Mark Dupree, an attorney in Kansas City, Kan., has filed for Wyandotte County district attorney.
A political science and leadership graduate of the University of Kansas, with a law degree from Washburn University, Dupree is from Kansas City, Kan., where he attended Wyandotte High School.
“My desire was to come back and help my community,” he said.
Dupree said he was conducting a positive campaign, running for the sole purpose of a better Wyandotte County.
District Attorney Jerome Gorman, who has held the office for 12 years, and has 34 years experience in the district attorney’s office, had not filed for re-election as of earlier this week.
Dupree said when he was in school, Judge Cordell Meeks helped mentor him.
“I saw the only way a community can change is if individuals step outside of their box and actually help,” he said. That provided him with motivation to help others.
After receiving his law degree, he was a law clerk for a judge, then assistant prosecuting attorney in Missouri, and later, assistant defender in Johnson County before opening his own law firm with his spouse, Shanelle Dupree.
The 34-year-old Dupree also is an associate pastor at Grace Tabernacle Church at 47th and Parallel Parkway, where his father is the pastor and his mother is the co-pastor.
His brother, Timothy Dupree, won election as Wyandotte County District Court judge in 2014. Mark Dupree, who is running for office for the first time, said he helped coordinate his brother’s campaign.
Mark Dupree said when he was growing up, the community had the nickname of “Crime Dotte.” He said he wanted to make sure that his children didn’t grow up in a “Crime Dotte” community.
“Everyone can’t afford to live on 132nd,” he said. “We have to take care of Wyandotte from 1st to 142nd.”
He said he favors attacking crime when it is small to prevent people from committing bigger crimes.
He is in favor of working together with different offices and parts of the community to accomplish goals.
Dupree has a plan with four initiatives. One is for “smart prosecution,” and includes re-engaging a drug court, he said. While a drug court is currently operating here, he said he would increase the district attorney’s office participation in it.
He said he also favors establishment of a veterans’ court, an effort which would take a cooperative effort between the courts and district attorney. It could require some effort to find grants that would help pay for costs.
He said he would establish a community prosecutor’s unit, which would address community issues and work with the community.
He also favors giving assistant district attorneys some discretionary authority in their work, he said. He is in favor of timely charging of crimes, he added.
Dupree also is in favor of the district attorney’s office being actively involved with local schools’ truancy programs and informal diversion.
Dupree said he filed now, instead of waiting to file a few months before the August primary election, in order to give time for the voters to get to know him.
“For the next six months I intend on knocking on doors, getting people to know me,” he said. He also plans to hold campaign events.
Dupree also emphasized his belief in being proactive, and said connecting with the community is proactive, while not connecting with it is reactive. Working directly with youth is one area where prevention could be effective, he believes.
The largest crowd here for a legislative forum in recent memory – about 144 persons – attended a legislative public meeting on Tuesday night at the West Wyandotte Library, 1737 N. 82nd.
Among the topics discussed at the meeting with Wyandotte County state legislators were improving payday loans to make them better for consumers; support for the in-state tuition program allowing undocumented students in Kansas to receive in-state college tuition rates; support for Medicaid expansion; support for funding public schools; some support for medical marijuana; and legislation to ban assault weapons. Many other issues were brought up.
After a comment about Medicaid expansion, State Rep. Kathy Wolfe Moore, D-36th Dist., who is the chair of the Wyandotte County legislative delegation, said it was not just a health care issue, but also an economic development issue.
A forum was held earlier in the day in Johnson County on the Medicaid expansion issue.
“I believe it’s just a matter of time until they actually pass expansion,” Rep. Moore said.
When there are 150,000 additional people who will have access to health care, it also becomes a jobs issue, with growth in the health care field, she said. She believes every state will eventually pass it, she said otherwise there will be two economies, states that have it and states that don’t.
Rep. Moore is also the business director of the University of Kansas Hospital. Hospital groups have taken positions in favor of the expansion because currently there are patients who do not have enough health insurance coverage but are using hospitals.
Rep. Louis Ruiz, D-31st Dist., the assistant House minority leader, said the individuals in the audience might want to contact U.S. Rep. Kevin Yoder, who voted to repeal the Obama Affordable Care Act, and tell him that they were in favor of Medicaid expansion in Kansas.
