Senate candidates differ on handling Supreme Court vacancy

Not surprisingly, two very different ways of handling the vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court were offered by Kansas candidates for the U.S. Senate in a debate today.

U.S. Rep. Roger Marshall, the Republican candidate, said they need to confirm conservative constitutionalist pro-life judges, and he is in favor of bringing forward a candidate early. He said the situation is different from 2016, when there was a Democratic president and a Republican Senate. Republicans in the Senate held up Obama’s candidate for the Supreme Court until after the election in 2016.

This is the Republicans’ time to move forward now and keep their promises, Marshall said in the debate.

Barbara Bollier, the Democratic candidate for Senate, said the nomination and confirmation process should not be politicized. She said the leaders who are elected to the Senate in November should be making the decision on it.

The Senate has plenty to do with pandemic relief in the meantime, she said.

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died on Friday, and the topic of her successor has already been discussed by the president and others.

Notably, the candidates seemed to go negative quite often in their remarks Saturday. They also are running negative campaign ads. According to the website FiveThirtyEight, polls in August have shown only two percentage points between the candidates, not enough for a definitive lead. However, the website said Marshall had an 80 percent chance of winning the seat, while Democrats were slightly favored to win the entire Senate.

Marshall frequently called attention to the fact that Bollier switched from the Republican to the Democratic Party, while Bollier countered with the statement that she is an independent thinker who can work across the aisle with others, saying Marshall is “a yes man for the president.” Marshall mentioned he had the endorsement of Sen. Pat Roberts, who is retiring, while Bollier mentioned she had the endorsement of former Republican Sen. Nancy Landon Kassebaum.

The debate, held by WIBW, the Kansas Radio Networks and Kansas Ag Network, was a virtual event that replaced the usual debate held at the Kansas State Fair, which is not in operation this year because of the pandemic.

Marshall and Bollier are doctors. In response to a question about the federal response to the coronavirus, Bollier said the challenges faced are historic, and nothing but historic actions would overcome them. She said there is a need to extend unemployment benefits, make sure people have the ability to pay rent and offer additional assistance in other areas.

She said she was very disappointed in the federal response to the vaccine, of politicizing it. She looks forward to an FDA-approved vaccine. She said the way to get through the pandemic was to follow science, wear a mask, follow public health advice, and when the vaccine is here, move forward and keep the economy going.

Marshall said the vice president was very optimistic a vaccine would be available by Thanksgiving, and for the rest of the public, by the new year. He said America has cut the mortality rate and is winning the war against an invisible enemy.

Bollier countered that she was disappointed to see a doctor more concerned about his own political health than the health of the people of Kansas. She mentioned he had been at events, where he had not been wearing a mask, and he had been at indoor events in large groups.

In answer to a question about to what extent wealthy white people like themselves would strive to understand the motivations of Black Lives Matter activists and represent their views in Washington, Marshall said, “I’m one of the luckiest, most privileged people in the world. I’m privileged because my parents worked their tails off. My dad worked 80-100 hours a week as a police officer. My mom worked 40 or 50 hours a week as a clerical clerk, and then came home and took care of her family as well.

“I don’t know what’s going on in the coasts but I know what’s going on in Kansas, that I was taught to value a person by their heart, and even more important, by their actions, and I think I taught my kids that same purpose,” Marshall said. “If you look at my record, I just don’t see skin color. I think there’s things we can do to improve everybody’s relationships and it all starts with good education and a good economy, and that’s what Republicans stand for, is raising people out of poverty, giving them a job that brings meaning and fulfillment in their lives, not keeping them buried down in the ghettos. So I’m all for lifting other people up.”

Bollier said, “This country has been in a crisis for many years, and we know we need to listen to all. We need to keep our communities safe in that time, and we need to look to things that actually make a difference for people. One of those is public education. I’m a long-time champion for public education in Kansas. I stood up to Sam Brownback when he tried to dismantle our early childhood education system, which is so needed for all people to be successful.

“I voted for some of the very largest funding increases to the classroom in Kansas history,” Bollier, who served as a state senator, said. “I worked across the aisle to do these things and end the Sam Brownback tax experiment, so that everyone had an opportunity for a world-class opportunity, no matter what their Zip Code, no matter where they live.”

She said Marshall had not voted for relief for schools during the coronavirus crisis, and Marshall responded that there was not one Democrat who voted in favor of a coronavirus bill in the Senate last week that would have helped schools. The candidates often said their opponent was not representing their views correctly.

On the topic of abortion, Bollier says she’s for a woman’s right to have access to reproductive health care, and Marshall is pro-life. The debate discussed many other issues, including the plight of rural hospitals, the Green New Deal (which Bollier said she did not support), legalized marijuana and the federal budget.

An advisory to those who want to watch the debate: there is a considerable amount of time spent on agricultural policy questions. The debate is on YouTube at

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