Robert Eye, who is running for the Democratic nomination in the 2nd Congressional District race, on Wednesday criticized his primary opponent Tobias Schlingensiepen for a comment made in a candidate forum.
During the forum on Monday in Lawrence, Schlingensiepen explained why he was running for office.
“I’d like to be a better kind of representative. I’d like to be one that is responsive to the people of the 2nd District, and one who has some good humor and some tenacity, and frankly some balls to just stand up to some of the terrible things that are happening in the Congress today. We need people with spine,” he said.
Eye, a Lawrence attorney, said Schlingensiepen’s statement implied that one of the qualifications for leadership is to have male anatomy.
“If you believe in bringing people together and being an effective leader for our district and state, how can you marginalize more than 50 percent of the population by inferring that you need to be a male to be an effective leader?” Eye said.
“As someone who has worked as an advocate for women’s rights for the past 30 years, I find such comments troubling and deserving of clarification,” he added.
Schlingensiepen, a Topeka minister on leave from his church, said that he made an “unfortunate choice of words” and that he has always been a strong advocate for women.
He said he should have said that Congress needs more representatives who have the “spine” to reach across the aisle and work on solutions to the country’s problems. Of Eye’s comments, Schlingensiepen said, “Nice political posturing, Bob.”
Scott Barnhart, a farmer from Ottawa, is also vying for the Democratic nod in the Aug. 7 primary. U.S. Rep. Lynn Jenkins, R-Topeka, is seeking a third two-year term.