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Darlene Cornfield, Kansas

Interview of Darlene Cornfield, October 9, 2020

Interviewed by Patty Clark
Former State Representative Darlene Cornfield reflects on her six sessions in the Kansas House representing the 90th House District (Sedgwick Co.). She describes the issues that come back year after year and the challenges faced by a new legislator. She identifies the difficulties faced by conservatives at a time when the Republican party was undergoing an ideological change. Cornfield observes that the citizen legislature is most effective but did not favor term limits.
Christine Downey, Kansas

Interview of Christine Downey, August 2, 2019

Interviewed by Dale Goter
Former State Senator Christine Downey recalls her three terms in the Kansas Senate (1993-2004) during her 2019 oral history interview. With her background as a teacher, education issues were important to her as the era of school-funding litigation continued. She was involved in water-related policy making, in particular at the nexus of water quality and agricultural practices. She recalls her service in the Senate and on the Kansas Board of Regents first developing the policy and then implementing fundamental changes to the postsecondary education system. Ms. Downey discusses numerous instances of working across the aisle Show Moreto accomplish policy objectives that did not break on strict party lines. Show Less
Michael Johnston, Kansas

Interview of Michael (Mike) Johnston, February 26, 2015

Interviewed by Burdett Loomis
In a 2015 oral history interview, Mike Johnston recalls his time in the Kansas Senate from being a newly-elected Senator to his successful race for Minority Leader, unseating the incumbent Leader. Johnston talks about his interactions with other senators and the dynamics of the Senate in the mid-'80s. He discusses his relationship with the Governor's Office as he joined the administration of Joan Finney after deciding not to seek another term in the Senate. Johnston recalls the role of lobbyists in the legislative process and his perspective on that role when, after his retirement from the Turnpike Authority, Show Morehe represented the League of Kansas Municipalities for a short time. Show Less
Jerry Karr, Kansas

Interview of Gerald (Jerry) Karr, May 11, 2017

Interviewed by Janice Huston
This interview of Senator Jerry Karr by Janice Huston for the Lyon County Historical Society is lengthy, but gives great insight into the 18 years Karr spent in the Kansas Senate. It also covers his academic career which preceded his election and delves into rural life in Kansas. It begins with his Sierra Leone experiences teaching agricultural economics and other teaching jobs in the Midwest. Karr was elected to the state Senate in 1980 which is the time the farm crisis started boiling over in Kansas. During those first 10 years he developed legislation addressing Show Morethe farm crisis, including changing the method of selecting the Secretary of Agriculture, altering the classification and reappraisal of land, and regulating corporate hog farming. His service on the Joint Rules and Regulations Administrative committee helped him shape agricultural policy. He became Minority Leader ten years after his first election. Redistricting in 1991 ended up in the courts and spelled the end of many rural Democrats. There are numerous examples of policy making, particularly the details about the 1992 school finance legislation that amplify others’ accounts of that legislation. His examples of effective leadership and effective campaigning will be of interest to many. The interview also covers communication with constituents in a large district and has anecdotes about issues leaders have to deal with. Karr covers just about all aspects of leading a caucus and life in the Senate in the 1980s and 1990s. Show Less
Senator Fred Kerr

Interview of Fred Kerr, March 30, 2015

Interviewed by Burdett Loomis
This is the first of two oral history interviews of Fred Kerr in this collection. (Ed Flentje conducted the second interview 2018.) Kerr reflects on his 15 years in the Kansas Senate representing the 33rd Senate district. He recalls Senate leaders and fellow Senators who helped him as a freshman and the influence of those mentors on his career. Fred talks extensively about the process involved in securing a leadership position in the Senate and the dynamics of leadership races. He also reflects on the urban-rural divide in Kansas politics that during the late Show More1970s and early to mid 1980s was often more of a force than the partisan divide. A version of this interview is also posted on KansasMemory.org, the website of the Kansas Historical Society. A more recent oral history interview of Fred Kerr is here. Show Less

