Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Barbara Bollier says ‘No’ to defunding the police in Post interview

Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Barbar Bollier of Mission Hills speaks with the Post during visit to Kansas City, Kansas, Friday, Aug. 21. Photo credit Leah Wankum/ Shawnee Mission Post.

Editor’s Note

The Bollier campaign reached out to the Post with an offer for a one-on-one interview with the candidate before a campaign stop Friday. This happens often during election years, and we feel it’s important to accept these opportunities when feasible to facilitate communication between candidates and citizens. The Post has reached out to the campaign of Bollier’s opponent in the race for U.S. Senate, Republican U.S. Rep. Roger Marshall, and we are arranging a one-on-one interview with him, too.

Democratic U.S. Senate candidate and Mission Hills native Barbara Bollier was in Kansas City, Kansas, Friday visiting Village Initiative, Inc., a nonprofit that aims to help ex-offenders and their families as they reintegrate back into society following incarceration.

Before her visit at the center, Post Editor Kyle Palmer spoke with Dr. Bollier about some of the issues that have been on the minds of many voters this summer: calls for police reform, the federal government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and health care. The Kansas state senator, who switched parties from Republican to Democrat in 2018, also responded to several questions posed by Post readers.

Below is an unedited video of Bollier’s interview with the Post, followed by an edited transcript of the Post’s questions and Bollier’s answers with timestamps.

[0:00] — Let’s start with the topic you’re tweeting about this morning (Friday, Aug. 21), which is police reform. I’ll read what you tweeted out a couple of hours before this: “After the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Elijah McClain, Washington should take meaningful steps to guarantee the equality under the law that Americans are guaranteed in the Constitution.” If you’re elected to U.S. Senate, what do those “meaningful steps” look like? 

[00:26] Bollier: We need reform. But it starts with listening to people. Our Black … colleagues, our Black citizens have said repeatedly for years they are being treated differently under the law. We need to help fund them, so they can do things like anti-bias training. We want to make sure there is an ability for community work to do for people to understand each other as police and community and ultimately we want to stop crime before it happens.

[0:59] — Do you support calls coming from within the Democratic Party to ‘defund the police?’ And more to the point, what does ‘defund the police’ mean to you? 

[1:07] Bollier: No, we will not. We need to fund the police. What we need to do is help other areas of our system that are falling through and not being funded. Let’s start with something like Medicaid expansion to help our mental health system be stabilized. We know a number of people end up in the criminal justice system instead of getting the very help they need from our mental health people. And we need to fund that adequately.

[1:37] — Balance that though with calls from social justice activists and progressives that we’ve heard a lot that this conversation about race and the reckoning this country needs to have… what does that look like from the federal perspective in the Senate? 

[1:50] Bollier: It starts with listening, bottom line. We have to listen, then move forward. I am ready to get to Washington and be that person who listens to the voices of Kansans and what they want brought forward. We need to have a criminal justice system that works for all people, and we need to move that forward.

[2:09] — Let’s talk about the COVID-19 pandemic, still very much on the minds of the readers of the Post, maybe the biggest thing people are thinking about. What’s the balance between public health and our constitutional liberties from the federal level? How far can the federal government go, in your opinion, to be able to control this pandemic? 

[2:30] Bollier: We need to step up as people. Let’s start with people like me who are state senators. Here I am wearing a mask. My opponent doesn’t even appear to be thinking that public health is an issue that he doesn’t even choose to wear masks. We need to be able to look at public health and follow it. If those are the recommendations that are coming down, of course we understand that circumstances are different in different places. I’m a supporter of local control and assess the scientific data everyday, look at what’s happening on the ground and act accordingly. But I know these are uncomfortable, I wore one for years in the operating room. Bottom line: this is what we need to be doing. Wearing masks, social distancing, washing our hands and following the guidelines as they come down.

[3:21] — If that means that the economy and broad swaths of businesses and schools and organizations need to remain closed down or need to remain running on limited service, what can the federal government do to help people who may not have jobs, may not be able to go back to work fully, may not have child care lined up…

[3:38] Bollier: Yeah, well let’s start with working together. That’s why I’m running, a voice of reason that’s willing to work across party lines to get good bills passed. Instead of this partisanship, we need to work together. Yes, we need to fund our small businesses, we’re going to have to add funding to them. We need to get another [pandemic stimulus] package passed, we need to fund our schools so they can have things like PPE, cleaning supplies that they need, Internet access for our students. All of us need to come together. We want our small businesses open. I understand how hard this is for everyone. But the way we do this is by beating the virus.

Questions from readers

[4:30] — What are you going to do do to expand rural broadband access? 

[4:36] Bollier: Well, we obviously need rural broadband access. Even places in the middle of the city don’t have good access. I’ll catch people when they do good things: Donald Trump did a good thing. We’ve recently seen that he had a grant that came to Kansas and Oklahoma that was to expand broadband. While that’s a good start, that’s not enough. We need to fund it fully, and I see a great opportunity to do that. It is one of the primary needs we have in our rural areas, which I support very strongly. We also need to make sure we have a Postal Service in our rural areas and access to health care. And health care access, schools, etc. are dependent on Internet access.

[5:30] — You switched parties in 2018 (from Republican to Democrat). Will you be voting with Democrats on a variety of issues important to the party? 

[5:39] Bollier: I am an independent voice of reason, always have been. I have stood up to Sam Brownback. I have voted for the people and not down party lines. I’ve spent 11 years [in the Kansas legislature] doing that and will continue to follow that mantra in the U.S. Senate. That is exactly why I am running. We need to listen to the people and not our partisan problems.

[6:05] — And finally, Kansas has not elected a Johnson Countian to the U.S. Senate since 1962. What makes you and this year any different? 

[6:24] Bollier: You know, I am so thrilled to see people from all over this state supporting me. People from all 105 counties, all of them have been willing to stand behind me. The point is, I will be a voice for all Kansans. It doesn’t matter to me where I live. I spent 11 years in the legislature supporting Kansans across the state and really look forward to bringing the voice of all Kansans to Washington.

 

Update: The headline on this story has been changed to be more explicit about the content of a key part of the interview. The original headline may have misleadingly conveyed Bollier’s position on calls to ‘defund the police.’