BY ANNISTON WEBER
Around 50 individuals gathered at the Downtown Pavilion on Tuesday evening to meet and visit with Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly. The event, hosted by the Ellis County Democratic Party, lasted for just over an hour in the hot, outdoor setting. The purpose of the meeting was for the governor to discuss her plans for reelection in 2022 and the state’s achievements over the past three years.
Former Kansas state senator Janis Lee introduced Kelly by reminiscing on their time serving in office together.
“Laura has worked very hard as our Governor,” Lee said. “She has kept her promises about funding, education, a ten-year highway program, and is now working very hard in terms of economic development.”
Lee continued to discuss why she believes Kelly is “well-equipped” to work with the Kansas legislature by informing the crowd that Kelly started her career by working at a state children’s psychiatric center.
“The experience of working [at the psychiatric center] is one that I have used throughout my life,” Kelly said after Lee welcomed her to the event. “Because of my experience, I have been called every name in the book, I have been physically and verbally abused, so there isn’t anything the legislature can do that I haven’t already experienced.”
Kelly then began to discuss her time in office since being elected three years ago, stating that the challenges at that time seemed nearly impossible to overcome.
“We had a budget that was broken at its core, a public school system that was underfunded and underperforming, and an economy that was stalled especially in our rural areas,” she said. “The decisions linking to that were largely made based on ideological reasons – not reasons that were based in the best interest of Kansans.”
The governor referenced an article written by CNBC that highlighted the “comeback of Kansas” in 2019 to express how substantial she believes the legislative changes were during that year.
“But then came March 13, 2020,” she said. “Everything changed and COVID stopped being only a story on the news. We have been tested like never before – as a nation, and as a state.”
Kelly said she believes that Kansans know she was always acting with their best interests at heart regarding the pandemic.
“We did and are doing what we believe would protect Kansan’s lives and also their livelihood,” she said. “Now our economy is back, and it’s back stronger than it was before. Our unemployment rate is at 3.5%.”
Kelly mentioned 27,000 jobs, 130 new infrastructure projects, and over $6 billion in new capital investment in the state as improvements that occurred over the course of the past two years.
“I am proud to say that we have more money in our state’s cash reserves than we have had in the last 40 years,” she said. “All of this on the heels of a global pandemic that shook us to our core. That rebound speaks to the character of Kansans. We are headed in the right direction, so how about we keep going in that direction?”
Despite progress, Kelly said there are still politicians that want to reverse changes made in the legislature.
“Some of the same politicians who drove our state into the ground want the keys back,” she said. “Back to the days of ideological experiments designed to rev up a political base, not to run a state. We have come way too far to go back to the Brownback agenda.”
Kelly closed her speech by expressing her personal love for Kansas and the importance of funding rural areas and expanding Medicaid.
“Kansas is the best state in America to raise a family, period,” she said. “Together we can make early childhood programs available to all young children and families. We can create the best workforce development pipeline in the country, and we can do more for small businesses to help them grow. Finally, we can reduce the food sales tax for working families.”
After thanking the crowd for attending, Kelly shared a final sentiment.
“We can’t give up this fight, and I won’t,” she said. “But I can’t do it alone. The pundits say this will be a close race – perhaps the closest in the country. But if those guys think I am afraid of a tough fight, they haven’t been watching.”
To view future events planned by the Ellis County Democratic Party, visit their Facebook page.