New senator says she'll represent her district, not just herself in Topeka

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As State Senator Lynn Rogers prepares to take over as Kansas' new Lieutenant Governor, Wichita Democrats picked his replacement in the Kansas senate this weekend.  

"Hi, I'm Mary and I'm an addict," Mary Ware told Democrats gathered Saturday as she asked them to pick her as the new District 25 Senator.  "Actually I am.  I'm addicted to the fact that the people have the power to create change."

A social activist known for pushing against the establishment, Mary Ware is now getting ready to take her place as a part of that establishment.  She says her opinions won't be the only ones she considers when voting in Topeka.

"I'm not there just to go be Mary Ware. I'm there to represent my district."

A long time resident of the area, Ware says she feels comfortable she knows what her neighbors want.  But she's not talking much about issues right now, wanting to hear what her new constituents  have to say, something she didn't have a regular election campaign to find out.

"I do know my neighborhood, my community, this district," she said.  "And yet I know there are many, many, many individuals for me still to be talking to."

We do know something about what Ware thinks.  She's spent much of the last few years as a social and community activist, showing up in the KAKE News archives time and again on issues ranging from pushing to end gun violence to legalizing medical marijuana.  Something she still thinks Kansans are ready for.

"I would have to check with my constituents to know for sure.  But I'm kind of thinking that people would rather have a tax on something like marijuana than a tax on gasoline," she said when talking about how the state can find additional money to pay for increased school spending and better road repair.  

She says moving from an outsider to an insider isn't as big of a change as it might seem.

'"In some ways I think of it as an extension of that," Ware said of her activism work.  "And yet, in some ways I'm on the other side of that now, which gives me insights. I think it will be helpful."

With just over 24 hours between when the Sedgwick County Democrats chose her as senator Saturday night and when she must show up for new lawmaker orientation in Topeka on Monday morning, Ware is working hard to learn the ropes.  She's turning to her predecessor, Lynn Rogers, for advice.

"Listen, sit back, watch, listen," she explained.

And she's keeping her sense of humor.

"In the Senate, I hear they like you to wear suits and such. so, hm... I'll have to work out my wardrobe too," she laughed.  "And yeah, this is so exciting!"