It’s still nearly a year and a half until the next statehouse election, but the atmosphere at Santa Fe Commons Park had the feeling of the thick of the political season.
More than 500 people — including Republican and Democratic legislators from Johnson, Wyandotte and Douglas counties and beyond — gathered off downtown Overland Park Saturday morning for the first-ever “Walk the Vote” fundraiser for the MainStream Coalition. Billed as a “walk party to raise money to raise hell in 2018,” the event was envisioned as a way to “finish what we started in 2016,” said MainStream Executive Director Brandi Fisher.
“Seeing so many wins last fall and how that really changed the face of the legislature and enabled us to vote for Medicaid expansion, vote for school funding, vote for common sense gun laws, comprehensive tax reform — but then some of that being blocked by the governor’s veto,” Fisher said. “So clearly there’s a little more work to be done. We’re kicking off 2018 today with the goal of electing a moderate governor and supporting moderate legislators from both parties and electing more moderate legislators.”
Nearly 50 teams participated in the event, with each team getting fundraising pledges from supporters. One of the teams dubbed itself “Everything in Moderation,” and featured a bi-partisan group of state representatives and senators, including area lawmakers Barbara Bollier, Melissa Rooker, Jarrod Ousley and Jerry Stogsdill:
The participation of Republican moderates in a group that also included House Minority Leader Jim Ward of Wichita attracted the scrutiny of conservatives on social media, including Eric Teetsel, the son-in-law of Gov. Sam Brownback who runs the Family Policy Alliance of Kansas, a policy group affiliated with Focus on the Family:
— Eric Teetsel (@EricTeetsel) June 17, 2017
But that bi-partisanship was part of the appeal of participating for many. Corliss Jacobs was part of the team organized by the progressive group MoveOn, which used the theme “join us under the umbrella.” Though the MoveOn walkers weren’t afraid to champion views favored by liberals, Jacobs said the goal is to find common ground with people who are more conservative.
“We’re all in this together,” Jacobs said. “It can be a broad umbrella, but it’s got to be an approach where it’s good for all Kansans, and not just a limited view.”