Every race for office should include candidates answering tough questions in public forums.
Yet the Kansas Republican Party is out to block open dialogue citizens need to evaluate all contenders in this year’s run for governor.
In an attempt to shield right-wing favorites in Gov. Jeff Colyer and Secretary of State Kris Kobach, the Kansas GOP cooked up debate rules that control questions asked of the candidates.
Colyer, Kobach, Insurance Commissioner Ken Selzer, and Wichita businessmen Wink Hartman and Mark Hutton signed a pact designed to restrict questions directed at specific candidates in Republican-sanctioned candidate forums to come. Kobach would not be singled out with questions about harmful voting restrictions he’s sought, for example, and Colyer wouldn’t be asked why he favored the many failed polices of his predecessor, Sam Brownback.
Colyer and Kobach are far-right Republicans who aligned with Brownback in every meaningful way. Kansans need to hear them try to defend the special interest-fueled policymaking that drove Kansas sharply in reverse.
Unfortunately, the Kansas Republican Party would rather control the message.
Kansans should be appalled, and disregard any of the rigged GOP forums to come.
Meanwhile, count Topeka physician and former state senator Jim Barnett as the lone Republican left in the race who wouldn’t sign off on the party guidelines when asked.
A more moderate Republican, Barnett recently participated in a gubernatorial candidate forum organized by the Kansas Press Association and open to the public. All candidates — Republican, Democrat, Independent and Libertarian — were invited. Of the Republicans running (teen candidates not included), only Barnett appeared.
In doing so, he gave the audience something to consider in how he would govern and seek solutions, to include his responsible position on the need for constitutional funding of K-12 public schools.
Colyer, Kobach, Hartman, Selzer and Hutton dodged the opportunity to discuss issues with candidates outside the GOP circle. They put party first at a time the state needs more of the bipartisan cooperation that recently helped undo disastrous Brownback policies.
Barnett, to his credit, rejected the partisan pressure. He rightly sided with an open, healthy exchange of ideas best for the process and people he would serve.