Kansas Republicans rally voters against Biden, Kelly at start of statewide tour

Rally attenders say they support Schmidt’s tax plan, distrust incumbent governor

By: - October 5, 2022 6:05 pm
Former New Jersey governor Chris Christie spoke at Wednesday's rally in support of Derek Schmidt. (Rachel Mipro/Kansas Reflector)

Former New Jersey governor Chris Christie, left, spoke at Wednesday’s rally in support of Derek Schmidt. (Rachel Mipro/Kansas Reflector)

TOPEKA — The Kansan Republican Party was out in full force Wednesday, starting a six-day statewide bus tour meant to woo voters and energize support for GOP candidates ahead of the November election. 

In the parking lot of the Kansas Grain and Feed Association, gubernatorial candidate Attorney General Derek Schmidt was joined by former New Jersey governor Chris Christie and former Kansas secretary of state Kris Kobach, along with several other Republican candidates on the November ballot. 

Most of the speakers at the rally, which drew a moderate crowd, spoke against President Joe Biden’s administration, illegal immigration and disparaged Gov. Laura Kelly for her pandemic shutdowns. 

Attendees recited the Pledge of Allegiance, and did a call-and-response with the candidates. William Hendrix said he was there to support Schmidt and that the candidate’s tax plans would help his retired father. 

“My old man, he’s retired, so I’m a big fan of his retire tax-free policy,” Hendrix said. “He pays a lot in property taxes, and they’re only going up, so I think Derek Schmidt’s plan to retire tax free would benefit my family in that way.” 

Topeka resident Terry Kaufman said he was there because he wanted to support Schmidt in the close gubernatorial race and didn’t think Kelly was doing a good job. 

“I’m not particularly impressed with her record,” Kaufman said. 

During his speech, Christie criticized Kelly’s performance at the gubernatorial debate held earlier Wednesday, saying she had led Kansas astray over the past four years. 

“That’s why Kansas is adrift,” Christie said. “When you have a governor in there who’s unwilling to take a tough stance, make hard decisions and do what needs to be done.” 

Schmidt said Kelly had made no improvements to the state in four years and that her decision to close schools at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic damaged Kansan students, a common talking point of his.

Derek Schmidt speaks against Gov. Kelly's pandemic policies during a Wednesday rally. (Rachel Mipro/Kansas Reflector)
Attorney General Derek Schmidt speaks against Gov. Laura Kelly’s pandemic policies during a Wednesday rally. (Rachel Mipro/Kansas Reflector)

Schmidt said he had spoken earlier with a reporter who had tears in his eyes before telling the candidate that his daughter had tried to kill herself after “they locked her out of her classroom and disrupted her development.” 

Schmidt said he had heard several similar stories around the county.

Schmidt also blamed Kelly for not stopping illegal immigration and said her refusal to shut Kansas’ borders was contributing to a fentanyl crisis in the state, which he said was brought to the U.S. by drug cartels. 

“Most of that stuff is manufactured somewhere in China by a branch of the Chinese Communist Party,” Schmidt said. “It is shipped to Mexico, where it’s mixed up and put together by the drug cartels. It is smuggled over the border, and it is distributed in our communities. We cannot stop it without securing the border. And my friends, not only has Joe Biden failed on that, Laura Kelly hasn’t even tried.” 

GOP Attorney General candidate Kobach said he would use the office to fight illegal immigration and combat decisions made by Biden’s administration. Kobach has previously stated that if he was elected, he would create a special unit in the Attorney General’s Office focused on suing Biden. 

Rep. Steve Johnson, who is running for the state treasurer position, said he was concerned about the “constant stream of woke policies coming from the Biden administration” that influence investment capital in the state, and he would work to stop it. 

In a parking lot diagonal to where the rally was held, Emma O’Brien, spokeswoman for the Kansas Democratic Party, stood with three other people to hear the speakers. O’Brien said she was there to represent different views. She referred to a written statement she had released before the rally referring to former GOP governor Sam Brownback. 

“Whether it’s blocking access to health care for tens of thousands of Kansans, defending cuts to public education that hurt our schools, or siding with Brownback to make our roads and bridges unsafe, Derek Schmidt has shown Kansans who he really is and that he only has his best interest at heart,” O’Brien said. 

Retired educator Chris Huntsman, who stood with O’Brien, said she didn’t like Schmidt’s policies. 

 “I don’t trust the man,” she said.  

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Rachel Mipro
Rachel Mipro

A graduate of Louisiana State University, Rachel Mipro has covered state government in Baton Rouge and New Orleans. She and her fellow team of journalists were 2022 Goldsmith Prize Semi-Finalists for their work featuring the rise of the KKK in northern Louisiana, following racially-motivated shootings in 1960. With her move to the Midwest, Rachel is now turning her focus toward issues within Kansas public policies.