Here’s something you don’t see every day: Republican and Democratic candidates for governor making a joint campaign appearance.
But Republican Wink Hartman and Democrat Carl Brewer did just that Friday morning at a Wichita McDonald’s restaurant.
The two candidates were invited to an informal meet-and-greet to talk to customers at the restaurant near Central and Hillside. Lane Management is celebrating remodeling the restaurant, which is across Hillside from Wesley Medical Center.
Brewer and Hartman were only together for a short time, but they were all smiles as they shook hands and chatted with each other and the restaurant owners.
They can afford that kind of cordiality now. They won’t face each other in an election until after the August primaries in 2018, and then only if they both win their respective party primaries.
The biggest problem Friday was that the event coincided with a downpour, so while the drive-through was busy, few customers were parking and coming inside.
And those who did weren’t necessarily voters.
One woman asked Hartman for a ride to a homeless shelter. He said he hadn’t driven himself to the restaurant and didn’t have his car, but did work with the McDonald’s staff to help her get there by bus.
He also had a nice conversation with Pam Pyles, drawing a smile from her when he complimented her on not coloring her long, gray hair.
But it turned out that Pyles, a retired Air Force worker and McConnell Air Force Base volunteer, is only here to take care of her granddaughter for a while. She is a resident of Louisiana and doesn’t expect to be here when the voting for governor starts in 2018.
Brewer, who served eight years as mayor of Wichita, had his own moments.
One of the first things Dion Glenn asked him was: “Did you used to be a police officer?”
It didn’t take Brewer long to figure out that Glenn had him confused with former police chief Norm Williams.
“That’s the other guy,” Brewer said, smiling. “I used to be the mayor.”
The contrast between Brewer and Hartman politically was illustrated by how they answered questions on Medicaid.
Both were asked to address whether the state should expand Medicaid to cover low-income workers who make too much to qualify now, but don’t make enough to qualify for insurance coverage under the federal Affordable Care Act.
Brewer favors Medicaid expansion, saying that “We’re all equal and we all deserve the opportunity” to get health care.
Denying care to the poor is “like saying ‘You’re not worth it,’” he said.
Hartman said he understands that Medicaid expansion is an important issue for the survival of hospitals, but “We do not have the money here in the state of Kansas to fund it.”
Hartman, an oilman and restaurant owner, is running as a business outsider and said that if he’s elected, he’ll use his business experience to identify waste in the state budget so that those dollars can be spent on something more important, like health care.