Rep. Pam Curtis, D-32nd Dist., said she attended the Medicaid expansion forum, and discovered most of the people who would be covered by Medicaid expansion have jobs. However, they fall in a category where they cannot afford private health insurance and are not eligible for assistance, she said.
“We really need to make sure the community understands that we’re talking about expanding coverage for people who are working,” Rep. Curtis said. “There are people who are working low-wage jobs and they just simply cannot afford. They are receiving health care by going to the emergency room, which means somebody is paying for that, which is all of us are helping to pay for that, and that’s a much more expensive way to provide coverage than if we were to expand KanCare.”
A medical marijuana bill was brought up by a few people, including members of the Silver-Haired Legislature, some of whom did not support it.
Appearing in favor of it was Tresa McAlhaney of Bonner Springs, who ran for governor as a Libertarian in 2014. She supported decriminalizing marijuana and allowing patients who were suffering from various medical conditions to receive it.
A medical marijuana bill was introduced in the last session by Sen. David Haley, D-4th Dist., who said he would continue to work with senior citizens and others on a middle ground for allowing medical marijuana.
Rep. Ruiz said this issue should be studied, and that it has been shown to be beneficial for patients in states where it is allowed.
Many audience comments were heard. Sally Murguia spoke in favor of enough funding for the public schools. She also spoke in favor of immigration and refugee relief, as well as gun control.
Elise Higgins from Planned Parenthood was against a bill that would require students to “opt-in” if they wanted to receive sex education in school, instead of the current system of opting out if they didn’t want to receive it. She also opposed a provision that would make it a misdemeanor for teaching sex education.
Mary Ann Flunder, a member of the Kansas City Kansas Community College board of trustees, supported funding for the community colleges. She also was in favor of changing some provisions concerning payday loans to make them better for consumers, citing the case of a senior citizen who lost his home because of high interest rates from a payday loan.
Victor Trammell, who ran for a community college position last election, said he was in favor of the old election cycle.
However, that was changed in the last legislative session. All the elections will be in the fall now, with city and school board elections in odd-numbered years and state elections in even-numbered years, Sen. Haley said.
Sen. Pat Pettey, D-6th Dist., and Rep. Moore opposed these changes. Rep. Moore said she was very opposed to changing the time of the elections, and that the state organizations for cities, counties and school boards opposed the change.
Rep. Moore said it was her opinion that some Republican legislators will now try to make all the elections partisan. Currently city, county and school elections are nonpartisan.
Mary Martin, of Edwardsville, said when people have assault weapons with magazines that they can load and reload, then there is a problem.
“We don’t need military weapons in our community,” she said. She asked the legislators to stand up and oppose assault weapons.
Rep. Moore said several members of the Wyandotte County delegation had spoken out previously for gun control.
Tom Strickland, from Kansas City, Kan., pointed out that sales tax on groceries was about 9.41 percent in one Kansas store, while it was 5.5 percent across the state line in Kansas City, Mo. He said the sales tax was a regressive tax, hurting those with the least money.
Maria Cecilia Ysaac, who ran for the Kansas City, Kan., school board in the last election, asked legislators to remedy a situation concerning auto insurance for residents who do not have legal status, so that their insurance would cover them. She said insurance companies will sell high-risk insurance to them, but if there is an accident, some companies will cover only those who have valid licenses in Kansas. She asked the legislators to pass a bill that would allow undocumented persons to take a driver’s test regardless of their legal status, and be issued a license if they pass.
In addition, several audience members asked legislators to do something about the custody situation for grandparents who had been denied the opportunity to see their grandchildren. The grandchildren had been placed in foster care although the grandparents were willing to care for them, according to the individuals. These public comments received a lot of applause from the audience. One audience member remarked it was modern-day slavery. While legislators said they were looking into it, some of the individuals did not seem to believe they could or would do anything about it.
The Unified Government’s legislative platform also has been covered previously. Its main issues are to oppose the property tax lid that was approved in the last session, and to protect local government revenues. The UG platform is online at http://myemail.constantcontact.com/ENews-Source-Newsletter.html?soid=1101660619071&aid=-6JmJq5oyfQ.