Five candidates competing for the Democratic Party's nomination for governor Wednesday affirmed support for imposition of gun-safety mandates and for legalization of medical marijuana while clashing over their previous positions on abortion rights and concealed firearms.
The televised debate following a broadcast Tuesday with Republican Party gubernatorial candidates also afforded Democrats a broader forum for denouncing policies of Gov. Jeff Colyer and former Gov. Sam Brownback, who have led the state since 2011.
Topeka Sen. Laura Kelly, former Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer, Olathe physician Arden Andersen, Wichita teenager Jack Bergeson and former state Rep. Josh Svaty shared frustration with permissive Kansas law on the carrying of concealed handguns.
State lawmakers repealed a requirement that people seeking to carry concealed had to undergo eight hours of training, clear a review by the attorney general's office and pay a state licensing fee, Svaty said. His critique, aimed at Kelly, made reference to the mass shooting of 20 children and six adults in 2012 at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
"After I left the Legislature, the Legislature removed most of those (requirements)," Svaty said. "In fact, Sen. Kelly not only voted for that legislation, she co-sponsored it. This was two years after Sandy Hook."
Andersen and his four peers agreed on the need to legalize medicinal use of marijuana in Kansas.
"The legalization of, at least medicinal marijuana, would help us eliminate or address the opioid crisis," Andersen said. "We need it as a medicine."
None of the Democratic candidates was keen on raising taxes, but Bergeson and Svaty recommended reduction in the state's 6.5 percent sales tax on food.
In response to a question about abortion, candidates Brewer, Andersen and Bergeson said they had no interest in interfering with a woman's decisions about reproductive health.
"I don't believe that any man has a right to tell a woman what she should or should not do with her body," Brewer said.
Kelly touted her pro-choice credentials and criticized Svaty for 11 pro-life votes he cast as a member of the Kansas House.
"He overrode a Democratic governor's veto of that same legislation four times. It's important we not mislead voters," Kelly said.
The debate broadcast by WIBW and KWCH included a question about how the Democratic winner of the Aug. 7 primary election could prevail in a state dominated by GOP voters.
Bergeson, preparing for his senior year of high school, said he wanted to replicate the surprise victory by former professional wrestler Jessie Ventura during the 1998 gubernatorial race in Minnesota.
"When the American people and the people of Kansas see tonight that I have the right temperament ... I think we're ready for a 1998-type upset," he said.