Archive for Thursday, April 25, 2002

Bloom blossoms into candidate

Eudoran ready to face the race for governor

April 25, 2002

When Dan Bloom was Eudora USD 491 superintendent, he joked he would run for governor when he left the schools.

Now, he's not laughing, even though he concedes others might.

Last week, the rural Eudoran announced intentions to run for governor with his son Eric as a running mate. In that first week, Bloom said every day the pair had one or two interviews each for television and newspapers.

In addition, Bloom gets calls from people in and around Eudora who tell him they like his philosophy: No one in Topeka is doing a good job now, so why not give him a shot?

"There are a lot of people in Eudora who know I'm not a politician, I'm a businessman," Bloom said.

Not a typical candidate

In fact, the only other elected position Bloom can remember running for was at Emporia State University where he organized social events on the Union Activities Association.

"Politicians were not supposed to be lifelong positions," he said.

However, Eudorans probably remember Bloom best as school superintendent, a public position on which he served for 17 years before leaving the district in 2000. Bloom said he believed education should be the state's top priority, especially funding for the institutions.

"It doesn't matter how good your teachers are, because if you've got cold rooms without lights, it's impossible to learn," he said.

Bloom said his concern education funding had nothing to do with the fact he was a superintendent. He compared the influence of his former job to a person's past lovers after marriage: They just don't matter anymore.

"That was another life," he said.

Personal experiences, personal opinions

Yet family and personal experiences influence his ideas. His son and running mate, a student at Kansas University, sparks interest in post-secondary education funding.

"State government did what for you while you were in school?" Bloom said, adding it certainly didn't help lower tuition.

His wife, Carolyn, a physical therapist, and family medical concerns peaked Bloom's interest in medical research.

Bloom also draws opinions from his position as a developer of rental property in the area, including Ottawa and Topeka. His job is evident by the ringing of his cell phone as he sits at the kitchen table in his rural home. After a two-minute call, Bloom announced with pride how it only took him that long to order construction materials for some of his property and he wondered aloud why progress at the Capitol is so slow.

Because some of his property qualifies as Section 8 housing, Bloom has seen firsthand how, in his opinion, entitlement programs have failed.

"Entitlement funds are choking us to death," he said.

Bloom tells the story of one tenant who gets about $2,000 a month from various forms of entitlement programs. Looking at the clock in his kitchen, which read about 10:30 a.m., he said she wouldn't even be awake at this time.

"I'm not opposed to some of the things they get," he said. "I don't want to pay for that. She can get a job. I realize it's not that easy or that simple."

Bloom, who counts himself as both pro-choice and pro-National Rifle Association, also wants to tackle issues like preserving the water supply in Western Kansas, an area of the state Bloom said about which those in northeast Kansas often forgot.

In search of leadership

Yet it seems Bloom's biggest issue is with the lack of leadership in Topeka. As he talks about how the Republican Party debated how to split money raised for former gubernatorial candidate Carla Stovall's campaign, Bloom is astounded only one person had the suggestion of following the state's laws governing the distribution.

"Can I do a better job?" he said. "I'll tell you without a doubt, I can."

Bloom counts a lowered mill levy and the construction of West Elementary School without passing a bond issue as victories during his tenure as superintendent.

Bloom also seems comfortable playing the gadfly, a role he played as superintendent. Then, Bloom said, he had no problem denying requests the district couldn't afford. As governor, nothing would change about that.

"I'll tell you no," he said.

Being governor would put him in a unique position to affect change in the way the state is run, Bloom said.

"I don't believe there's any other position in state government that can do that," he said. "(Senators and representatives) will always send their pet projects to you. The powers-that-be haven't exerted that kind of discretion."

An uphill battle

Bloom has no illusions the race for governor will be an uphill battle in a field of experienced politicians with inroads in Topeka.

"I feel like the fat, ugly child at the big dance," Bloom said, joking.

Financing a campaign, which he said would cost about $1,000 a week, won't be easy either, even with the mandatory amount from the Kansas Republican Party.

"I'm criticizing them, and I don't think they're pleased to share with me," he said. "I didn't expect a lot of help."

To reach people across the state, Bloom said he and Eric would be traveling across Kansas and speaking wherever they were invited. Bloom believes if people listen to what they have to say, voters will see they can do a just as good, if not better, job the people in office now.

"If nobody takes me seriously, there won't be any embarrassment," he said. "I'd be more embarrassed if I let this mess continue on without doing something."

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