Deal W. Hudson
December 12, 2008
As Republicans regroup in the days and months following the November election, some new faces have begun to emerge in the GOP. Among them is Rob Wasinger, a staffer for Sen. Sam Brownback for more than twelve years, the last four of them spent as Brownback’s chief of staff. A Catholic convert since his sophomore year at Harvard, Wasinger became known on Capitol Hill as a highly effective expert on tax issues, human rights, human cloning, and human embryonic stem cells.
Wasinger, a political veteran at age 36, has already thrown his hat into the ring for the 1st Congressional District seat in Western Kansas, where he was born and raised. He has moved back to Kansas, and his family will be joining him in a few weeks.
Moving the Wasinger family is no small feat, given nine children, ranging in age from 3-and-a-half months to 14 years. Three girls and six boys have graced the lives of Rob and his wife, Meg, whom he married during his senior year in college. Meg, a cradle Catholic, attended St. Thomas More College in Merrimack, New Hampshire.
Two years before his marriage, Wasinger entered the Catholic Church after “facing on campus a lot of the social problems you see in the world at large.” In the midst of the battleground of ideas at Harvard, Wasinger was “tested about what I really believe.”
A reading of Augustine’s Confessions, among several other Catholic classics, gave him the spiritual bearings that would soon lead him to become a pro-life advocate as a staffer to Brownback. Wasinger wrote the Human Cloning Prohibition Act, cosponsored by Brownback and introduced in March 2007 (the bill is still pending).
The 1st Congressional District in Kansas encompasses 67 counties in Western Kansas and is one of the most dependable GOP districts in the nation. Rep. Jerry Moran (R-KS), who has held the seat since 1997, won the last election with 81 percent of the vote (he is vacating the seat at the end of his term).
The primary will not be held until August 2010, followed three months later by the general election, but Wasinger and his primary challengers are already raising money for their campaigns. “Running for Congress is a full-time job, and that’s what I will be doing until the election,” he told me.
Wasinger says the economic climate has serious implications for his potential constituency: “The candidate who represents this district will have to be dedicated to bringing economic prosperity to rural America, especially to our farmers and livestock producers.”
He’s optimistic about the future of the GOP in spite of the past election results. “The lesson we learned from the last election cycle is that our issues win. When marriage is on the ballot, marriage wins, but people have lost confidence in some of our elected leaders to deliver on their promises.”
Wasinger sees himself as part of a new generation of Republicans who will be dedicated to the basic principles of a strong defense, low taxes, less government spending, and the defense of the family. “We have to get back to the basics of the party, and we need new, principled leadership to get there.”
The pro-life movement is in good shape, according to Wasinger, even after the Obama victory. “After all the public debates over life issues, especially the Partial Birth Abortion Act, there is a greater understanding and appreciation of life in all its stages. We have a pro-life majority in the country that understands life is a pure gift that needs to be protected.”
When asked again about the political climate he faces over the next two years, Wasinger admits it’s “a tough environment, an uphill battle, but we have to keep fighting and continue making our arguments based upon the core principles that once made Republicans the majority in the Congress.”