DODGE CITY — Demonstrators lined East Wyatt Earp Boulevard near the Santa Fe Depot in Dodge City Wednesday, holding signs while waiting to meet Kris Kobach, Kansas Republican gubernatorial candidate and current Kansas Secretary of State.
"We’re protesting because Kobach is against immigration, and our city is made up of immigrants," said Coleen Stein, one of the demonstrators. "If he gets elected, it’s gonna devastate this whole economy."
Dodge City is a welcoming place for immigrants, Stein said. Immigrants are free to come here, and the city wants them, she said.
"Immigrants bring new ideas, they’re creative, they’re innovative," Stein said. "We want ‘em."
The group held up signs while they waited for Kobach, then went inside the Depot before he arrived.
"We just want to make awareness, and then we’re gonna go in and we’re gonna let him know how we feel," Stein said.
Kobach was scheduled to go to Garden City for a candidate forum later in the afternoon, said Stein, adding that both communities could be impacted by his stance on immigration. She does not see the point in new schools being built in each town if Kobach will send immigrants in the communities away upon his election.
"I am concerned," Stein said. "I think he is not a nice person. I think he’s filled with hate, and he is instilling fear in people."
Stein said Wednesday’s demonstration was not necessarily targeted at the GOP more broadly, but rather focused directly on Kobach, at least for the time being.
Leading up to the meet and greet that was scheduled for 12:30 p.m. at the depot, Kobach arrived 15 minutes late and instead of meeting with those in attendance, including business affiliates and demonstrators in a conference room that was set up by his team, he instead met with people in the hallway.
After speaking with several local business affiliates, Kobach was questioned on immigration.
"What will you do for legal immigration?" Kobach was asked.
"All kinds of things," he said. "I am against illegal immigration. There are U.S. citizens competing for those jobs."
Before Kobach could be questioned further, his running mate for lieutenant governor, Wink Hartman, said, "Let's go, we're gaining nothing here."
As Kobach and his team left the upper level of the depot, they met with residents of Arrowhead West who sang a song for the gubernatorial candidate in the lower level.
A Kobach representative said the candidate and his team left the meet and greet early in order to attend the Garden City forum, scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Wednesday.