HAYS — Freelance reporter Larry J. Dreiling, 61, Hays, is gearing up to run next year in the Democratic primary in the Kansas State Senate’s 40th District.
State Sen. Richard "Rick" Billinger, a retired businessman/farmer and Goodland Republican, said Monday he will run for a second Senate term next year. He previously served in the Kansas House of Representatives.
Dreiling appointed Robert Cox, Hays, as his campaign treasurer in October. Dreiling said Monday that his campaign soon would roll out its formal launch. All seats in the Kansas Legislature are up next year, and the deadline to file is in June.
Dreiling said his interest has always been in community service and public service. He formerly was senior field editor for the Dodge City-based High Plains Journal and in editorials, he said, he was an advocate for farmers and rural people.
He said he’s looking at declining population and declining commodity prices. He’s also concerned, he said, about rural hospitals, businesses, and education — from K-12 schools to post-secondary schools. He doesn’t think Fort Hays State University and vocational-technical schools are receiving enough funding.
“The roads aren’t getting fixed,” Dreiling said. Also, he wants to ensure the state correctional facility in Norton remains “a quiet place” where inmates receive the help they need, he said.
If the Legislature doesn’t approve Medicaid expansion in the session that opens in January 2020, Dreiling said, he thinks “they’re going to kick this can down the road.”
“After all the years that I’ve been seeing the problem,” Dreiling said, he wants “to see what we can do to try to fix the problem.”
“I don’t want to see rural communities fade out,” he said.
Dreiling said he earned three degrees at Fort Hays State University, including bachelor's degrees in communications and political science and a master’s degree in communications. He is single and has a 42-year career in journalism, including a stint at The Hutchinson News around 1985, when he covered city and county government.
The 40th Senate District encompasses Cheyenne, Decatur, Ellis, Graham, Norton, Gove, Logan, Rawlins, Sheridan, Sherman, Thomas, Trego and Wallace counties and portions of Phillips County. In 2016, Billinger captured the Senate seat by a 74% to 26% margin over Hays Democrat Alex Herman. As of the start of January, Billinger’s campaign account held about $48,700.