Senate hopeful pays visit to Iola

Mark Holland, seeking to become the state's next U.S. senator, was in Iola Monday to visit with Allen County Democrats. Holland will likely face incumbent Jerry Moran in November.

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Local News

February 8, 2022 - 8:05 AM

U.S. Senate hopeful Mark Holland, right, visits with Lorraine Kuzen-Stephens in Iola Monday. Photo by Susan Lynn / Iola Register

Mark Holland characterizes his likely opponent for the U.S. Senate, incumbent Jerry Moran, as a friendly guy.

“Who doesn’t want to have lunch with Jerry Moran? He’s a very nice gentleman,” Holland said.  

“The issue, however, is his voting record and lack of courage.  

“If you can’t stand up for the Constitution of the United States after January 6, you’ve just told us you can’t stand up for what’s right. 

“Jerry Moran voted against even investigating the Jan. 6 attack on our Capitol, and then within weeks was asking Donald Trump for his endorsement, which means he is accepting the lies about the election.  

“Now we’re being told the desecration on our Capitol was ‘legitimate political discourse.’” 

“By accepting that, Jerry Moran has chosen re-election over integrity.” 

In his bid for the Democratic nomination, Holland didn’t mince words in his address to Allen County Democrats Monday night. 

He also realizes that as a Democrat, it’s an uphill battle especially in rural areas. 

His goal for Allen County? 

“To lose less badly,” he says with a smile. “I don’t know if you’re aware of the math, but Democrats are outnumbered. Maybe not here in Iola, but in other parts of Kansas, dramatically.” 

Even then, there’s hope. 

According to recent polls, 75 percent of Republicans believe the 2020 Election was stolen from Trump and that COVID is fake news. 

“The good news? Twenty-five percent don’t believe that. And those are the people we need to reach. They’re still tethered to reality.”  

Holland’s strategy is to get people to think critically. 

“The urgency has never been higher for Democrats, independents and open-minded Republicans to pull together based on what’s at stake in our country,” he said. “We need to share our Democratic values and push why they matter.”  

Holland recognized that Democrats lack the “trigger issues” that Republicans seem to rally around. As a third-generation United Methodist minister, Holland, a native of Kansas City, Kan., is comfortable speaking, though not in a fire-and-brimstone style. 

“We talk policy, and we sound wonky, I know. But I believe that we can inspire people with the opportunities we hope to bring.” 

Mark Holland speaks Monday with Allen County Democrats. Photo by Susan Lynn / Register

Good schools are key to his platform. 

“When your schools are perceived as week, that’s a real challenge for a community. Investing in public education is investing in our communities and the stronger our communities are, the more likely people want to live in our communities and the more likely businesses will come. 

“Education is essential not only for our kids, but as an anchor for the community.”

“The contrast between Jerry Moran and myself is that he tries to divert public money to private schools for vouchers. 

“How many private schools are there in Allen County? So good for Jerry Moran. He’s trying to get vouchers that you can’t even use.” 

“The other thing I’m passionate about is the truth. Science is real,” Holland said, to which the group of about 20 erupted in applause. 

Holland then complained about the “false dichotomies” erected that obfuscate solutions. 

“I mean really, we can’t talk about the climate and the environment without it meaning a loss of jobs? That’s a false dichotomy.  

“Green energy brings new jobs and new opportunities.  

“Instead, Republicans want it to be a culture war issue. It’s the same thing with guns. It’s a false dichotomy to say we can’t protect people’s rights to own guns and keep our communities safer. 

“Of course, we can do both. And we must do both.” 

HOLLAND’S background is in service. 

After graduation from Southern Methodist University in Dallas he attended Iliff School of Theology in Denver. His first pastorships were in rural Kansas followed by 19 years at Trinity United Methodist in Kansas City. 

In 2007, he entered elective politics, serving on the council of the Unified Government of Wyandotte County/Kansas City, Kansas and after two terms was elected mayor. 

For the last three years, he has been working at Mainstream UMC, a global advocacy group he co-founded with pastor Nanette Roberts, a fellow Kansan. One of its goals is to promote the ordination of gays and lesbians.  

“The United Methodist Church remains the largest denomination in the world that ordains women, but not gays and lesbian folks. We have some catching up to do, but I believe the end is in sight,” he said. 

His mother was a public school teacher, and his father, “the preacher at our church.” 

“Growing up, I did not think that was fair. I got away with nothing. But I did learn something about accountability and being honest.” 

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