BY THE KANSAS CITY STAR EDITORIAL BOARD
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Rashard Young’s childhood at times lacked electricity and even running water, and often featured a growling stomach that drowned out the lessons at school. He has seen three of his sisters pass away. He has contended with stark deprivation and considerable adversity.
You wouldn’t know it. Today, the 26-year-old holds a bachelor’s in criminal justice and legal studies, as well as a position as director of outreach at the Kansas Treasurer’s Office. He’s also a mentor to troubled youths who, truth be told, aren’t that much younger than him.
And now he’s an energetic and promising Republican candidate for Kansas House District 16.
His impressive rise, which he attributes to caring teachers, a nurturing Johnson County community and his religious faith, has only imbued him with empathy and humility that would be welcome in the halls of power.
“I’m so thankful for my experiences and my journeys,” he says. “It’s really built character, perseverance and endurance.”
As a legislator, he pledges to attack the state’s looming billion-dollar deficit, a legacy of COVID-19, but with a scalpel and not an ax. He talks mostly of protecting children, families and schools from the knife, while also looking for ways to save struggling businesses. Just as importantly, he promises to seek solutions across party lines, with allegiance to constituents and God, not political persuasion.
His Democratic opponent, Linda Featherston, is also a high-octane candidate with her own compelling life story. A native Kansan who grew up in Topeka, when she and her veteran husband moved to Johnson County for his medical school education, the piano teacher and mother of two was a family breadwinner who at times couldn’t afford a fast food meal for her kids. Still holding forth in her Overland Park piano studio, Featherston is a strong proponent of public schools — thus the endorsements of her from most every education association — and of badly needed Medicaid expansion.
Young withholds outright support for Medicaid expansion, while holding the door open to finding a fiscally advantageous solution to extending health insurance to some 150,000 Kansans scandalously without it. We are disappointed by his reticence about Medicaid expansion, but will hold him to his word on finding the best solution possible.
As for reducing or eliminating the state’s onerous tax on groceries, Young points to his own battle with hunger. “You can count on me to lead on that,” he told The Star Editorial Board.
Asked what’s most on the mind of District 16 voters in parts of Lenexa and Overland Park, Young points to partisan bickering, education and the coronavirus and its devastating impact not just on public health but also on mental health and the economy.
Young is pro-life, and conservatives will also like that he is attuned to the limits of government — saying “it wasn’t a bill that saved me, it was a community.” But his feel for people, informed by a hardscrabble beginning, makes him a unique blend of moderate and conservative Republican that has appeal across the political spectrum.
It is not controlling, but is nonetheless compelling, that he’s a bright young Black rising star in the Kansas GOP. The party and by extension, the Kansas Legislature need more like him.
Voters will choose between two strong, qualified candidates in the Kansas House District 16 race. We urge them to elect Rashard Young in the Nov. 3 election.