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Archive for Friday, January 16, 2004

Johnson County Democrat enters race for Senate

Attorney says incumbent is out of step with Kansans

January 16, 2004

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Johnson County business attorney Joan Ruff entered the race Wednesday for the Democratic Party's nomination for U.S. Senate.

She launched her campaign by attacking incumbent Sam Brownback, a Republican who has represented Kansas in the Senate since Bob Dole resigned in 1996 to run for president.

Brownback is seeking re-election.

"He campaigned on changing Washington," Ruff said. "But I think he lost his values when he went to Washington, and he's not looking at those issues that are relevant to Kansans."

Ruff, 56, of Mission Woods, said she was drawn to the race because Brownback was out of step with the state on deficit, economic, health care and education issues.

Brownback wasn't available Wednesday to discuss Ruff's candidacy, said Aaron Groote, the senator's press secretary.

"Senator Brownback is focused on running for re-election by doing a good job and working hard for the people of Kansas," Groote said.

Ruff is a native of Clay Center and earned journalism and law degrees at Kansas University. She describes herself as a lifelong Democrat but says she votes her conscience at the polls. "Best person for the job," she said.

For the past two years, she's worked as an independent business consultant and prepared for the campaign.

She previously was an executive with Zurich Financial Services, working in the areas of strategic planning, human resources and corporate ethics.

Ruff said Brownback hadn't backed up his campaign rhetoric about reducing the federal deficit.

"He did run as a deficit hawk. Now, as a senator, he's been helping to pass budgets that have created the largest deficit in history," she said.

She said the senator hadn't done enough to counter the economic downturn in Kansas.

"Wall Street is getting better now," she said. "It's not indicative of what's happening on Main Street. What we need to do is focus on the economy in places like Wichita and the rural communities like Clay Center where I grew up."

Ruff criticized Brownback for voting in support of a federal education reform act, No Child Left Behind, that didn't provide full funding of programs educators believe necessary to meet the law's academic goals.

"These unfunded mandates are in fact creating havoc with the state budget," Ruff said.

The senator also hasn't been a strong advocate of programs to help 43 million Americans without health insurance, Ruff said.

Prior to working at Zurich, Ruff was with Towers Perrin and Mercer, a human resources consulting firm. She entered private legal practice in 1973.

She has a master's degree from Rockhurst University and a special degree in taxation from New York University's law school.

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