Unsolicited text messages amplify Derek Schmidt’s lies about Kansas drag show

by Sherman Smith, Kansas Reflector

Topeka — Derek Schmidt’s lies about a nonexistent connection between Gov. Laura Kelly and a Wichita drag show are being amplified through unsolicited text messages to Kansas voters.

Schmidt, the GOP candidate for governor, has used a false story from a U.K. tabloid to attack his Democratic rival as their bitter campaign enters the final two-week stretch. No state funding was used to support or promote the performance.

Schmidt also equated the drag show to the sexualization of children, a nod to bigotry often directed at the LGBTQ community. As evidence, his campaign distributed photos of a drag show performer who was actually a woman.

Text messages delivered Tuesday night touted “BREAKING NEWS” about Kelly being “under fire for her Department of Commerce’s role in taxpayer funded ‘all ages’ drag shows involving children.”

Kelly’s campaign said it reported the text messages to the Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission for review.

“Schmidt should be embarrassed,” said Lauren Fitzgerald, a spokeswoman for Kelly’s campaign. “First, he’s unable to provide evidence about his own false attack at a press conference. Then he digs in his heels after reporters debunk his lies, and now he’s spreading lies to voters through text messages.”

The Commerce Department provides funding to an arts commission that gave a grant to a Wichita organization to pay for an artist’s residency. That Wichita organization hosted the drag show, which was actually funded by the Knight Foundation and local retailers.

The unsolicited text messages provided a link to a U.K. Daily Mail story, published Monday, that falsely claimed the drag show was taxpayer funded.

“Read more, plus see the shocking pictures and video,” the text read.

The text and story feature images of FaeTality, a Wichita dancer who said in an interview with Kansas Reflector that she just likes to dress up and perform.

Some Republicans incorrectly assumed the dancer was a man. FaeTality said she has been female since birth, was a member of her high school dance team, and was a dance major in college. She described the routine as “tame.”

“This is literally just because I love to dance,” FaeTality said. “I love to put on the costumes and the makeup and everything, and go out there and perform.”

Kansas Reflector stories, www.kansasreflector.com, may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0.
See more at https://kansasreflector.com/2022/10/26/unsolicited-text-messages-amplify-derek-schmidts-lies-about-kansas-drag-show/

See earlier story at https://kansasreflector.com/2022/10/25/kansas-republicans-seize-on-false-report-about-drag-show-to-attack-gov-laura-kelly/

Poll: 72% of Kansans back Medicaid reform stalled by GOP legislators since 2017

Kelly to again seek Medicaid reform, Schmidt remains expansion skeptic

by Tim Carpenter, Kansas Reflector

Topeka — A majority of Kansans across the political spectrum endorse expansion of eligibility for Medicaid in a statewide survey also indicating nine in 10 registered voters believe a candidate’s position on health care influenced votes at the polls.

Kansas is among a dozen states declining to broaden access among lower-income people to affordable health coverage under Medicaid. Expansion legislation in Kansas was vetoed in 2017 by Republican Gov. Sam Brownback and the GOP-led Senate blocked a vote on a House-passed bill in 2019. Expansion states include Missouri, Oklahoma, Colorado and Nebraska.

The issue emerged in the campaign for Kansas governor with Gov. Laura Kelly promising to introduce a fifth Medicaid expansion proposal in January if reelected. Republican gubernatorial nominee Derek Schmidt spoke in opposition to substantive enhancement of eligibility for Medicaid.

The poll released by the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, or ACSCAN, of 500 likely Kansas voters showed support to be almost universal among Democrats with backing from majorities of both Republicans and independents.

In the poll, 72% of Kansans favored expanding opportunities for Kansans to participate in KanCare, the state’s Medicaid program. The political breakdown in terms of those favoring reform: Democrats, 98%; independents, 64%; and Republicans, 56%.

The poll conducted by Public Opinion Strategies and Hart Research Associates showed 87% of respondents considered health care a pivotal issue in political elections. The poll for ACSCAN had a 4.3% margin of error.

“Kansans clearly understand the importance of affordable health coverage and want their lawmakers to take action to expand KanCare,” said Megan Word, who works for ACSCAN. “Voters want Kansas to join the 38 other states who have expanded their Medicaid program and they are paying close attention this election season.”

The number of Kansans potentially benefitting from a state law deepening eligibility for the Affordable Care Act has ranged from 120,000 to 150,000. The federal government would be obligated to pay 90% of the increased cost in Kansas.

In the poll, 81% said all Kansans regardless of income, location, race, gender or immigration status ought to have affordable health care.

Kelly, who is seeking a second term in the Nov. 8 election, said during the latest gubernatorial debate in Overland Park that expansion of Medicaid to the underserved would be the most significant health policy change she could champion as governor.

“I have proposed four different expansion approaches,” said Kelly, who claimed Republicans undermined Medicaid bills because the reform was among her top priorities as governor. “I will propose my fifth in January. I think the fact that I never will be on the ballot again can take politics out of it.”

Schmidt said conservative leadership of the House and Senate wouldn’t step aside to allow a Medicaid expansion bill reach Kelly’s desk. He also criticized Kelly for not convincing a GOP majority in the Legislature to approve expansion in her first term.

“It makes a good thing to talk about in the middle of an election,” Schmidt said of Kelly’s advocacy. “At the end of the day, the Kansas Legislature, if anything like its current composition, is not going to go that direction in terms of public policy.”

He said Kansas should focus on retaining the three for-profit insurance companies under contract to operate the privatized KanCare system during a period of inflation in the national economy. He said he would consider modest changes to KanCare such as the 2022 bill signed by Kelly extending Medicaid coverage to new mothers.

