A Kansas lawmaker’s Facebook post depicting a derogatory cartoon image of President Barack Obama and poking fun at Mexican accents ignited a storm of controversy Thursday.
The post (see below) by Rep. John Bradford, R-Lansing, has since been removed from his Facebook page, but not before it prompted a flurry of statements of condemnation. The posting Bradford shared from the Conservative Country community Facebook page featured a photo of a man wearing a sombrero and a headline, “Mexican words of the day.” It then jokingly fashioned unrelated words into a mock sentence in heavily accented English that celebrated Obama’s leaving office in January 2017. It also included an altered picture of the Democratic president.
Adding to the drama was the fact that Bradford was among a group of lawmakers who, in 2015, filed a formal complaint against Rep. Valdenia Winn, D-Kansas City, an African-American, accusing her of unjustly calling lawmakers racist during a committee meeting.
Winn publicly described supporters of a bill denying in-state tuition to people who are in the U.S. illegally “racist bigots.”
“I find this ironic because just last session Bradford joined several of his House Republican colleagues in trying to oust Rep. Valdenia Winn for asserting that this type of racism existed in the Kansas Legislature," Senate Democratic Leader Anthony Hensley of Topeka said. “This tasteless Facebook post not only proves that Representative Winn was correct about institutional racism in the Kansas Legislature, it also proves that Rep. Bradford is a racist himself."
Bradford said the image was something he found elsewhere on Facebook, and when he saw it, he clicked "share."
"It was in bad taste and I regret it," he said in a phone interview.
"I'm appalled and offended by the disrespect that Representative Bradford has shown not only to the president, but also to the African-American and Hispanic community," said Melody McCray-Miller, an African-American former legislator from Wichita who is now a vice-chair of the Kansas Democratic Party.
By Thursday afternoon, McCray-Miller was already sending out fundraising emails for the party citing Bradford's Facebook post. Bradford has already filed for re-election to his 40th District House seat. So far, no other candidates have filed to challenge him.
Carolyn Campbell, a Kansas State Board of Education member who is running for a seat in the Kansas House this year, said the post shows how far the U.S. still has to go before achieving Martin Luther King Jr.'s dream of racial equality.
"These types of jokes and comments remind me of the mistreatment and racism that I experienced on a daily basis growing up in the 1950s," said Campbell, who is black. "I’m saddened and appalled that this is an individual who is making decisions that impact our children’s education system.”
Pedro Irigonegaray, a Cuban-American civil rights and defense attorney in Topeka, said Bradford "is making a mockery of his position by showing gross disrespect to the president of the United States and the Hispanic community."
"This type of behavior cannot be tolerated, and Republican leadership should take appropriate action immediately and sanction him for his reprehensible, bigoted and racist posting," he said. "We should remember that Representative Bradford was one of the individuals leading the charge to sanction Representative Winn; it is difficult to conceive greater hypocrisy.”
The post originated from a group called Conservative Country, and is one of dozens of memes it has created criticizing Obama, gun control, Muslims, Democrats and "political correctness" in general.
— The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who was sharply criticized for problems with the rollout of Healthcare.gov, got big laughs Saturday night at the White House Correspondents Association dinner, when she came on stage as part of a joke to fix a technical glitch during President Barack Obama's speech.
Obama introduced a video, but when it failed to load properly. Obama asked, "Does anybody know how to fix this?"
Sebelius, the former governor of Kansas, stepped out and said, "I got this. I see it all the time."
Sebelius announced last month that she will be stepping down from her post.
In his criticism of U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., on Monday, Dr. Milton Wolf indicated Republicans shouldn't make friends with Democrats and that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's recent controversies have been caused by the media.
Wolf, a tea party-backed challenger to Roberts in the GOP primary, was interrupted several times by applause during his 24-minute talk to about 50 people who attended an event put on by the Douglas County Republican Party at Famous Dave's restaurant.
One of Wolf's major criticisms of Roberts is that Roberts voted in the Senate to confirm President Barack Obama's selection of Kathleen Sebelius in 2009 as secretary of Health and Human Services. Sebelius has been at the forefront of implementing the Affordable Care Act, commonly called Obamacare, which is opposed by all Republicans in Congress.
"One of the problems with our party is too often we're the go-along to get-along party," said Wolf. "We try to get people in the media to like us, we try to get the Democrats to like us. It never works. Ask Chris Christie about that. He can walk on the beach every day of the week with Barack Obama, but as soon as he starts looking like a candidate for the presidency, the media is going to stab him in the back," Wolf said.
In 2012, Christie, a Republican, praised the response of President Obama and the federal government to Hurricane Sandy, which battered the Northeast. Christie's appearances with Obama just days before the presidential election was criticized by some Republicans as helping Obama.
Recently, Christie has been embroiled in controversy over an allegation that his aides closed lanes to the George Washington Bridge in political retribution against a New Jersey mayor.
