The Ellis County Democratic Party opened its field office Monday evening with a BAM.
Brian “BAM” McClendon, the party’s candidate for Kansas secretary of state, was among those attending the official opening of the office at 1502 Vine, along with Rep. Eber Phelps, who is running for re-election to the Kansas House of Representatives 111th District, and Chris Rorabaugh, Ellis, who is running for Ellis County Commission.
The office will be open in the afternoons, with hours to be decided. Yard signs and literature for local and statewide Democratic candidates will be available, and the party will organize canvassing and other volunteer-led events from there.
McClendon is a Lawrence native who was part of the team that developed what would become virtual mapping software Google Earth. He was a vice president at Google and later worked on mapping for the ride-share app Uber. In 2017, he returned to Kansas.
In his remarks to a crowd of about 35, he touted his technology background as qualification for the secretary of state’s office. He pointed out the tasks of the office are to be the state’s election officer and ensure safe and secure elections; manage the state’s information and website; run the state’s business registration; and oversee the state’s largest technology contract.
He talked about forming KSVotes.org, a nonprofit organization whose goal is to foster voter registration and participation. McClendon is board chair of the organization, which he said has registered 8,000 Kansans to vote in nine months.
The latest version of the website is available in Spanish, and also allows users to request an advance voting ballot.
“This is something that is really important to me because I believe if we can vote by mail, if we could sit at home on a Saturday morning or Sunday afternoon, read about all the candidates, study them carefully and make good decisions, then the candidates who would be picked would not be so much about party and be much more about the person,” McClendon said.
Ellis County Democratic Party chairman Henry Schwaller said the party will be making an effort not only on voter registration, but also voter turnout.
“We have to reach every single Democrat and Democratically inclined voter in Ellis County because turnout is key to winning this election,” Schwaller said. “Without voters, this will not make a difference. We’ve got to get the numbers out.”
John Bird, a former chairman of the local party, said the lineup of Democratic candidates shows there’s a higher enthusiasm in the party this year.
“A lot of Democrats bought into this idea that they were in the minority. We’re not,” he said.
“I think the silent majority at this stage in history is people who want us to reach across the aisle, get along with each other and get something done. Truly, I think people are going to reject candidates like Kobach because all they want to do is fight, and we need to treat friends like friends again,” he said.
He also credited President Donald Trump, a Republican, for a part in the increased interest.
“You can criticize Trump, but the one thing he has done is enthuse people on both sides,” Bird said.