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Neither Republican Carl Maughan nor Democrat Ford Carr has run a campaign against an opponent, but both are already de facto Kansas state representatives-elect after being uncontested.
Both men come from partisan districts where the incumbent voluntarily stepped down after decades in service. Maughan will replace Rep. Steve Huebert in District 90 in northern Sedgwick County; Carr replaces the late Rep. Gail Finney in District 84 in central Wichita.
Carr had no intention of running for public office until Finney brought the subject up to him. She wanted him to replace her in the Kansas Legislature for District 84 and outlined her plans for stepping down, which included health reasons. Finney died Aug. 20 after recently undergoing a kidney transplant in her fight against lupus.
Carr, a Wichita native, had known Finney since the late 1980s but their prior relationship was never centered around politics. He first met her when Finney came to interview him for a story she was doing about his modeling school and agency. Over time, they kept in contact with Finney sometimes visiting Carr’s now-closed Vann’s Night Club.
“I knew her but I didn’t know her as the politician,” Carr said. “To be perfectly honest I had no idea that she was such a well-respected and accomplished politician, I honestly didn’t find that out until I had the pleasure of walking the halls of the Statehouse with her and then it became exceptionally obvious that she was very well respected and extremely popular.”
Carr accepts the call to serve
When Carr accepted Finney’s plea to replace her, he knew he would have to make sacrifices in order to represent his community for four months out of the year in Topeka, the length of time the Kansas Legislature is in session from January through April.
An aerospace engineer for the last 20 years, he has worked for some of the biggest companies in the field, including Boeing and Southwest. Currently a contract worker, Carr said he has the flexibility that allows him to run for office, but he expects to lose about a third of his income.
“Not everyone has the latitude to remove themselves from their places of employment for a period of time, especially a period of time that’s as excessive as this,” Carr said.
Maughan also received a call from the lawmaker he would replace when Huebert told him of his intentions not to seek re-election to the seat he held for 22 years. Maughan said Huebert knew he had expressed interest in the past.
In 2016, Maughan had announced a run for state Senate, but his wife, Faith Maughan, had recently been called up from Army Reserve and he was tasked with taking care of his two young children on his own. He quickly dropped out of the race, which had two other challengers in the Republican primary. Instead, Maughan, a lawyer, opted to seek a position much closer to home. He ran in the Republican primary for Sedgwick County District Court judge, Division 3, but lost.
Maughan gets a second chance to run
Six years later, the circumstances of life have changed for Maughan.
“The kids being older, there’s a little more leeway to make these decisions,” Maughan said. “Very grateful to my employer [Net Pay Advance] who has allowed me to go, and try to get the work done on nights and weekends…they’ve been flexible enough with me to allow me to go.”
Lawmakers don’t make a salary, per se. They receive $88.66 per day in pay plus a $151 per diem to cover food and lodging. They also receive 56 cents per mile for one round trip from home to Topeka a week. A typical lawmaker earned about $21,900 in 2019, the last pre-pandemic session.
“I think it’s a huge sacrifice for most people to do it,” Maughan said. “I just happen to be in a position where I have the flexibility to get it done. I frankly was surprised that there wasn’t a challenge on both the primary and the general.”
Maughan’s District 90 and Ford’s District 84 will be two of the 13 uncontested elections for state representative in Sedgwick County this November. The other 11 candidates running uncontested are incumbents.
“I can tell you who would have run besides me. I have that answer, unequivocally. No one,” Carr said. “If Gail didn’t ask me to run, without question, I wouldn’t have run.”
Both men shaped by experiences
Carr’s prior public service is as founder of Us Doing Us, a nonprofit group that has organized Thanksgiving meals, toy giveaways and Sunday get-togethers that are open to the Wichita African-American community. Working with the Kansas Leadership Center and Sedgwick County Health Department, he also helped raise awareness about COVID-19, including vaccinations for urban communities.
“I’ve been competing for this for most of my life,” Carr said. “Fighting for the small guys. This may be my first run in politics, but this certainly isn’t new to me.”
Politics was all-encompassing for Maughan, born and raised in Zimbabwe, formerly known as Rhodesia. He saw the effects of constant political upheaval and skyrocketing inflation. His father was in the Rhodesia and Zimbabwe Air Force, but at 14 his parents got divorced and he moved with his mother to South Africa.
“I have no doubt it impacted my sort of worldview,” Maughan said. “Unfortunately, Zimbabwe, which is a beautiful country, was ruined, in large part by Marxist policies and a lot of corruption.”
From a young age, he was infatuated with America. After a yearslong stay with his father in Australia, he enrolled at Wichita State in 1990 where he majored in philosophy and political science. He would get his law degree from Akron University before moving back to Wichita and starting his own law firm, Maughan Law Group, in 2002. In 2019, he became general counsel for Net Pay Advance.
Maughan describes himself as a “mainstream conservative” who believes the country is on the wrong path and that its tone has changed since he first arrived for his freshman year of college. He became a citizen of the United States in 2007, allowing him the opportunity to vote in elections but also run for political office (besides president).
Now, a Zimbabwe-born immigrant has no competition for political office in a country that was built upon it.
“I wish more people would be involved, I wish more people would decide that politics is important, but we do live in a free country,” Maughan said. “It’s easy to take it for granted when you’re living in liberty.”