Incumbent won’t seek re-election
State Rep. J. Robert Brookens of Marion, who has represented the 70th District for almost four years, will not run for re-election, he said Sunday.
Brookens made the decision just days after a federal court released maps for required legislative redistricting. The 70th District was changed dramatically, with the northern half of Marion County — including Marion but excluding Hillsboro — as the only part of his original district that remained.
The redrawn district made Brookens realize that he wouldn’t be able to give his legal work and legislative work the attention they deserve. Brookens’ law partner, Keith Collett, recently was appointed as a district magistrate judge and relocated to Dickinson County.
Newly minted attorney Joshua Boehm joined Brookens as a legal associate last week. Brookens said it wouldn’t be fair to Boehm or clients to leave for the 90-day legislative session while Boehm was getting acclimated.
“The map forced me to focus on what is reasonable for one human to do,” Brookens said. “I looked forward to representing the new area, but in November, December, it would have hit me, ‘I can’t do this.’”
While the Legislature was in session, Brookens woke at 6 a.m. and worked until 9 p.m. on legislative business, he said. He would meet with clients from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturdays, then on Sundays he would direct his church’s choir, followed by working on tax returns during tax season, writing his “Legislative Update” newspaper column, then returning to Topeka.
He said he could imagine running for office again in a few years after Boehm becomes an old hand at practicing law, provided there is the right opening. In the meantime, Brookens said, he would advise anyone who disagrees with his successor in the Legislature to let the new legislator know. He said constituents had raised points he hadn’t considered.
Representing the 70th District the past four years has been a valuable experience, in large part because of how much his constituents care, he said.
“The people of the 70th District whom I have served for four years are absolutely fantastic,” he said. “They get what’s going on; they understand.”