Commentary: Sebelius, Parkinson face new roles, challenges

This editorial appeared in The Kansas City Star.

The waiting, singer Tom Petty once opined, is the hardest part. But that premise is about to be tested, now that Kathleen Sebelius has finally moved from the governor's mansion in Kansas to become the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services secretary in Washington.

Both Sebelius and Kansas' new governor, Mark Parkinson, confront large and unusual challenges as they step into their new jobs. Fortunately, their backgrounds suggest both are up to the task.

The administration's extensive vetting of Sebelius and the U.S. Senate's unnecessarily long confirmation process left one of the federal government's most crucial posts in the hands of an interim director for three months. And it rattled nerves in Topeka, as legislators struggled with the state's most difficult budget in decades.

Sebelius' confirmation attracted an undue amount of noise from conservative groups. By zeroing in on her protection of abortion rights, they distorted the true picture. Sebelius is a moderate who has broad political appeal and whose executive skills are respected even by adversaries.

She has a record of defending the right principles, including clean air and adequately funded schools. Her fortitude and interest in making bureaucracies work more efficiently make her an excellent pick for the federal post.

Parkinson, the former chairman of the Kansas Republican Party, switched to the Democrat’s side to be Sebelius' running mate in 2006.

Since then, he has turned out to be surprisingly apolitical, which may be just what the state needs right now. Republicans say the fact that Parkinson has declared he won’t run for any office in 2010 will enable them to work with him without political distractions.

To read the complete editorial, visit The Kansas City Star.

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