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Mr. Moran goes to Marion -- and almost gets a speeding ticket

News editor

The tall, slender man wearing a white dress shirt and bold green tie looked out of place among the Saturday morning crowd at Casey’s General Store in Marion, but he acted like he fit right in.

Spying a customer wearing a University of Kansas hat, he asked, “Are you rooting for the Jayhawks tomorrow?”

The customer replied yes, then asked the man if he wanted Wichita State or Kansas to win.

“That’s a difficult question for a politician,” U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran replied.

Minutes later, the senator had another difficult question posed to him downtown, as he detoured from a trip to Wellington for some impromptu chats with local citizens.

“Were you aware you were driving 30 in a 20 mile and hour zone?” asked the Marion police officer. After his license was checked, Moran got off with a warning.

“My name on my driver’s license is Gerald,” Moran said. “I doubt he knew who I was.”

Moran ended up at Lanning’s Pharmacy, strolling back to the coffee area where a group of men were casually chatting. They looked up as he said hello, but none appeared surprised by the senator’s presence, even after Moran introduced himself to be sure they knew who he was.

As Moran sat down, he said, “Anything I need to know?”

“Our rule here is that we don’t talk about religion or politics,” Bill Walter said.

For a while, they adhered to the made-up rule, with Moran sharing a bit of his Kansas background.

“I grew up in a two-pharmacy town, and now it’s a one-pharmacy town,” Moran said of his hometown, Plainville. His wife didn’t want to live in Plainville, so Hays became a compromise for 29 years. They now live in Manhattan.

“No offense, I’m a Jayhawk,” Moran said, “but I’m told everybody else here is a Wildcat, so I’d better be careful. But both our kids went to K-State, so I’m a failed parent.”

Several around the table had some connection to Hays or Plainville that they shared. When Classen mentioned Stockton, Moran jumped in.

“We’re kind of like Marion and Hillsboro, I assume,” Moran said. “We’ve got Stockton as the county seat, and Plainville is the bigger town.”

“Well, we love Hillsboro, though,” Classen said, which brought a chuckle from the group.

Rex Wilson was the first to chime in with a serious question about politics.

“I just hope you guys can accomplish something instead of just squabbling,” Wilson said. “Is the word compromise still used anywhere?”

Moran said constituents send him opposing messages.

“About half the people who call my office will say ‘You tell Moran not to budge one inch on anything,’” Moran said. “The other half call and say ‘Why can’t you all work together and get something done?’”

Moran said rural issues often require compromise, as rural areas have less representation in Congress than urban areas.

The group stuck to politics, branching off into topics ranging from health care to foreign affairs to President Barack Obama, with one person after another offering opinions, while Moran listened as much as he chimed in.

The chat lasted for about a half an hour, and before Moran left he posed for a picture with veteran Don Fruechting. He took another with pharmacy owner Traci Lanning, standing in front of her new Jayhawks stained glass window.

Moran headed for the door with a final encouragement from several of the men to drive slowly on the way out of town.

“I’ll be driving the speed limit all the way to Wellington,” Moran said.

Last modified March 26, 2015

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