Candidates tried to fire up the crowd at the Machinists union at a Labor Day celebration Saturday over the din of small talk and people eating.
"We must make things in this country again," said Jake Lowen, political director for the Wichita/Hutchinson Labor Federation, which sponsored the picnic.
He said there are 20,000 union members in the federation's seven-county area who are looking to be represented by people in office "who have their back."
Working families need strong representation at the state and federal level, Lowen said, drawing applause.
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The federation asked picnicgoers to make a pledge to call 10 union members they know and ask them to vote and support pro-labor candidates.
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tom Holland, a state senator from Baldwin City, told the crowd he is a small business owner who knows how to create jobs.
Holland runs Holland Technologies Inc., an information technology consulting and professional services firm.
He told union members, who were munching on hot dogs, baked beans and chips, that he's "not a failed career politician like Sam Brownback," his Republican opponent in the race.
Holland spoke of Brownback's "Road Map for Kansas," his plan for running the state, and said he needs a road map "because after 16 years in Washington, I truly believe he doesn't know how to get back to Kansas."
Efforts to reach Brownback's campaign for a response Saturday were unsuccessful. Sherriene Jones-Sontag, a spokeswoman for the campaign, did not return calls, and no one answered at Brownback's campaign office.
Brownback's campaign responded to criticism from the Holland campaign last month by saying that Brownback's "Road Map for Kansas" provides "specific measurables to see if government is accomplishing its goals."
Lowen told the crowd that "for my money, the sound of 'Governor Brownback' is about the scariest thing I've heard of."
Union members also heard from State Rep. Raj Goyle, a Democrat who is running for the 4th Congressional District seat; Lisa Johnston, who is running for U.S. Senate; state Treasurer Dennis McKinney; and labor secretary Jim Garner.
"I believe the most fundamental and critical responsibility of the next congressman from the 4th District is to create jobs," Goyle said.
He said the "House of Labor" was among the first group of people to support him.
Johnston, who has spent her career in higher education, said was "pleased to be a champion for working families."
She said she "may look sweet, but I'm a fighter."