For many an election cycle, weak Democratic challengers have left us little choice but to endorse Harold "Hal" Rogers for another term in Congress.
On Nov. 4, after 34 years representing the 5th District, the Somerset Republican again faces token opposition, but this time our endorsement is enthusiastic.
Rogers, chairman of the powerful House Appropriations Committee, is a steadying, pragmatic force in a Republican House given to extremism and recklessness.
Back home, Rogers risked the coal industry's displeasure and braved the partisan divide a year ago to join with Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear in launching SOAR.
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Over the summer, with support from state and federal governments, Shaping Our Appalachian Region hosted 100 listening sessions attended by more than 2,500 people.
Rogers brought Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to Eastern Kentucky for several days to learn firsthand about the region's calamitous health problems.
Among the solid recommendations to come out of the process so far: Support a statewide smoking ban and study possible links between surface mining of coal and poor health.
Rogers recently announced that a senior CDC staffer will work in Kentucky to help tackle our high rates of disease.
SOAR's willingness to take on powerful interests such as coal and tobacco gives credence to Rogers' declaration that "we're looking for real change."
Whether SOAR can put Kentucky's mountain economy on something more solid than a single fickle industry will take a while to discover. But chances of success are hugely enhanced as long as Rogers remains on the side of "real change."
It also doesn't hurt that he has the power to steer federal dollars into such things as improving rural broadband, one of his favorite causes.
"A conservative but ... not a hard-headed ideologue ... a realist" is how former appropriations chairman, Rep. David Obey, D-Wisc., has described Rogers.
Voters can feel good about sending this realist back to Congress.
The unendorsed candidate may submit a 250-word response by noon Wednesday.