Gun control, defunding the police and gay rights were only a few of the issues that Democratic candidates tackled on a chilly Saturday afternoon on the courthouse square.
An audience of about 50 gathered to hear Sen. Barbara Bollier, candidate for the U.S. Senate, and Michelle De La Isla, candidate for Congress representing the 2nd District. Lynn Rogers, Kansas Lt. Gov., was also part of the tour.
The presentation was dedicated to answering voters’ questions.
“I grew up hunting,” Bollier said, noting deer season “is when I miss my dad the most.”
A strong defender of the Second Amendment, Bollier said, “I’m not coming after anyone’s gun. I’ve got my own.”
What Bollier is for, is gun safety.
“Gun violence happens, and it’s a public health issue.”
As a then-Republican state senator, Bollier joined the vast majority of legislators in supporting a 2018 measure that allows law enforcement to take guns away from people who are at risk to themselves or others.
De La Isla, mayor of Topeka, said that though the The Constitution “gives us the liberty to own guns, every liberty comes with a responsibility attached to it.”
De La Isla noted that last year there were 111 cases in Topeka of cars being broken into because they contained guns.
“A responsible gun owner doesn’t do that,” she said. “That’s not how we keep people safe.”
Bollier said the No. 1 issue voiced by constituents was the lack of adequate healthcare, including the price of prescription medications.
“People ask why the government can’t negotiate the price of drugs with Big Pharma. Oh wait, Roger Marshall voted against that,” she said of her opponent.
Bollier was referring to Rep. Marshall’s vote on Dec. 19, 2019 against giving the government the authority to negotiate drug prices with drug companies for seniors on Medicare. The measure was called the “Lower Drug Costs Now Act.” Though it passed the Democratic-controlled House, the Senate refused to call a vote on the measure. The administration of President Donald Trump also stands against it.
Bollier said that while she has not endorsed the Medicare for All format for universal healthcare, “I do want to see everyone have access to healthcare and that’s why I talk about a public option buy-in,” as proposed by Joe Biden, the Democrat nominee for president.
Biden’s program allows people to keep their private insurance but have greater access to a federal program.
De La Isla said treating the COVID-19 pandemic as a political issue, rather than a healthcare issue, has been a disservice to the public.
“COVID-19 is a virus, not an issue. It does not hold a red or blue flag.
“We need to assure the Affordable Care Act, the only legislation that guarantees coverage for pre-existing conditions, is protected.”
“We also need to make sure Kansas continues to see federal dollars come their way through expanding Medicaid,” she said.
De La Isla noted that her opponent, Jake LaTurner, a former state senator, voted against expanding Medicaid in Kansas, which, she said, contributed to the demise of four hospitals in the Second District, including those in Fort Scott and Independence.
As a policy, the Green New Deal is not for Bollier, “but the issue of climate change is of paramount importance,” she said.
“I learned as a state legislator that you can be for something, but remain opposed to a specific bill because it’s not the right way to go about getting something done,” she said.
“Of course I know we need to deal with climate change and we can start by rejoining the Paris Climate Accord.
“We also need to make sure farmers and ranchers are at the table as we work on policy. Of everyone, they are the best stewards of the environment and depend on it remaining viable.”
Bollier expressed her frustration with the campaign because it’s been reduced to catch phrases.
“We live in a complex world that deserves complex answers. A 30-second sound bite can’t begin to explain my position on climate change,” she said.
In her campaign, De La Isla has been accused of being in favor of defunding the police. The LaTurner campaign has shown video clips of De La Isla participating in a Black Lives Matter demonstration with a voice-over saying it’s an example of her “radicalism.”
“Those commercials being used against me are pretty racially charged. Let’s call a spade a spade,” De La Isla said.
“It’s a shame that you would say that just because I’m standing with my Black brothers and sisters that that infers I am against the police department. While I am marching alongside my chief of police. And all along the parade route police officers are offering me bottles of water.
“We’ve been willing to have crucial conversations about systemic racism. Crucial conversations about how we must do better. And yet, this is the lie we have to deal with every single day. People are being told you have to choose one or the other.
“My friends, there is a third option. It is compassion. It is the truth. And acting in love toward other people.”
Bollier voiced support for Pope Francis upon last week’s news that he supports civil unions between homosexual couples.
“What a pope,” she said.
“His message is about love and loving one another.
“You love one another by providing good healthcare. You love one another by wearing a mask. “And you love one another by letting others love one another. I’m thrilled to see a man stand up and say we are called to love one another. For whatever religious background you may come from, the universal call is to love one another.
“I’m right there with him.”
BOTH WOMEN decried the bottom-feeding nature of this year’s political campaigns.
“As a legislator, I served 11 years working on both sides of the political aisle,” Bollier said.
“I’ll be determined to keep finding common ground by keeping my focus on the people, not the political party.”
Bollier said it was that focus that led to her switch in December 2019 from being a Republican to a Democrat.
“The party left me,” she said, specifically noting its efforts to defund public education with massive income tax cuts.
“I believe in fiscal responsibility as well as keeping true to our obligations. My values had not changed. My votes had not changed. The party had changed,” she said.