State Senate District 10 candidates Constance, Thompson in dispute over ‘defund the police’ claims

Political mailers have accused Democrat Lindsey Constance of wanting to defund the police in political ads. Constance, a member of the Shawnee City Council, refutes those claims, citing her voting record of consistently funding the Shawnee Police Department. File photo credit Mike Frizzell.

Amid widespread protests and rallies for racial equity and justice, the national conversation over police funding has arisen as a final-stretch flashpoint in the much-watched race for the Kansas State Senate District 10 seat.

Recent political mailers from the Kansas Republican Party have accused Democrat Lindsey Constance of wanting to defund the police. Constance, who is a member of the Shawnee City Council, refutes those claims, citing her voting record of consistently funding the Shawnee Police Department.

Senate District 10 candidate Lindsey Constance, pictured above at a Shawnee Mission Post forum, said she does not support efforts to defund the police.

Constance, who is challenging Republican Sen. Mike Thompson, noted she has gained the endorsement of Rob Moser, the long-time chief of the Shawnee Police Department who retired in the spring.

“From my perspective as a former Chief of Police, Lindsey supported law enforcement with no indication of an intent to defund,” Moser said. “Lindsey educated herself on the programs brought forward to the governing body, and followed through with votes to fund those programs responsibly.”

Here is an image of both sides of the mailer, which comes from the Kansas Republican Party. Photo courtesy Bryan Behgam.

Constance, who is also a teacher in the Shawnee Mission School District, called on Thompson to “denounce recent attack ads that accused her of wanting to defund the police.”

“The fact is, I do fully fund the police,” Constance said. “I have voted to fully fund the Shawnee Police Department at every opportunity on city council. I have been a strong advocate on the council for funding of mental health co-responders and community outreach officers.”

A dispute over policy response

At the center of the debate is a Future Now policy that supports reinvesting police funds into community-based programs for crime prevention, substance addiction and mental health.

In a press release on Saturday, Constance noted that her pledge — which she took alongside more than 50 other Kansas candidates — is to support the goals and targets of Future Now, a left-leaning political advocacy nonprofit. The group’s model policy for reinvesting police funds is listed among dozens of others on its website. The policy is listed under Future Now’s goals, “Equal Opportunity for All,” below the target, “Freedom From Ethnic And Racial Profiling For Everyone.”

Republican incumbent Mike Thompson said challenger Lindsey Constance’s signing of a Future Now pledge supports  political ads accusing Constance of wanting to defund the police. File photo.

The model policy proposes “using a data-driven community-based approach [to] develop policy recommendations for legislative and executive consideration to reduce excessive policing and reinvest the money saved into proven strategies and programs to support communities and reduce crime.”

Constance’s campaign said this policy, among 100 others listed on Future Now’s website, is “suggested reading.” Future Now also notes that signing the pledge “is not an endorsement of any specific bill.”

In response to a request for comment on the ads, Thompson called Future Now a “radical” organization and pointed to Constance’s signing of the pledge as well as the organization’s contributions to Constance’s campaign as evidence of his argument.

“If she is truly standing with our police she should renounce their support, return their contributions, and request the outside activity funded by them supporting her campaign, come to an end,” Thompson said. “If not, she is continuing to stand with and defend those who support defunding our police force.”

A media spokesperson with Future Now confirmed that the website provides a library of model policies that are separate from the pledge that candidates signed.

“The model policy that is in question, calls for a study on how to best keep communities safe,” said Simone Leiro with Future Now. “There are no budget recommendations. If that study called to increase police funding, that could be recommended to the legislature. This is not a bill to defund the police. Regardless, no candidate has signed on to anything in the model policy library.”

Check this story for details on Future Now and its “America’s Goals” website.

Editor’s note: This story was updated to clarify that the mailer ad came from the Kansas Republican Party. This story also now includes comments from Future Now.