Wolf added, "You cannot make friends with our adversaries, and yet what we have — and this should trouble us all to know — is we have Sen. Roberts who voted to put Kathleen Sebelius in charge of Obamacare," he said.
Sebelius was confirmed as secretary on a 65-31 vote. Nine Republicans voted for her, including Roberts and then-U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback, a Republican who is now governor of Kansas. In recent months, Roberts has called for Sebelius to resign after the troubled roll-out of the ACA's enrollment website.
A new SurveyUSA pollfinds that Kansas' Republican political leaders have high job disapproval ratings.
Fifty-eight percent of Kansans disapproved of the job Gov. Sam Brownback was doing while 35 percent approved. U.S. Sens. Pat Roberts and Jerry Moran had 53 percent and 50 percent disapproval ratings while 35 percent and 37 percent approved, the poll said.
Although within the margin of error, the Republicans' approval rates were even lower than President Barack Obama's, a Democrat, who had a 42 percent approval rate and 56 percent disapproval.
The poll also shows that Democrat Paul Davis, who is challenging Brownback in the 2014 election, has low name identification.
Eight of 10 voters were either neutral or had no opinion about Davis when asked if they had a favorable or unfavorable opinion of him. In fact, his name ID was so low, the pollsters referred to him as "Paul David" instead of "Paul Davis."
Davis' campaign said SurveyUSA planned to re-do that portion of the poll. But Davis' camp said the point of the poll was that it showed that their candidate at this point lacks name ID.
When the poll asked individuals' opinion of Brownback, 22 percent were favorable and 47 percent unfavorable, while the remaining were either neutral or had no opinion.
Meanwhile, Davis was at 7 percent with a favorable opinion, 13 percent unfavorable, while 80 percent were either neutral or had no opinion.
In addition, only 29 percent of those polled approved of the job the Republican-dominated Kansas Legislature was doing, while 61 percent disapproved.
The poll of 532 registered voters was released earlier this week and conducted on behalf of KWCH-TV in Wichita. The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.3 percentage points. Of those polled, 41 percent were Republicans, 30 percent Democrats, and 29 percent independents.
Topeka — Republicans refuse to vote for an almost routine provision to fund government unless a Democratic chief executive approves their demands.
That's what happened in Kansas in 2009 between then-House Speaker Mike O'Neal, R-Hutchinson, and then-Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, a Democrat.
Led by O'Neal, Republican legislative leaders, including then-Senate President Steve Morris, R-Hugoton, refused to agree to issue inter-governmental loans to make state payments for payroll, public schools, health and income tax refunds.
The Republicans said they would sign off on $225 million in what are called certificates of indebtedness, if Sebelius would sign into law deep budget cuts.
Republicans said they couldn't approve the certificates because without approval of the budget rescission bill, the state ledger would be out of balance. Sebelius said that was nonsense because the state's budget problems and cash-flow situation were unrelated.
Democrats said the move by Republicans amounted to blackmail and made thousands of state employees worry about getting paid.
But Sebelius ended up signing the rescission bill, although she applied several line item vetoes, including a veto of a $32 million cut in state aid to public schools.
About the same time this drama was occurring in the Statehouse, reports were coming out of Washington, D.C., that Sebelius was President Obama's choice for Health and Human Services secretary. She was confirmed secretary about two months later.
Right out of the chute, it appears the 2014 campaign for U.S. House District 2 will be a contest to determine which is more unpopular: Congress or Obamacare.
Earlier this week, Democrat Margie Wakefield, of Lawrence, announced she is contemplating a run against three-term incumbent Lynn Jenkins, R-Topeka.
In her release, Wakefield said, “People perceive that the system is broken. I find it unconscionable that Congress continues to ignore the serious and complex issues facing our nation."
In response to Wakefield's announcement, Bill Roe, a spokesman for Jenkins, put out a release saying that Wakefield "hearts Obamacare," which is the federal health care overhaul called Affordable Care Act.
When asked what he meant, Roe said he was referring to a "like" on Wakefield's Facebook page of an internet link to get a free "I (heart symbol) Obamacare" sticker.
Roe added, "Congresswoman Jenkins' opposition to that legislation is consistent with public opinion of 2nd District residents and that has been reflected at the ballot box."
Wakefield responded, saying, "The health care law is not perfect, but when I’m elected to Congress I will work to fix it. Lynn Jenkins has no interest in fixing it, just scoring political points.”
U.S. Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Fowler, is attracting some national media attention for a tweet he wrote yesterday that slams both Presidents Obama and Clinton.
After a House Republican meeting on immigration reform, Huelskamp tweeted: "Most House Rs agree w/ most Senate Rs and Americans. Trusting Obama w/ border security is like trusting Bill Clinton w/ your daughter."
Later on NBC News he described the remark as "offhand" but repeated it.
In June, Politico reported that Huelskamp used a variation of the line, saying, “The idea of letting this administration define border security is like letting Bill Clinton define sexual relations.”
