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Even in the field, politics comes calling

6/21/2012

By MIKE CORN

mcorn@dailynews.net

GRINNELL -- Ralph Ostmeyer can't get away from his cellphone, even out in the harvest field.

Shortly after pulling in his first field recently, Sen. Ostmeyer, R-Grinnell, stepped down from his Gleaner combine -- turning over driving duties to son Terry -- to take a call about groundbreaking ceremonies later that day in Goodland.

He wasn't hoping for a bumper crop in the field he pulled into, but as it turned out, the yield was 48 bushels per acre.

"I'm just surprised," he said of the quality of the wheat.

Ostmeyer is in the position of farming too much land for one person, but not enough for two.

"We have around 600 acres of wheat," he said. "We're not very big farmers."

But that let him follow his children and grandchildren through the years in sports and other activities.

It's also let him take time for politics.

That's why harvest is important, augmenting what he makes as a Kansas senator.

"I have to live first," he said. "That salary doesn't pay much."

He's amazed at who is able to serve in the Legislature.

"There's a lot of young kids in the Legislature," he said. "I don't see how they can afford it."

This campaign season will be a busy one for Ostmeyer, who now is facing two challengers: John E. Miller, a Republican from Norton, and Allen Schmidt, a Democrat from Hays.

He also had another challenger, but Hays Republican Sue Boldra decided she wouldn't run against Ostmeyer, choosing to instead run against Rep. Eber Phelps, D-Hays.

"She just said, 'Ralph, I've got no problem with what you're doing,' " he said.

Miller filed for office nearly 18 months ago.

"Now, I've got a Democrat," he said while standing in the wheat field. "That makes the election process longer."

Ostmeyer harbors no ill feelings against Schmidt for filing for election to the 40th District, after he essentially was tossed out of incumbency when his 36th District was moved east and Ellis County was lumped in to Ostmeyer's district.

"I knew he was wanting to run when he called me," Ostmeyer said of Schmidt. "I can't discourage anyone. That isn't my style."

He had only kind words for Schmidt.

"I've never been negative," he said of his campaigning style, "and I don't intend to start now."

He's discouraged Schmidt didn't get to run for re-election to the 36th District, taken away when three federal judges redrew district boundaries.

"We just didn't get it done, and we're going to pay for it," Ostmeyer said of the court's redistricting maps.

Despite that, Ostmeyer's relatively pleased with his district.

"I've got a nice looking district," he said. "They took six counties away and gave me one."

He's hoping to serve one more term in office.

"Allen is a likable guy," he said of Schmidt. "So is John (Miller). They just want to serve. So do I."