threatening the futures of our children by trading the dollars we should spend on them to fill revenue gaps while we continue to wait for the current policies to give the promised shot of adrenaline to the Kansas economy.”

The current Tonganoxie council member expressed concern that O’Brien has voted with Gov. Sam Brownback 90 percent of the time even though Kansas continues to struggle under current policies, in her view.

“People in District 42 and the state of Kansas deserve better,” she said. “Rather than rubber-stamping a failing agenda, I will use a common-sense, moderate approach to find ways to equitably fund education, balance the budget, and grow the economy.”

If elected, Reed said she would be committed to bipartisan, nonideological problem solving.

“It’s time for legislators to work together toward a better Kansas,” she said. “The current challenges our state is facing can be overcome, but it requires a willingness from both Republicans and Democrats to listen and compromise."

Reed serves as mayor pro tem and co-chair of both the infrastructure committee and the Tonganoxie Sesquicentennial Festival Committee for the city council.

She is a graduate of and now serves on the board of the Southern Leavenworth County Leadership Development program. She was voted her class’ Outstanding Leader of the Year by her peers when she graduated from the class in 2014. She also is regent for the Ephraim Basehor Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution.

Reed’s love of reading led her to serve as the treasurer for the Friends of the Tonganoxie Library for many years and as president and treasurer of the Tonganoxie Library Board of Trustees.

Outside of the community, Reed works as an advocate and fundraiser for Beauty for Ashes Uganda, an organization dedicated to empowering widows and orphans in the Teso region of Uganda.

Reed earned a bachelor’s in biology from the University of Wyoming and a master’s in vertebrate zoology from the University of Memphis.

The city council member faces the challenge of unseating an incumbent first elected in 2008. O’Brien is serving her fourth term in the Legislature. She most recently won re-election in 2014 against another Tonganoxie challenger in Austin Harris.

Tonganoxie Mayor Jason Ward appointed Reed to fill a vacant seat in 2013. She successfully won re-election in April 2015.

District 42 covers part of Douglas County, including Eudora; and part of Leavenworth County, including Easton, Tonganoxie and part of Leavenworth.

Filing deadline for the primary election is Wednesday, June 1.

For voters, the deadline to change party affiliation is June 1 and the last day to register to vote is July 12.

Aug. 1 is the deadline for independent candidates to file petitions.

Aug. 2 is the primary election, and Nov. 8 is the general election. In advance of the general election, the last day to register to vote is Oct. 18.

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