Democratic candidates hold Sunflower Showcase event

Vincent Marshall

An online meeting of local and congressional Democratic candidates was held Wednesday as part of the Sunflower Showcase event.

The event featured Democratic candidates U.S. 1st Congressional District candidate Kali Barnett, Kansas Senate District 38 candidate Edgar Pando, Kansas House of Representatives District 119 candidate Jan Scoggins and Ford County Clerk Democratic candidate Angie Gonzalez.

The Q&A format gave each candidate a chance to speak on several topics and the general consensus from each of them was a focus on rural healthcare, education, agriculture and immigration.

"We want to build our wins from 2018," Kansas Democratic Party digital and social media coordinator Reeves Oyster said.

Scoggins, former Dodge City Commissioner, said she is a believer in Medicaid expansion when it comes to healthcare as well as the need for rural broadband.

"Good education effects every part of our lives," Scoggins said. "That is why we need affordable rural broadband in rural Kansas.

"Everything is tied to the Internet and if we have people in the parking lot of our library to be able to access the Internet, than we need better Internet for our citizens."

Keeping with education, Pando, an attorney with Kerbs Law Office in Dodge City, said he learned the value of education from his parents.

"They showed me a focus on making lives better here and how to better serve our community," Pando said. "I want to be the type of representative that listens to the people and their concerns and bring them into the conversation to be an advocate for them.“

Barnett, a school teacher from Garden City and first female Democratic candidate to run for the "Big First" congressional district, wants to fight for the school system.

"Being born and raised in southwest Kansas and being a teacher for 12 years, I know first hand the struggles teachers face," she said. "I know what it's like to fight for schools and fight for what we need and I will carry that to the congressional seat."

Barnett also discussed the up coming Republican Expo.

Early on Wednesday, Barnett released a statement regarding the Republican Expo being held at United Wireless Arena on Saturday in Dodge City where the guest speaker is vice president of Understanding the Threat John Bennett.

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, Understanding the Threat is listed as an anti-Muslim hate group.

Barnett said she opposes the Kansas Republican Party, the Wild West Republican Women’s Club, First Congressional District candidates Tracey Mann and Dr. Bill Clifford, and U.S. Senate candidates Dr. Roger Marshall, Kris Kobach and David Lindstrom, in their acceptance of Bennett speaking.

“Bennett and Understanding the Threat’s positions and values are extreme and stand in direct opposition to the majority of Americans and families in Kansas’ first district,” said Barnett.

According to Barnett, Understanding the Threat president John Guandolo said in an interview on June 11 that, “We should round up the leaders and execute them” when speaking about the Black Lives Matter movement as well as calling for the removal of American mosques, a direct violation of Americans’ Constitutional right to religious freedom.

“In their attendance, Mr. Mann and Dr. Clifford have failed a basic moral test to confront bigotry and racism, that has never been more imperative than now.

"Have Kansas Republicans so quickly forgotten the real world consequences of giving a voice to bigotry, like the Garden City Bomb Plot in 2016? Does their silence signal complicity with this rhetoric? At the very least, it shows they are comfortable sharing space with this kind of bigotry.

"Is this how they will represent, serve, and advocate for their constituents in Washington?”

Gonzalez talked of the need for more voting locations in Dodge City. She said she ran due to the controversial move during the 2018 election where incumbent Ford County Clerk Debbie Cox moved the voting location to the Western State Bank Expo Center when the previous location, the Dodge City Civic Center, underwent construction.

"I know we have more than one location now but that still isn't enough," Gonzalez said. "We need to include more voting locations closer to peoples homes and make an emphasis on getting more registered voters to get out and vote."

Gonzalez said she would work to make voting locations more accessible with shorter wait times and emphasized the increase in mail-in ballots and early voting.

For agriculture, Barnett, who's family lost their farm when she was 17, said growing up in the farming community she knows that district needs a farmer back in the seat.

"Our agriculture community has been hit hard," Barnett said. "We need someone that will fight for the family farm and the corporate farm an fight so no family has to lose their farm.

"The ag community needs someone that not only represents rural Kansas but all of Kansas."

Immigration issues were a key issue heading into the election for each of the Democratic candidates with a more local focus.

Barnett spoke of keeping to fundamental values and finding a better path to citizenship.

"The citizenship process is exhausting," Barnett said. "We need to put a program in place for people to be able to work here, live here and have lives here in the U.S.

"We can't have people like Roger Marshall (current 1st Congressional District Congressman and U.S. Senate candidate), visiting kids in cages and saying, 'Looks good to me.'"

Gonzalez said there are people in the community currently on the path to citizenship but also stressed the need to reach out to them and let them know their vote counts.

"A lot of people still don't think their vote will matter," Gonzalez said. "We need people in local government to show them to see the light and path and put them on a better future and not only tell people to vote for themselves but to vote for the community we want to create."

Pando added, "The rural community needs someone to listen to their concerns and emphasize outreach to making people feel heard but more importantly follow through with those concerns.

"In my experience as an advocate for others I will continue to fill the role as an advocate for the community."