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Congressman contra mundum

"Congressman contra mundum" Continued...

Issue: "Babies are back," Jan. 29, 2011

Huelskamp's chief of staff, Jim Pfaff, said he has talked to the congressman a number of times while he was sitting in a combine, but political work limits his time on the farm. His parents still live on the family homestead and his brother works the land. Athan, too, grew up working on the land. "He was the only kid in Meade County who had to quit work to go to kindergarten," Huelskamp said. "Got paid," Athan added, kicking his cowboy boots under his chair.

The Huelskamps couldn't have children naturally, so they turned to adoption. "It was the hands of God all over that," Huelskamp said. Natasha and Rebecca came to the Huelskamps as toddlers, orphans from Haiti. When the girls are "mature" enough to see Haiti as it is now, Huelskamp says he will take them back to visit. The family adopted Athan and Alex domestically. Huelskamp believes he and his wife were among the first in their small German-heritage town of Fowler, Kan., to adopt black children, though other families followed. At the time Huelskamp's 100-year-old grandmother was shocked, he said, but she also cherished the children. She loved the feel of Athan's curly hair, and would rub his head when she saw him. "You remember that, Athan?" Huelskamp asked. "Oh yeah," his son replied.

When Huelskamp encounters abortion-minded women, he said, he shows them his family as "an alternative to abortion." Leaving his family in Kansas for the three weeks a month when he'll be working in Washington will be "the toughest part of the job," he said. He has counted that they'll have 10 days together a month, at least. Of course, congressional schedules change at the drop of a hat, and he lives a long way from Washington, but he's been through this before as a state senator in Topeka, Kan.

Huelskamp is a rare breed in this freshman class: someone with political experience. He's worried for those new to politics because he said it's easy to get caught up in the "minutiae" of governing. He tells his colleagues to "wade through all that stuff" and "plant your flag on your principles. Keep an eye on that. This is a place that's meant to break individuals and break families and break principles."

Emily Belz
Emily Belz

Emily, who has covered everything from political infighting to pet salons for The Indianapolis Star, The Hill, and the New York Daily News, reports for WORLD from New York City. Follow Emily on Twitter @emzleb.

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