Ballard, leader of National Black Caucus of State Legislators, supports Obama in ‘fiscal cliff’ talks
The National Black Caucus of State Legislators, led by Rep. Barbara Ballard, D-Lawrence, met with President Barack Obama earlier this week and pledged to support him in efforts to avoid the "fiscal cliff" and help middle class families.
“We will join you in calling upon Congress to raise revenue by asking those who can afford it to pay a little more in taxes, and to cut spending in a way that is smart and sustainable in the short and long term,” Ballard said after meeting with Obama at the White House on Tuesday.
“Preventing cuts to programs that are helping people is the only way to continue the progress we’ve all made on the path to economic recovery," she said.
The NBCSL includes more than 650 legislators from 45 states.
Obama and Congress face a deadline in about three weeks to come up with a budget plan to avoid dramatic tax hikes and spending cuts.
Obama has called for higher taxes for households earning $250,000 per year or more, while Republican leaders have refused to raise tax rates.
Exit polls showed that Kansas voters by and large were out of the step with the national electorate during the presidential election, except in one area — independent voters.
Here is an analysis of the election by Bob Beatty, a political science professor at Washburn University.
"Since 1968 Kansas has gone for the Republican nominee for President, and 2012 was no different. By a wide 22 point margin (60%-38%), Mitt Romney defeated President Barack Obama in the Sunflower state, an increase of eight points over John McCain’s vote share in 2008. Nationally, Obama defeated Romney by 2.8% (50.6%-47.8%). Beyond the election results, presidential election years also offer an opportunity – by using exit poll data – to analyze any similarities and differences between group preferences in Kansas versus national group preferences. On whole, 2012 produced more differences than similarities.
"First, on election day, 48% of Kansas voters identified themselves as Republicans, the second highest percentage of Republicans voting (as a % of state voters) in any state except for Wyoming. 27% identified as Democrats and 24% as members of no party. Nationally, the numbers were 38% Democrat, 32% Republican, and 29% independent. One similarity is that nationally independent voters went for Romney 50% – 45% and in Kansas they went for Romney 51% - 43%.
"Looking at the numbers in terms of race, nationally, white voters made up 72% of all voters, and they went for Romney by 20 points (59%-39%), while in Kansas they were 87% of all voters and went for Romney by 31 points (64%-33%). White men went for Romney by 27 points nationally (62%-35%), but in Kansas 74% of all white men voted for Romney, giving him a 50 point advantage over Obama (74%-24%).
"One of the reasons that Obama was able to win a second term was the support he received from women, winning that group of voters nationally by 11 points, 55%-44%. In Kansas, however, Romney won the female vote by 4 points, 51%-47%, and won the male vote by a whopping 40 points, 69%-29%. Nationally Romney won men by much less, 7 points, 52%-45%. An interesting subset of the female vote that has received a lot of attention is unmarried women. In this category Kansas lies a bit closer to the national numbers, with Obama winning by a 19 point advantage in Kansas, 58%-39%. Nationally, he won unmarried women by 36 points, 67%-31%. Romney won married men by 22 points nationwide but by 46 points in Kansas.
"One very large divergence between Kansas and the nation in terms of the Obama vote lies in the different age categories. Across ages Romney significantly outperformed Obama in Kansas compared to the President’s national numbers. Among younger voters, aged 18-29, Romney won by 17 points, 54%-41%, while nationally Obama won those voters by a 23 point margin, 60%-37%; Among voters aged 30-44, in Kansas Romney won by 20 points (59%-39%) while nationally Obama won by 7 points (52%-45%); Among voters aged 45-64, in Kansas Romney won by a massive 27 points, while nationally he won that group by a much smaller 4 points; Among voters aged 65 and older, Romney won in Kansas by 22 points and won nationally by 12 points.
"Finally, in what should not be a big surprise given the actual results, the Kansas exit polls showed that the majority of voters here did not think too kindly of the president, while nationally, the opposite is true. In Kansas 60% of voters had an unfavorable opinion of President Obama while 39% had a favorable opinion, a 21 point negative margin. Nationally, 53% of voters thought of the president favorably while 46% thought of him unfavorably, a 7 point positive margin."
Gov. Sam Brownback says Kansas is staying put.
"Kansas is and will always remain a state in the United States of America," Brownback said.
The online secession petitions from all 50 states were prompted by the re-election of President Barack Obama. The petitions appear on a White House website called "We the People," which the administration uses to hear from people on what policies they would like to see.
If a petition gets 25,000 signatures within a month the White House staff will review the issue. Legally, the U.S. Constitution doesn't allow states to secede.
Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, D-Topeka, joked that maybe the petition started after Brownback refused to join the federal government to put together a health insurance exchange under the Affordable Care Act.
House Minority Leader Paul Davis, D-Lawrence, said he didn't think much of the petitions. "I think we settled this issue back in the early 1860s. I don't think anyone in their right mind wants to have a secession debate," Davis said.