A Republican for much of her life, Barbara Bollier said those roots run deep.
“I’m still very fiscally responsible,” she said. “And I can work across the aisle.”
After 43 years as a registered Republican and 10 years as a GOP lawmaker, Bollier, 62, became a Democrat in 2018, when as a state senator she objected to the Republican party’s discriminatory stance on gay rights, specifically same-sex marriage, as well as its opposition to Medicaid expansion.
As a physician, Bollier takes both issues personally. What makes a person unique, she argues, is more than their chromosomal makeup.
Bollier also regards providing healthcare as “our moral imperative to take care of each other,” she said Tuesday in a visit to Iola.
BOLLIER, retired from medicine, is now trying to take her career as a lawmaker to the next level. She is running for the U.S. Senate to replace outgoing Pat Roberts.
She faces Republican Rep. Roger Marshall.
On Tuesday, Bollier visited with Daniel Gile, manager of G&W Foods, and Lisse Regehr, chief executive officer of Thrive Allen County, to hear of their experiences dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Tagging along, this reporter found Bollier refreshingly humble.
“I’m here to ask about you,” she said to Gile, and was thrilled to learn how he personally makes home deliveries to customers, primarily senior citizens.
“That you choose to do it, when you could order any of your staff to make the deliveries, says a lot about you,” she told Gile.
“It’s the best part of my day,” he replied.
Gile showed her some empty shelves in the store.
“Our canning section has been wiped out,” he said, noting the coronavirus has inspired many to take up gardening.
“Kind of like ‘Victory Gardens,’” Bollier said.
“Yes ma’am,” Gile replied.
Gile said the initial months of the coronavirus were especially difficult when people hoarded cleaning supplies and there was a run on certain goods.
“For the life of me, I still can’t get disinfectant wipes,” he said.
Canned goods such as Spaghettios and Spam are still difficult to keep in stock, as is frozen fruit.
Gile recalled that in April, big box stores such as Walmart and Costco limited customers to two gallons of milk due to a shortage caused by a disruption in the milk distribution system.
G&W, however, instituted no such policy.
“Our customers understood when supplies ran low. They really supported us through those hard times. I can’t say enough about how loyal they have been and how much that means to us,” he said.
In the three years G&W has been in Iola, Gile said he’s content with the size and scope of the market.
“We have no interest in competing with the local pharmacy or flower shops. We’ll stick with what we know.”
STILL ENTHUSED about her visit at G&W, Bollier shared her experience with Regehr, who replied, “Daniel was a game-changer in the first days of COVID. And it proves it’s easier to pivot when you’re smaller.”
For Bollier, it reinforced a long-held tenet. “I still believe things are best done at the local level.”
Because healthcare is a focus of Thrive’s, Regehr pressed Bollier to carry her fight to expand Medicaid to the federal level.
She needed little persuading.
Even though it’s up to individual states to expand the health insurance program geared for the indigent and elderly, without the Affordable Care Act the expansion option would not be on the table.
Bollier noted that her opponent, Rep. Marshall, consistently votes to overturn the healthcare act.
“So Medicaid expansion is a federal issue,” she replied. Kansas is one of a dozen states yet to expand Medicaid. In the last few months, voters in Nebraska, Missouri and Oklahoma have all approved the measure.
BOLLIER believes in climate change and the role it plays in natural disasters such as forest fires and hurricanes.
“Science is real,” she said simply.
Where she believes previous administrations have failed is in bringing farmers and ranchers “to the table,” to discuss the environment and how certain laws affect their livelihoods.
She’s also disappointed in the federal government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We need another round of stimulus, and it needs to happen now,” she said. “It’s needed to keep businesses afloat. They need help and they need money.”
She also regards it as a leader’s responsibility to be a role model and to “follow the public health guidelines,” that encourage social distancing and the wearing of face masks.
“I’m not campaigning to please people,” she said. “I’m campaigning to serve people.”