Finney County Commissioner and Air Force veteran Bill Clifford announced Thursday his run for Kansas’ big 1st Congressional District, the seat currently held by Rep. Roger Marshall.
Clifford is the third candidate to enter the race for the district and the second from Finney County. Former Lt. Gov. Tracey Mann of Salina and former teacher Kali Barnett of Garden City have also thrown their hats in the ring. Marshall announced last weekend he will not seek re-election, instead making a bid for the U.S. Senate.
Current chairman of the Finney County Commission and president of the Finney County Republicans, Clifford has previously served on other local government boards, including the Garden City Community College Board of Trustees, Garden City Airport Advisory Board and a committee vying for construction of a new high school in Garden City. He served in the military for 10 years, the last four as a fighter jet pilot in Germany.
Today he lives just outside Garden City with his wife, a veteran and member of the Kansas State Board of Education. They have six children, five of whom are adopted. Clifford is an ophthalmologist, or eye surgeon, at Fry Eye Associates in Garden City.
Clifford said the board of trustees taught him about governance and the county commission about being mindful with taxpayer dollars and working with the state and federal governments. Because of his public positions and work at Fry Eye, he has traveled to Washington, D.C., multiple times a year, sometimes in service of his patients and at other times in service of his constituents, he said.
“It’s given me a lot of insight into how the federal government works. It’s kind of the lesson in ‘the possible,' " Clifford said. "I recognize what a member of Congress and their staff is able to do to represent their constituents."
With the youngest of his kids entering their final years of high school and a new physician lessening the burden at work, as well as the encouragement of Marshall, Clifford said he could now pursue a higher office.
Clifford said he has long been impressed by Marshall as a collaborative problem solver. On one of his trips to D.C., the commissioner shadowed the representative at the capitol, Clifford said. If elected, Clifford said he would prioritize the work of Marshall, an obstetrician, regarding health care, in part by joining the GOP Doctors Caucus.
“I’ve supported him from the very early days and I feel like a member of Team Marshall. I am uniquely, as the only physician who I know of who will enter this race, capable of carrying Dr. Marshall’s health care legacy in the House ... We physicians are not numerous in Congress and our voice is the voice of our patients,” Clifford said.
Clifford said he is opposed to “full government control” of health care and believes U.S. residents should be able to choose and keep their own insurance.
He said he would represent the agricultural interests of the region, including advocating for farmers and ranchers and seeking support for the wider use of ethanol. He said he was also interested in tending to current trade issues to “do everything I can to make sure that our farmers, who produce the best crops in the world, have a market to sell in.”
He said he supports small-business owners and a strong military defense and halting the rise of the national debt. According to a news release announcing his campaign, he is anti-abortion and hopes to defend Second Amendment rights.
In regards to President Donald Trump, Clifford said the president has delivered on his campaign promises, particularly the economy and regulatory relief, and he supports any efforts to secure the border. Immigration reform is needed in other areas, Clifford said, including an immigration office in southwest Kansas.
“I want to continue the work as I know Sen. (Pat) Roberts and Congressman Marshall have done to try and at least mobilize those services to southwest Kansas, where they’re greatly needed. From an immigration reform standpoint, I’m happy, once the border is secure, to work with anyone in Congress who can come up with a workable solution,” Clifford said.
As a physician, Clifford said he was prepared for Congress. He said he has for years learned to advocate for patients, solve problems and serve the needs of others. If elected, he said he would take all of that to Washington.
Contact Amber Friend at firstname.lastname@example.org.