Photos by Katie Lamar
When East alumni Logan Heley transferred from the West District to the East District before his freshman year, he remembers not knowing anybody. He came for the IB Program, but found himself on Student Council, the Harbinger and in Youth in Government, too. Two years later, the strangers he met freshman year would elect him as their two-time student body president. He’d meet teachers who would push him, programs that would set him up for success and a school he’d come to love.
Heley returned to his Kansas roots for a day last year. He saw classrooms fit for 35 students holding 40. He saw teachers working longer, harder hours.
So at 23 years old, Heley is running for Kansas Senate to save not only his school, but Kansas’ public education system.
Heley wrestled off his dress shoes for a pair of worn, charcoal Adidas in the parking lot of Maloney’s Sports Bar and Grill. He’d just held an event with his volunteers, handing out campaign cards and “Logan Heley” buttons. But now he’d need the foot support – he was about to venture for two and a half hours into downtown Overland Park.
Every evening for the last two weeks, Heley and more than 40 volunteers have knocked on registered Democrats’ doors across the 21st Senatorial District, asking for their signature to get his name on the Aug. 2 primary ballot.
With a clipboard in hand and walk cards in his back pocket, Heley rings every doorbell with the knowledge that reactions will vary. He takes Republican wave-offs in stride, threats from guard dogs with a grin and matches “Go Trump!” with “Alright, have a nice day.”
And when the sun goes down, Logan goes home and calls a few more.
“I think the best connection is door-to-door,” Heley said. “It’s good to kind of reinforce your message.”
Although he only needs around 200 signatures, Heley and his volunteers already have more than 1,000 names scrawled onto their clipboards. For “frivolous” reasons, Heley said, the government can deem some signatures invalid. Those 800-some extra names will serve as a buffer, ensuring that his plan to get his name on the ballot will not be impeded.
After that, he intends to win the Nov. 8. general election against the incumbent Greg Smith and Governor Sam Brownback. If that happens, his next goal will be to reverse the policies of Brownback, policies he believes failed, and to foster three waves of change: fiscal responsibility, strong public schools and opportunity for all.
Opportunities like the ones East provided him.
“If I was to draw my campaign now [from] my experiences in high school, I would say that I’ve been bringing people together for a long time,” Heley said. “I have a proven track record of success – not just making it happen, but setting up long term success.”
Heley’s political interest took off his junior year.
“I really woke up in high school when I would go to legislative forums and talk to both Republicans and Democrats about what was going on in Topeka,” Heley said. “Then in college, I just kept paying attention to what was going on. It always really interested me.”
These trips to see legislative forums in Topeka were supervised by former Youth in Government sponsor, Brenda Fishman.
“Logan was student body president his senior year and quite the go-getter, [he was] interested in all sorts of causes,” Fishman said. “[He was] very mature and responsible as a student.”
As a current Youth in Government member with political aspirations, junior Caleb Hanlon sees bits of his future mirroring Heley’s. The club, which allows students to serve in model governments at the state level, is only a mock of the reality of politics – a reality Heley is living.
“The fact that [Heley is] capable of turning what he did at East into something, shows me that what I am doing is on the right path,” Hanlon said.
Along with Youth in Government, Heley’s leadership stemmed from Student Council and the Harbinger. He planned prom junior year, spearheaded the funding for the Lancer mascot and pioneered innovation as the Editor-In-Chief for the Harbinger Online through broadcasts of board meetings and graduation ceremonies.
“From my leadership in high school, both in student council and with the Harbinger, I was able to work with a number of different people,” Heley said. “Whether they were parents, businesses that were going to sponsor things, the principal, students or teachers, I would be able to work with them and see projects through.”
Upon graduating from East, Heley majored in history and journalism at the University of Southern California. He considered finding work nationwide after spending last summer as an intern in the Office of Communications at the White House. But with his family’s connection to Kansas’ public education, both a mother as a school nurse and a brother as a teacher, he felt it was time to come home.
Heley took notice of two things upon entering the race by petition: Paul Davis’ — a Democrat like him — victory in the 21st Senatorial District, and the underfunding of other candidates.
“I noticed that the candidates [who] were challenging the incumbent weren’t really raising the money,” Heley said. “I wasn’t sure if they would be able to knock off the incumbent, so I got in the race.”
As a millennial, Heley utilizes digital marketing in his political campaign to target voters. With more than 1,300 likes on his Facebook page, he has more likes than any other candidate in Johnson County.
“I think that [my age] has a lot of perks, and I know that my opponents will try to use that as an attack, but I think it’s beneficial,” Heley said. “Young people tend to be open-minded and willing to look at the best solution, [or the] most politically expedient one.”
Heley carries this importance of youth into the race. With 10 interns countywide, several of whom attended East, he aims to involve young people in his campaign by inviting interns to follow behind his quick stride on door-to-door trips. Heley demonstrates how to greet the citizens, how to push for consent to place a campaign sign in their yard, then sends them to do so on their own.
Because, to Heley, it’s going to take young people like him to win the future of Kansas.