Wichita rally focuses on getting minorities out to vote

About 150 Kansans turned out for a Saturday afternoon get-out-the-vote rally and question-and-answer forum with candidates Paul Davis and Jean Schodorf that focused on black and Latino voters.

At the Wichita rally, Kansas People’s Action called for a “vision of Kansas” that welcomes immigrants, offers equal access to health care and education and repeals state voting laws that have become the center of the race for secretary of state. The organization launched door-to-door and phone campaigns to contact more than 100,000 minority voters by Nov. 4.

“But our vision is also a very sharp contrast to what the reality is today in Kansas,” KPA president Carlos Contretas said. “In our current system, communities of color, the working class, the poor – we’ve been trampled on, we’ve been stripped of rights, we’ve been thrown under the bus, forgotten – all of this stuff while politicians like Sam Brownback, Kris Kobach and Pat Roberts continue to seek ways to divide us from each other and try to move their own agenda.”

Calling Kansas a “welcoming state,” Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Davis told rally attendees that he supports immigration reform and would veto any attempts to end in-state tuition for immigrants, if elected.

“It’s time that we give people a path to citizenship,” he said during a short question-and-answer forum. “They deserve our assistance.”

Davis also said, if voted into office, he would accept federal health care dollars for the state and would make restoring cuts to public education spending his top priority.

“We are not going to be able to give the next generation of Kansas leaders the kind of opportunity they deserve if we are constantly cutting support for education,” he said.

During her portion of the question-and-answer forum, Democrat Schodorf, who is facing Kobach in the secretary of state’s race, said suspended voting rights for 23,000 people who have not met the requirements of the state’s proof-of-citizenship law should be restored.

Schodorf also told the crowd she supports same-day and automatic voter registration.

“I want everyone to vote, and I want to make it as easy as we can for everyone,” she said.

In response to the rally, Brownback’s campaign spokesman, John Milburn, said that under Brownback’s administration, total education spending is up and that “we made it easier for small businesses, many owned by women and minorities,” by eliminating certain taxes.

In terms of voting, “rights haven’t been suppressed,” said Samantha Poetter, spokeswoman for Kobach’s campaign.

“Anyone on that suspended list has receive a phone call and letter from their county clerk explaining how to get off of it,” she said.

“If anyone reaches out to our office, we do anything possible to help them.”

Reach Amy Renee Leiker at 316-268-6644 or aleiker@wichitaeagle.com. Follow her on Twitter: @amyreneeleiker.