“The reason I think you need to vote for me for governor is because you need somebody who can walk into that office day one, knows where the problems are, knows how to solve them, and has the relationships to bring people together,” Democratic gubernatorial candidate Laura Kelly told a crowd Tuesday evening at the Salina Public Library.
She said teamwork is imperative.
“You can’t get a thing done if you can’t get the Legislature to come on board with you. That’s one thing I know how to do and do very well,” she said.
Kelly said she spent time in Salina when she moved to Kansas 32 years ago. She commended the public school system and “a great sense of community.”
“I’m running for governor because I want every kid to have the exact same opportunity my kids and my family had when we moved here 30 years ago,” she said. “I want those good schools and I want those good jobs back in the state of Kansas.”
Kelly, a state senator for 14 years with experience as the ranking minority member on the Ways and Means and Public Health and Welfare committees, said her experience will help her as governor.
Kelly said former Gov. Sam Brownback and Gov. Jeff Colyer have “really dismantled this state,” hurting the public school system and damaging “the very fabric of our communities.”
She said their policies have affected the mental health and foster care systems, roads and health care. She noted that Brownback vetoed a bill that would have expanded Medicaid.
“We’ve left 150,000 people in the state of Kansas without access to health care, but even beyond that, we have let some of our rural hospitals close or become very close to closing,” she said. “We have forfeited over 5,000 to 7,000 jobs that would have come to Kansas. We left $2.5 billion and growing left in D.C. to be sent to other states for them to grow their economies and for them to take care of their people.”
She said Louisiana expanded Medicaid last year, and “in one year, they have seen $317 million in savings in Medicaid.”
“In addition to that, they have created 50,000 new good-paying jobs in their state,” she said. “It’s huge. Probably the dumbest thing we’ve done since I’ve been in the Legislature is let that opportunity pass us.”
Kelly said she doesn’t think it will be difficult to pass a Medicaid expansion bill if she is elected governor.
“I won’t veto it,” she said.
Kelly said the Legislature created pilot projects to fund psychologists and social workers for public schools.
“They will be under the auspices of our community mental health centers or our safety-net clinic or other behavioral health providers,” she said. “They will then be in the schools all year long, providing the support services those teachers need for those students with mental health issues.”
Kelly said the psychologists and social workers will be available for families during the summer.
She said money also was put back into the state’s Children’s Initiative Fund, which she said Brownback and Colyer robbed.
“Early childhood will be a feature focus of my administration. I’m a firm believer in early intervention,” she said. “We can save so much money in the long run if we place an emphasis on early intervention.”
Kelly said she chose fellow state Sen. Lynn Rogers as her lieutenant governor because of the time he spent on the Wichita School Board, and 30 years spent as an agricultural banker.
“He brings a wealth of knowledge, talent and awareness about western Kansas and rural Kansas in a way that really very few other people know,” she said. “It was an important part of the selection. I wanted every Kansan to know that we were going to be there for all Kansans.”
She said her campaign treasurer, David Toland, who runs Thrive Allen County, an award-winning economic development approach to rural living, will help with rural economic development.
“We understand the importance of our agricultural community. It is who Kansas is and we can’t forget that,” she said. “We need to preserve it, not only for the economic stimulus that it brings to our state, but also for the culture. We are a people of the land, and we need to recognize that.”
Kelly said her rural economic development policy will be rolled out soon.
Kelly said to suggest that school shootings are only a mental health issue “is to be very short-sighted.”
She said she supports Second Amendment rights.
“The conversation has really changed though since Kansas was first talking about concealed carry and hunting. Now, we’re talking about the slaughter of our children and our teachers in the classroom and that goes way too far,” she said. “Two years ago, I voted to ban guns on college campuses and that did not pass. This year we passed a bill that will allow the law enforcement to take guns away from those who have domestic violence convictions.”
Kelly said as governor she intends to convene law enforcement, mental health and public health officials, educators, parents and students “to craft a comprehensive gun-sense policy for the state of Kansas.”
“We need to make Kansas sane on guns again,” she said. “We need to put our policy where our people are and that’s in our schools with our teachers and students.”