I noticed today that KS congressional candidate Rob Wasinger finally has his own picture up on his campaign web site. Voters can now rest assured that they are not voting for the next Cyrano de Bergerac, but for a guy who actually looks pretty normal. What took so long?
Maybe he needed time to rework his image – perhaps he was concerned that he didn’t look ‘Kansan’ enough for the web?
It’s a legitimate worry for a man who is no doubt discovering the local social scene. I can’t imagine it’s going well for him. You see, in rural Kansas it really matters where you are from – much more than it does in state like, say, California. If you want your neighbors down the road to immediately welcome you with open arms, you don’t just need to be from Kansas. You also need to be from the right county. So does your family – and not just your immediate family. It helps to have a few generations of kinfolk buried in the local cemetery if you really want to fit in. These social expectations do vary somewhat from county to county, and obviously there are huge exceptions – it’s not impossible for an outsider to find a place in a rural community, but it often does take time. It’s not that rural Kansans are less welcoming than other people, but rather that there are important social conventions that just don’t exist anymore outside farm country. It’s no accident that Wasinger states the following on his campaign site:
Rob Wasinger is a native of Hays, Kansas, and a fourth-generation Kansan.
The Wasinger family arrived in Kansas from Russia with the immigration of the Volga-Germans in the late 19th Century, and have worked in farming, ranching, law and public service across the state ever since.
These are not just interesting historical details – his family pedigree, stretching back to the 19th century, really makes a difference to many of those who will vote in this election. That’s why it’s such a problem that he’s campaigning as a local while living like a guy from Fairfax County, VA. You could get away with that in California, but not in Kansas.
Rural social expectations aren’t the only problem. Despite what his website says about his commitment to Kansas, Wasinger has apparently never even voted in the state he wants to represent. Though he claims to have voted from the 1st Congressional district in the 2008 Presidential election, a visit with that office in October revealed that they had rejected his voter application when notice sent to the registering address came back unconfirmed. A visit with the same office in late November confirmed still no registration – and he had never voted in Ellis County history. So did he vote in the 1st district, or didn’t he? It sure looks like he didn’t – so why did he claim otherwise?