With the election at hand for the vacant seat in the Kansas Second Congressional District, the candidates have gone head to head in televised debates on KSNT TV in Topeka, and also on Fox 13 News Live at Five. During the debates, candidates Topeka Mayor Michelle De La Isla (Democrat), and State Treasurer Jake LaTurner (Republican) debated topics ranging from responses to the COVID-19, healthcare, racial equity, and gun laws.
Both candidates agreed that decisions concerning COVID-19 should be kept local.
“I believe that the best responses are being dealt with at the local level,” commented De La Isla, also stating that she believed that advice from the experts should be followed.
“I do not support a national mask mandate. However, I do support individually following the CDC guidelines,” said LaTurner. LaTurner, considered a rising star in the Republican Party, does not support a national mask mandate, opposes Medicaid expansion, and opposes the Affordable Care Act.
De La Isla is for the Affordable Care Act and supports Medicaid expansion.
LaTurner tried multiple times in each debate to link De La Isla to national Democrats and specific policies, such as defunding police.
“When I talk about people at the national level supporting Michelle De La Isla’s campaign, I’m talking about (U.S. House Speaker) Nancy Pelosi, for one, sending hundreds and thousands of dollars to win this race,” he said.
“Law enforcement men and women are putting themselves in harms way and they deserve our support,” LaTurner said. “Mayor De La Isla has stated publicly I will tell you quote ‘defunding the police is a very bad marketing term, because what it means is what the city of Topeka has already been doing in practice for the last two years.’”
De La Isla vehemently denied such claims, and pointed out that under her leadership the police department in Topeka was operating with a $40 million dollar budget, five million of which was an increase during her term as Mayor. De La Isla went on to state that in discussing social justice and race equality, that issues needed to be discussed prior to them leading to a crime spree.
“It starts with making sure that we are able to ensure that every single neighborhood in our community feels like they are safe,” she concluded on the subject. In addition to expanding Medicaid, De La Isla wants to put more money into public schooling including a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants and DACA recipients.
De La Isla faced quite a backlash in Topeka recently when she called for a special meeting to address concerns of the BLM movement about defunding police.
LaTurner wants to enact a Constitutional Amendment to establish term limits for members of Congress, lowering taxes, building a wall on the US southern border, and requiring employment and drug testing for welfare recipients.
De La Isla grew up in Puerto Rico, moved to Kansas, and graduated from Wichita State. She has been the Mayor of Topeka since 2018, the city’s first Latina Mayor; prior to that she served on the Topeka City Council from 2013-2018. In addition to politics, De La Isla worked as a teacher, and also served as the Executive Director for Topeka’s Habitat for Humanity.
LaTurner was the youngest (29) statewide official in the US having been appointed as the State Treasurer by then Governor Sam Brownback in 2017. He was a Senator in the State’s 13th District from 2013-2017. During his time as State Treasurer, the State of Kansas returned more than $25.5 million dollars in previously unclaimed assets to Kansans. He was also the Chief Sponsor of Simon’s Law. Politics and serving the community run in LaTurner’s bloodline. His father was the Mayor of Galena, his hometown. His grandfather, “Grandpa Joe,” was an elected judge in Cherokee County. He is endorsed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and also the National Federation of Independent Business, the largest small business association in the U.S.
Kansas’ Second Congressional District is located on the eastern side of the state and covers much of the state’s eastern border with Missouri. The district is home to the state capital, Topeka, and the University of Kansas located in Lawrence, in addition to some rural areas and farmland, from Leavenworth through Topeka extending down to Pittsburg.
–Amy Buster | Metro Voice News