Republican Congressman Bill Flores’ announcement that his current term will be his last raises two relevant points: First, Flores has more than a year left before departing Capitol Hill. Second, with candidate filing for the 2020 elections beginning Nov. 9, attention and intrigue will almost immediately focus on his potential successors.

As observers of what passes for public policy and the sorry spectacle into which the Washington my-party-right-or-wrong circus has devolved over the past 10 to 15 years, we believe it’s critical at the very outset to outline what credentials and qualities the next individual representing Central Texas should display. Political courage and integrity are important to this newspaper, and sure should be for this community, given the abyss into which our republic appears destined.

Our next lawmaker should come from Waco or McLennan County. We’re not competently represented in Washington or Austin. And whoever presents himself or herself for public service better have demonstrated such service in the past by serving (and without financial compensation) on a city council, school board, planning commission or the board of one of our philanthropic foundations. They must know local issues and exhibit keen understanding of challenges facing our diverse society. If someone with no such record steps forward, we must view him or her with great skepticism. Oh, and whoever lists as public service toiling for the Republican or Democratic parties should slither back under a rock, given the destruction both parties have done our nation and the Constitution.

Whoever presents himself or herself for Congress should vow to regularly meet constituents, face-to-face, in actual town-hall meetings. We don’t call showing up at a Chamber of Commerce luncheon (where cost is generally involved) or some Republican or Democratic function “facing” one’s constituents. A lawmaker must interact with everyday, ordinary constituents even when they’re angry. That’s responsible leadership.

We must be assured that candidates understand the oath of office, including the part about defending the Constitution. This includes championing the rule of law for all — presidents included. We appreciate lawmakers unafraid to break with party on issues. And we don’t want lawmakers who employ social media to spread dubious or malicious allegations and “reports” from fringe sources. We acknowledge that lawmakers may change positions now and then — but one should be able to articulate why such changes are warranted. And, yes, all this demands someone sensible on gun reform — not a National Rifle Association stooge.

Finally, we badly need a “how person.” Repeal and replace Obamacare. Sure. But how? Grow our way out of trillion-dollar deficits? Sure. But how? Rhetoric is cheap, including Republicans regularly blaming Democrats when Republicans controlled the House, Senate and White House most of the past three years, yet being unable to craft policies that could appeal to lawmakers on both sides. And standing by the Constitution’s separation of powers is absolutely crucial — and not just when the guy or gal in the White House is from the other political party.

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