I just had the pleasure of attending one of my favorite events, the Kansas State Fair. With this being my first year as the Kansas Democratic Party Chair, I wanted to visit the KDP booth and talk to people about how they feel about the state of affairs in Kansas.
And let me tell you, after 10 hours of listening, I learned that Kansans are concerned and even angry about what Gov. Sam Brownback and newly elected lawmakers are doing.
We put up a hand-lettered poster, telling folks they could sign petitions asking Brownback to restore the Kansas Arts Commission and vent their anger at Brownback for handing over $31.5 million to the federal government and closing nine SRS offices that help children and neighbors in need, among other topics.
People lined up three and four deep at our booth to get to our petitions. A high school senior asked me if he was old enough to sign, and I told him to go ahead and do it. An elderly woman came by early on to talk, sign our petitions, and complain that this wasn’t the Kansas she grew up in. People from Pratt and McPherson said they were furious that Brownback forced their local governments to pay up or watch abused and neglected children in their counties face the lost of help.
Ranchers, farmers, city folks, Republicans and Independents as well as Democrats stopped by to voice their frustration. People asked me: “Do I have to be a Democrat to sign?” I told them, “No, all you have to do is be mad.”
Some folks argued with me, of course. As Kansans, we’re not a shy bunch — a fact that I’ve always found to be delightful. I was pleased to hear all of the comments people made and to engage in some friendly debates.
But what I heard the most from people at the State Fair was the sense that Brownback and this new bunch of legislators have taken something important away from our state. Over and over again, people echoed the sentiments of the elderly woman I talked to at the beginning of my visit to the Fair. They said: What’s happened to my state? This isn’t the Kansas I grew up in. What has happened to Kansas common sense?
And I told them what I’ve told the thousands of anxious Kansans I’ve met as I’ve traveled the state this year: You’re not alone; we’re going to change this.
Joan Wagnon, the former Secretary of the Department of Labor, is the Chair of the Kansas Democratic Party.