Supporters of both parties made themselves heard at a campaign event for Dr. Barbara Bollier, Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate, Saturday afternoon.
Bollier spoke to a socially-distanced audience at the shelter house at Veterans Park which campaign officials estimated at 120 people, amid temperatures more reminiscent of mid-summer than early fall.
Before and sporadically during the event, supporters of President Donald Trump conducted a vehicle parade near on the path near the shelter, honking their horns and occasionally shouting, with many vehicles displaying American flags, Trump campaign flags, or both.
Bollier responded by saying she supported the group’s right to free speech and peaceful protest, to make their voices heard in the process.
“Isn’t it great to live in America, where we have the right to peacefully protest?” she told the crowd. “That is our right as citizens, and I absolutely support that right.”
Bollier, who has served in the Kansas Legislature for 11 years, is challenging Republican Dr. Roger Marshall for the seat being vacated by the retiring Pat Roberts.
She explained to gathered potential voters her goal in running for the seat is to be able to unite Kansans and to work across party lines to address several major issues facing Kansans and the nation.
“In the very essence of ourselves, we are humanity, we are the United States, and we are Kansans,” she said. “We absolutely can and must work together.”
Bollier, who said she described herself as originally moderate Republican, she said she does not have a problem working with Republicans to address issues and wants to work to find common ground with them.
She told the crowd she believes the people of Kansas want a change from current leadership, pointing out support she’s received from current and former Republicans in her bid for the senate.
In touting the state’s progressive electoral history, she noted if elected, she would be the first female physician elected to the U.S. Senate.
Both in her speech and through the process of fielding questions from the audience, Bollier addressed her positions on several key issues, while denouncing what she called misrepresentation of her positions and voting record by Marshall’s campaign.
She expressed a desire to be a voice for Kansas farmers through appointment to the Senate Agriculture Committee if elected.
“The people who are affected by rules and laws, they need to be at the table,” she said. “I want to be there to represent those voices.”
In speaking on the issue of agriculture, she said she felt Kansas farmers were actually being hurt by the current tariffs imposed on China and other energy policies that she feels have hurt Kansas farmers.
“We are the best in the world at what we produce. We need it to be getting out to the people,” she said.
“(China) has been a bad actor. China needs to be held accountable, but not on the backs of Kansas farmers’ shoulders,” she said.
She said Kansas has been, and has the opportunity to continue to be, a leader in renewable energy, including wind and solar energy, and greater use of biofuels, which she said is beneficial to Kansas corn growers.
In explaining her stance on abortion, she said, as a physician she supports a woman’s right to make private health-care decisions with her doctor.
“Whether it’s a woman or a man, none of us should have government between us and that private relationship,” Bollier said. “A woman knows what is best for her family, herself, and her child.”
On the topic of gun control, she said her goal was not “taking away” guns, noting she grew up hunting with her father in Kansas and fully supports Second Amendment gun ownership rights.
What she believes, she said, is in “common-sense solutions” that promote gun safety.
She said she supports background checks, as well as regulations that allow for the temporary removal of weapons if a person is deemed a danger to themselves or others for mental health reasons, with due process rights in place.
In discussing immigration reform, she noted that one in 10 workers in Kansas is immigrant labor, and the state’s economy is dependent on an immigrant workforce.
If someone is here under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy who is working, paying taxes and abiding by the laws, then she believes they deserve a path allowing them to become citizens. She said she is willing, though, to sit down with Republicans to find bipartisan solutions on immigration.
“If they are on a path to citizenship absolutely we want to enhance that ability,” she said. “If they are citizens in every way but on paper, then let’s make that happen.”
The number one issue she said she’s heard from citizens, though is the issue of health care, and whether or not the current system is working.
She supports the basic structure of the Affordable Care Act, and told the audience she supports keeping what she feels is working and building on what is not.
One thing she supports, she said, is a non-mandated public option buy-in. If people are happy with the private health-care options, she said, they should have the option to keep that plan. She believes having competition and choice is the best way to an effective health-care system.
She also believes in the expansion of Medicaid, a stance for which she said there is wide bipartisan support.
She also believes in a federal response to the decriminalization of marijuana, indicating that as a Schedule 1 narcotic, regulations prevent it from even being studied for the purposes of medical benefit. She believes having different regulations in different states on this issue makes the issues of its medical benefits difficult.
In an effort to lower medication costs, she said she believed the government should have the opportunity to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies to lower those costs, noting it is a system that has worked in other countries.
Even in noting her positions, though, she wants to work to find bipartisan solutions to these issues, but that her first responsibility is to the people to Kansas.
“We need people who’ll work together, we have got to get things moving.
“I’ll stand with people who are doing the right thing for Kansans, and I will be very clear in calling out when they’re not,” she said.
She believes, though, that bipartisan effort in addressing these issues is possible, and she said she will seek to lead by example in her efforts to reach out.
“We can move forward, and we will have more that we agree on than we disagree on. Let's work together,” she said.