Interview of Fred Kerr, April 13, 2018

Interviewed by H. Edward (Ed) Flentje
Fred Kerr reflects on his 15 years in the Kansas Senate representing the 33rd Senate district. He recalls Senate leaders and fellow Senators who helped him as a freshman and whose influence guided him throughout his career. Fred talks about the process involved in securing a leadership position in the Senate and the dynamics of leadership races. He observes how relationships between competitors for leadership offices affected Senators differently and how they worked together in subsequent legislative sessions. He also reflects on how decisions were made regarding tax policy both to fund highways and public schools. Show MoreFred, who ran for Governor in 1994, comments about the increasing influence of money and monied interests in state-wide politics. A previous oral history interview of Fred Kerr is here. Show Less
Wendell Lady, Kansas

Interview of Wendell Lady, December 15, 2017

Interviewed by H. Edward (Ed) Flentje
In a 2017 oral history interview, Wendell Lady, former Speaker of the Kansas House of Representatives recalls identifying early in his tenure that the important decisions were made in the Ways and Means Committee which he chaired prior to becoming Speaker of the House. Lady recalls the group of young legislators who he mentored and who became his committee chairs when he was speaker. He also recalls and puts in some historic context the long-term debate over school funding. Lady recalls good relationships with Governors and with legislators and leadership across the aisle. Despite being from Show Morethe State's largest suburban county, Lady established close ties with representatives from very rural districts. A version of this interview is also posted on KansasMemory.org, the website of the Kansas Historical Society. Show Less

Interview of James (Jim) Maag, July 17, 2014

Interviewed by Burdett Loomis
In this 2014 oral history interview, Jim Maag reflects on his service in the Kansas House of Representatives (1969-1976) including his term as Speaker Pro Tem (1975-1976). It was a time of significant change and modernization of the Kansas Legislature and its processes. Maag provides a clear view into the evolution of the Legislature into a more professional organization. He comments on the bipartisan approaches to policymaking during that era when the urban-rural split affected the dynamic more often than purely partisan considerations. He was witness to the impact of the one person, one vote Show Morecourt case as well as the increased number of women legislators and the reduced number of attorneys. Jim's recollections draw a vivid picture of an institution in transition. His connection with the Legislature continued in his role of legislative liaison for Governor Bennett and later as a lobbyist for the Kansas Bankers Association. Show Less

Interview of Dennis McKinney, August 23, 2019

Interviewed by Dale Goter
Dennis McKinney developed many insights in his sixteen years as a leader in the minority party into how the legislature did work, and how it should work. He recounts numerous instances when things worked well because of bipartisan cooperation and compromise. McKinney's experiences on the House Energy and Natural Resources committee working with Carl Holmes and Ken Grotewiel helped shape water policy in Kansas. His experience as a farmer and rancher in south central Kansas coupled with his focus on problem solving led to his reputation as a "middle of the road legislator" who would work Show Morewith both political sides as well as urban and rural. McKinney was committed to public education as well as conservation. The pursuit of fair and balanced tax policy shaped his actions. The interview highlights the importance of leadership from the governor's office and other legislative leaders (Mays, Shallenburger, D. Kerr, Morris). There is an interesting segment about the 2005 Special Session on school finance where McKinney talks about using the courts as leverage. The interview concludes with a brief discussion of the Greensburg tornado. Show Less
robert bob miller kansas representative

Interview of Robert (Bob) Miller, November 9, 2017

Interviewed by H. Edward (Ed) Flentje
Former Speaker of the Kansas House of Representatives, Robert (Bob) Miller recalls his many years of service to the State. He describes his involvement with the Young Republicans at K-State, his first campaign to represent his area of Sumner County, and moving up through the ranks in the House despite not having ambition for any other elected position. Miller reflects on his sometimes arms-length relationships with fellow House members and with lobbyists. From his position as chair of the House Federal and State Affairs Committee he oversaw the development of implementing legislation for liquor-by-the-drink, parimutuel wagering, and Show Morethe State Lottery by building subject-matter expertise within the committee. Miller describes instances when legislators' positions on policy issues did not break along purely partisan nor on purely urban-rural lines. He also witnessed the early development of what eventually became the conservative movement in the Legislature. A version of this interview is also posted on KansasMemory.org, the website of the Kansas Historical Society. Show Less
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