In KCK, Buttigieg rallies behind Kansas Democrats, blasts Republicans for focus on culture wars
photo by: Roxie Hammill for Kansas Reflector
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — The majority of public opinion already sides with Democratic candidates on issues like expansion of Medicaid, legalized medical marijuana and protection of kids from discrimination, U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said during a stop Wednesday in Kansas City, Kansas.
Who wins the midterms, he said, may come down to the turnout.
On issues, “We’ve already won the argument,” he said. “But here’s the thing, just because you’ve won the argument doesn’t mean you’ll win the election.”
He urged the about 300 in the audience to work their hardest to get out the vote.
The former presidential candidate gave the supportive crowd a pep talk as early voting is set to begin in the midterm elections for congressional, state legislative and governors races, blasting Republicans for their emphasis on culture wars.
“They seem to be single-mindedly focused on the culture war issues that divide us. And you’ve got to ask why,” he said. “And I think the answer is that we have reached the point where the majority is with us on issue after issue after issue.”
Buttigieg spoke on behalf of Democratic get-out-the-vote organization Kansas Common Sense. In particular, he mentioned U.S. Rep. Sharice Davids and Gov. Laura Kelly, neither of whom was in attendance, although he recognized Davids’ mother. Kansas City, Missouri, Mayor Quinton Lucas and Kansas City, Kansas, Mayor Tyrone Garner, also in the audience, got a shoutout.
Buttigieg’s remarks were heavy on references to former Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback and his tax cuts. Brownback’s income tax cuts “prove what happens when somebody practices all the way to the extremes, a philosophy of cutting taxes for the wealthiest and cutting services to everybody else,” he said.
Brownback has been the frequent subject of negative campaign ads against Republican candidates who once worked with him, and Buttigieg continued in that vein, reminding the crowd that the Brownback tax cuts depleted the Kansas highway fund and public school funding.
He spent a few minutes praising Kelly for working across the aisle to eliminate sales tax on groceries.
“Isn’t it nice to have a governor who has seen to it that for four years in a row public schools have been fully funded in the state of Kansas?” he said.
After joking for a minute about the life changes that go with parenting, Buttigieg said the GOP has its focus in the wrong spot when it comes to schools. The most important thing is not “whether they’re going home to two moms and two dads but whether they get home safe and making sure they do,” he said.
He also mentioned his own faith, saying, “God does not belong to a political party.”
Some of the loudest and longest applause of the event was when Buttigieg mentioned the national attention Kansas received in August, when voters rejected an amendment that would have removed protection of the right to abortion from the Kansas Constitution.
“You sent a helluva message to the country,” he said.
The nation will be watching again in the midterms, he said: “This is going to be a razor thin election.”
The event drew people to the union hall for a number of reasons. But some in the audience said beforehand that they liked what they remembered of Buttigieg from his days as a presidential candidate.
Carol Henderson of Overland Park said she’s a fan.
“I love Pete Buttigieg,” she said. “I think he’s reasonable and explains things in a way you can understand.”
“I think he’s the future,” said Janice Sandt of Lenexa, though he wasn’t her first choice of presidential candidates when he ran in 2020. Sandt said she likes his speaking style. But he also appeals on a more personal level.
“I’m a lesbian with a wife,” Sandt said. “I think it’s fantastic to have a nontraditional candidate. It normalizes things.”
Buttigieg is the first openly gay person confirmed to the Cabinet.
While historically, midterm elections have been difficult for the party in power, the doom-saying wasn’t universally subscribed to at the event. Donnell Jackson and Barbara Ikerd, both United Auto Workers members from Kansas City, Kansas, said they came out to support Kelly and Davids, although the new congressional district lines keep them from voting for Davids again this year.
And Frieda Smith of Overland Park said, “We see a lot of really positive things happening in Johnson County. I think the message is there that Democrats care for people.”
There was one dissenter. A woman who held a sign saying “America First” and “Amanda Adkins” was told it was a closed rally and was asked to leave. Amanda Adkins is Davids’ Republican opponent.