Kansas Democratic candidates sound off on Kavanaugh, legalization of marijuana

Sarah Swain, a Democratic candidate for attorney general, discusses her goals to reform the criminal justice system with visitors at a Democratic forum at the C.L. Hoover Opera House Saturday in Junction City.

The appointment of Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court had Democratic candidates running for state and local offices disappointed and petitioning change Saturday in Junction City.

The Geary County Democratic Committee hosted a forum for Democratic candidates and their representatives Saturday at the C.L. Hoover Opera House. Sen. Marci Francisco, the Democratic nominee for state treasurer; Nathaniel McLaughlin, a candidate for state insurance commissioner; Sarah Swain, a candidate for attorney general; Alan LaPolice, the Democratic nominee for the First Congressional District; and Jim Hannon, a state board of education candidate, attended the forum. Representatives from gubernatorial candidate Sen. Laura Kelly’s office and Brian (Bam) McClendon’s — who is vying for secretary of state — office were on hand as well.

Each candidate told visitors about their goals and ideologies, and LaPolice began the discussion by voicing his disappointment with the Senate’s vote to confirm Kavanaugh as the new member of the Supreme Court Saturday.

“I’m here on a dark day in democracy,” LaPolice said. “We’re going to be swearing in a man I believe is unfit. Our Supreme Court was the last independent pillar of democracy. Now, it is being destroyed.”

Swain sounded off on Kavanaugh as well.

“Today is a day our country is not going to forget for awhile,” Swain said. “It’s the confirmation of a Supreme Court justice who is for sure the least qualified Supreme Court justice we will have.”

LaPolice said Kavanaugh will not make decisions on cases based on a nonpartisan point of view.

“He undermines the idea of an independent judiciary,” LaPolice said. “We can have partisan elections, but once the election is over, it has to be nonpartisan. The divide is killing us.”

The forum included a question-and-answer session, and Ginger Hawks — a Geary County Democratic Committee member who lives in Fort Riley— asked about candidates’ opinions on the use of medical marijuana to treat PTSD, which affects many soldiers. Swain said she believes her dad suffered from PTSD, and said marijuana should be legalized and utilized for such purposes.

“We know there is research being conducted in other countries that shows the plant is safe,” Swain said. “It helps control seizures, people with dementia and (helps) when they have cancer and can’t eat. It’s time to change this.”

LaPolice said marijuana use should be decriminalized at the federal level.

Another visitor asked candidates about school shootings and safety measures they would implement to prevent them. Hannon said he is against arming teachers, but said there are a lot of options schools are researching.

“There are a lot of practical options,” Hannon said. “Some are trying metal detectors. I think schools are going to start learning from each other.”

LaPolice also said teachers should not be armed.

“If we have a tragedy, we must trust local law enforcement,” LaPolice said. “Don’t arm teachers; they already have enough to do.”

Hannon discussed some of his goals for the state’s education system. He said rural schools are in dire need of help.

“If our rural schools are going to survive, they have to have a credible, broad-based system around them,” Hannon said. “They need to be able to offer the same kinds of courses and credentials that we’re able to offer in the big schools.”

Hannon said he is a staunch advocate for public education — as public schools are able to serve every child, including those with special needs — and said all educational funding should support them rather than private schools.

“All children can come and have an equal playing field,” Hannon said. “Public schools welcome all children. No funding for private schools, as far as I’m concerned.”

Swain said more funding should be allotted for education, and said that was one reason she previously fought against a proposal to build a new jail in Lawrence.

“Why would we spend millions of dollars on a jail when our schools are crumbling?” Swain asked. “We need to pay teachers more; double the amount of money our teachers make.”

Another reason Swain fought against the proposal is because she believes mass incarceration is not working.

“There is no correlation between increased incarceration and decreased crime rates,” Swain said. “I’m here for criminal justice system reform from top to bottom.”

LaPolice encouraged those in attendance to help spread the word about the goals of the candidates and the Democratic party, and to turn out for the Nov. 6 election.

“The left is the only one protecting the minority,” LaPolice said. “I can’t say the right is doing that any more. I’m on the side of justice. And I’m going to fight for the underdog.”

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