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Sebelius a finalist for Time’s Person of the Year

Updated: 2013-12-10T14:48:10Z

By Dion Lefler

The Wichita Eagle

In move that should gladden the heart of anyone who’s ever built a website that didn’t work, Time has named Kathleen Sebelius as one of the 10 finalists for the magazine’s Person of the Year award.

Sebelius, former governor of Kansas and now U.S. secretary of Health and Human Services, has been in the nation’s high beams since the Oct. 1 failure to launch of the national health care website, www.healthcare.gov.

The site was designed to allow tens of millions of people to register for health coverage and subsidies under the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare, after Sebelius’ boss, President Obama (also a finalist for the Time award).

From the start, the site has been plagued with traffic overloads and technical glitches, forcing Obama to delay key parts of the ACA, his landmark legislative accomplishment.

News that Sebelius made Time’s top 10 was met with mixed reactions in Kansas.

“Well good,” said state Rep. Jim Ward, D-Wichita and ranking Democrat on the House Health and Human Services Committee.

“Whenever a Kansan is recognized for public service and influencing major events in the world, that’s an honor for everyone,” said Ward, who was an ally of Sebelius during her time as governor.

Brenda Landwehr saw it differently.

“Ridiculous,” said Landwehr, a former chairwoman of the House committee who dueled with Sebelius over health policy for the seven years they were both in the Capitol. Landwehr said the ACA has resulted in untold thousands of people losing health insurance or having to pay higher premiums.

“They (Time) seem to like to point out people that are not successful,” Landwehr said. “She doesn’t have a website that’s even up and running. ... I couldn’t think of a less-deserving person.”

But while Sebelius may have had a bad year, some of the others on the list had it even worse: For example, Bashar Assad, the beleaguered president of Syria; Miley Cyrus, the former “Hannah Montana” child star who earned widespread ridicule for a sexually provocative dance on national television; and Edward Snowden, the whistleblower living in exile in Russia to avoid prosecution for revealing the National Security Agency’s phone and internet surveillance programs.

Rounding out the list are:

Texas Tea Party Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, a key player in forcing the federal government shutdown in October.

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, who bought the Washington Post from the iconic Graham family, whichowned the influential paper for 80 years.

Pope Francis, who has emphasized compassion and helping the poor while nudging the Catholic Church away from focusing on hot-button social issues such as abortion and homosexuality.

Hassan Rouhani, the new president of Iran, who has negotiated a deal to freeze the country’s controversial nuclear program in exchange for a loosening of crippling economic sanctions against his country.

Edith Windsor, a gay-rights activist and plaintiff in the Supreme Court case that overturned the Defense of Marriage Act, a law that had barred federal recognition of same-sex marriages.

The Person of the Year will be announced Wednesday morning.

Reach Dion Lefler at 316-268-6527 or dlefler@wichitaeagle.com.

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