East mom Melissa Rooker is running for Kansas State Representative in the upcoming November election.
Rooker decided to run the weekend after the district maps were produced by the court system. When the maps were produced, Rooker discovered that the 25th district had lost the incumbent Barbara Bollier due to the remapping. Bollier now lives in the 21st district. Since you can only work in the district in which you live, there was an open seat in the 25th district. Bollier then met with Rooker to discuss the possibility of her running. For the last five years, Rooker has worked on the Parent Teacher Association (PTA) as an advocate for education policy and finance reform. In the 2008-9 school year, she was the Indian Hills PTA president, and served as Shawnee Mission Area Council PTA legislative chair 2010-11 and 2011-12. She also served on the Kansas PTA Advocacy Team around the same time.
Rooker is running on an education based platform as a Republican. She would like to work on the Kansas education finance formula to address funding inequity and increase the available dollars for classrooms. Rooker believes this can be accomplished by revising the existing formula, completely revamping the financial formula, introducing more local authority to raise taxes or by providing more dollars under the existing formula.
“I tend to think we need to listen to all good ideas and keep our minds open to common sense solutions to these complex problems,” Rooker said.
When Rooker announced to her family that she planned to run for state representative, they were surprised. However, she said they have been supportive ever since. Senior Jack Rooker, and Lindsey, a junior at KU, are Melissa’s children, along with her husband Tom.
“My reaction was one of full support,” Jack said. “As her son, I have had the privilege of witnessing my mother in action and she is truly inspiring. There is no better candidate for political office.”
Melissa has been campaigning in a traditional manner. She’s distributed yard signs, gone door-to-door, hosted house parties and met with community leaders. She has also contacted voters through phone calls and e-mails.
Rooker says her family has been a big help with the campaign. Lindsay was the campaign intern this summer, and Jack drove his mom on her door-to-door missions. Both children also helped stuff envelopes. Tom spent the summer in Ohio working on a film project, so he could only lend moral support.
“Whether it is placing yard signs in the middle of the night or going to meet-and-greets and talking my mother up to those in attendance, I do whatever helps get the job done,” Jack said. “In the beginning of the campaign, my mother jokingly came up with job titles. For me, she dubbed me “Sign Captain” and “Mojo Manager.”
After Melissa decided to run, she had eight weeks to campaign like crazy until the primaries. Now that those are past, she has three months to prepare for the final election in November. Rooker is running against Democrat Megan England. The 25th district is divided fairly equally into thirds between Republicans, Democrats and Independents. However, Rooker feels optimistic.
“I don’t want to take it for granted,” Rooker said, “There’s always a risk that [England] will put on a good race, and it could be a challenge. It needs to be taken seriously. I feel optimistic, but I will work hard.”
If Rooker wins, her legislative session will begin in January and last 90 days. During the session, she will participate in the legislative process in Topeka. Representatives are also assigned to certain committees which they have to attend and give their input. During the rest of the year, Rooker would be here in the district. Her role in the district is to be available to her constituents and to help them solve any problems they have or answer any questions. Constituents usually call representatives when they need help navigating government agencies, but Rooker’s office would be open for questions about anything. She would also need to stay involved in the community by going to public events, such as PTA meetings, school board meetings, area chamber of commerce gatherings or community festivals.
“I fully expect a victory,” Jack said. “She is a natural-born leader to whom people just naturally listen. The written word cannot adequately illustrate the competitive spirit with which my mother so wholeheartedly throws herself into politics. Let me just say that Melissa Rooker gets the job done, and gets it done well.”