John Skubal and Chris Cindric are from different political parties. But as they chatted at the MainPAC Step Up Rally in Prairie Village Saturday, they found that what they had been hearing from voters the past several weeks was virtually identical.
Skubal, a Republican who is running against incumbent Jeff Melcher for the Kansas Senate, and Cindric, a Democrat who is running against incumbent Steve Roberts for the State Board of Education, agree that the Johnson County residents they’ve been hearing from have one top concern: Schools.
“It’s pretty much the same theme over and over, door-to-door,” Skubal said. “They want to know where you’re at with the governor, or they want to know what’s happening with schools. And they’re disappointed.”
The concern goes beyond parents of school-aged children, he said. Retirees and those without kids of their own are worried about what harm to the reputation of the state’s public education system might mean for their home values.
“Everybody came to Johnson County because of our K-12 schools,” he said. “And we have built our entire community on the backs of K-12 schools.”
Cindric, a 38-year educator who spent much of her career working for Shawnee Mission schools, said the constant battles over standards and funding the past few years have set off alarm bells among people who had not been politically engaged in the past.
“Everybody is really riled up and concerned about education this year,” she said. “Early childhood programs, strong standards, recruiting and retaining strong teachers. Those things need to be brought to the forefront again instead of pushed back they way they have been.”
Cindric and Skubal were two of more than a dozen candidates who were on hand at the rally in Harmon Park Saturday morning. MainStream Coalition Executive Director Brandi Fisher said the group had decided to move the rally back to Prairie Village from Shawnee, where it had been held the past several election cycles, because of its central location.
“We’ve got candidates from Wyandotte County all the way to Olathe, and we want people to be able to connect with candidates who are running, get involved — we say vote, do more than vote,” Fisher said.
MainStream, which was founded in Prairie Village with the leadership of Village Presbyterian Church Rev. Bob Meneilly back in the early 1990s, has worked for more than two decades now to support candidates from both political parties who it considers moderates. Extremists, Fisher said, don’t represent the views of most Kansans, but they can get elected when voter turnout is low.
“I think we have in Kansas been electing people that don’t represent mainstream values. And it’s because people aren’t voting,” Fisher said.
Fisher said the group had worked to make this year’s rally more family friendly, with activities for kids and a food truck on hand. The group also organized canvassing parties for some of the candidates following the rally.