By MATTHEW KENWRIGHT
Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer wielded a broom Thursday at Thirsty's Brew Pub & Grill in Hays and urged approximately 100 supporters to vote for a Republican sweep in Tuesday's election.
The Kansas National Education Association's representatives and approximately 40 demonstrators responded with their own props. Their handheld signs supported Democratic gubernatorial candidate Paul Davis and suggested Gov. Sam Brownback does not support education funding.
Colyer was joined by the governor, U.S. Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Kan., Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt, Kansas State Treasurer Ron Estes and Insurance Commissioner candidate Ken Selzer. U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., was represented by his daughter, Ashleigh.
Brownback said he and Roberts face a close re-election bid and need supporters to cast their ballots.
Huelskamp said voters face clear contrasts between candidates.
"If you want to grow our economy, you've got to re-elect Pat Roberts. If you want a pushback on an agenda that's shutting down industries in western Kansas ... you have to put me back in the House," he said. "If you want to get our economy going and continue to do the great things Sam Brownback has done in this state ... which are creating jobs here in the state, you have to re-elect Sam Brownback."
The congressman asserted Democrats do not identify with regional constituents.
"The values we hold here in western Kansas are not held by those in the other party," he said.
Roberts' daughter, Ashleigh, said public service has defined her father from his time as a Marine to serving as U.S. senator.
"Whether he's fighting the over-regulations that are stifling our small businesses, whether he's trying to ensure our farmers can feed our growing population in an unstable world and still make a profit, or whether our rural citizens have access to basic medical services or protecting our military installations, he is working hard for you, me and our children every day in Washington," she said.
Brownback said Davis' liberal voting record reflects his support for abortion, and the Democrat does not support the state's constitutional ban on gay marriage.
Colyer said adding 58,000 private-sector jobs since January 2011 is among the feats achieved by the Kansas State Legislature and Brownback.
"We cut taxes, lowered regulation and put more money in people's pockets," he said.
Schmidt said his staff has fought the federal government on regulations involving water and the environment. He suggested electing Republicans to avoid the issues.
"We also spent a lot of time in the attorney general's office, as I told you we would, pushing back when Washington does things that are not just bad ideas -- that's not enough for us to get engaged -- but they're also illegal," he said. "That's the trigger for us."
Mark Farr, KNEA president, said his group has attended the governor's events to advocate for supporting education. Thursday's demonstrators included current and retired teachers and students.
Farr listed larger class sizes and less resources as consequences of Brownback's financial vision.
"Voting is very important, and the kids in our classrooms can't afford another four years of cuts," he said.
He also criticized the governor's priorities.
"We believe Gov. Brownback made a poor decision when he gave tax cuts to the wealthy instead of replacing the funds that we needed in classrooms for our students," he said.
Marcus Baltzell, KNEA's director of communications, said Brownback and legislators responded to the Kansas Supreme Court's decision to fund schools more with additional money and a "harmful policy" that stripped teachers' option to request due process after termination. The loss puts educators at a disadvantage when they voice students' needs, he said.