Kansas Reflector, www.kansasreflector.com, stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0.
See more at https://kansasreflector.com/2022/10/10/poll-72-of-kansans-back-medicaid-reform-stalled-by-gop-legislators-since-2017/

Schmidt eager to reform selection of Supreme Court justices; Kelly prefers status quo

Kansas attorney general candidates split on direct election of justices

by Tim Carpenter, Kansas Reflector

Overland Park — Republican gubernatorial candidate Derek Schmidt wants the Kansas Constitution amended to require Kansas Senate confirmation votes on a governor’s nominees to the Kansas Supreme Court.

Schmidt, the state’s attorney general, said Kansas should mimic the federal model allowing the president to unilaterally nominate people to the U.S. Supreme Court subject to votes of the U.S. Senate.

He said during a debate Wednesday with Gov. Laura Kelly hosted by the Johnson County Bar Association that Kansas voters should be given the opportunity to modify the state Constitution as it related to membership of the state Supreme Court. He said for about 15 years he had “generally advocated something that looks more like the federal model.”

Kelly, a Democrat who has made three appointments to the seven-member state Supreme Court, said the merit-selection system drawing upon recommendations of a commission of attorneys and nonlawyers had served Kansas well since 1958. Kansans voted to adopt the current process in wake of a 1956 scandal in which Gov. Fred Hall relied on political alliances to land a seat on the state’s highest court.

“I think Kansans have long memories,” Kelly said. “We’ve seen games being played when that (Hall) process was in place.”

She said Kansas ought to continue to depend on the nine-member nominating commission’s assessment of applicants’ credentials and compilation of a list of three finalists for slots on the Supreme Court. Governors should still make the final pick, she said.

Election of justices

Neither Kelly nor Schmidt backed a proposal embraced by Kris Kobach, the GOP nominee for attorney general, for direct election of Supreme Court justices. Kobach previously endorsed shifting Kansas to the federal model with Senate confirmation of a governor’s nominees.

Kobach offered the direct-vote proposal in context of his disappointment with a Supreme Court decision saying the state Constitution afforded women a right to abortion as well as the subsequent failure of a proposed constitutional amendment in an August election that would have nullified the controversial abortion decision of the Supreme Court.

Kobach said during a campaign speech in Wichita the direct-election strategy would result in the slow, steady addition of anti-abortion justices to the Supreme Court.

Chris Mann, the Democratic nominee for attorney general, said the federal process invited the Senate to engage in an overtly political process of selecting Supreme Court justices. On Thursday, he said election of justices would have tragic consequences.

“This is a clear push by Kris Kobach towards his own political agenda. This office is not about one man’s political agenda,” Mann said. “Kansans have spoke and overwhelmingly voted to protect their right to private medical decisions. As attorney general, I will enforce the law and protect the constitutional rights of all Kansans.”

During the administration of Gov. Sam Brownback, the Legislature voted to abandon the merit-review process and make use of the federal approach to fill vacancies on the Kansas Court of Appeals.

Brownback made use of that law in 2014 when he put his administration’s general counsel, Caleb Stegall, on the Court of Appeals. Stegall also was appointed by Brownback to the Supreme Court.

Schmidt said reform of the selection process for the Court of Appeals proved useful when the Senate’s confirmation hearings in 2019 highlighted nominee Jeffrey Jack’s posts to Twitter denouncing President Donald Trump and other GOP lawmakers. It proved to be Jack’s downfall. Before named a district court judge, Jack served as a Republican in the Kansas House.

“It had the effect of screening out a candidate,” Schmidt said. “Ultimately everybody, including the governor, concluded (Jack) was unsuitable for the role.”

Subsequently, the Senate twice refused to confirm Court of Appeals nominee Carl Folsom, despite bipartisan support for him. Kelly responded to the Folsom decision by denouncing the focus on raw partisanship, rather than professional abilities.

“It breaks with longstanding tradition of keeping politics out of the courts. What you have in my nominee is one of the very best and one of the very brightest,” Kelly said.

Kelly voluntarily instituted the commission vetting process for vacancies on the Court of Appeals when she took office in 2019.

“I like having those folks screening,” Kelly said.

Nominating commission

Brownback, Schmidt, Kobach and other Republicans have complained about the nominating commission because five of nine seats were held by lawyers in good standing with the Kansas bar. During the Wednesday debate, Schmidt said it was unfair to 3 million Kansans that 9,000 members of the state bar possessed power to chose a majority of the commission’s members.

Members of the bar select an attorney to serve as commission chairman as well as four attorneys to represent each of the state’s congressional districts. Kansas governors name four nonlawyers to the commission, with one coming from each congressional district.

The commission gathers applications for judicial vacancies and must produce within 60 days a list of three finalists. Governors select from the group of finalists, but also could reject all three and the process would be repeated.

In Kansas, Supreme Court justices are subject to statewide retention votes. The initial vote occurs in the first election after a justice was sworn into the bench followed by individual retention votes on a six-year cycle.

In November, Kansas voters have an opportunity to directly decide whether to retain six of seven justices on the Supreme Court. The one escaping scrutiny in 2022 is Justice Eric Rosen, who was appointed in 2005 by Democratic Gov. Kathleen Sebelius.

The other Sebelius appointee on the Supreme Court, Justice Dan Biles, will be on the ballot. He has served as a justice since 2009.

The three Kelly selections for the Supreme Court will be considered by the state’s voters Nov. 8. Justices Melissa Taylor Standridge, Kenyen K.J. Wall and Evelyn Wilson were appointed to the high court in 2020.

Also on the ballot: Chief Justice Marla Luckert, appointed by Republican Gov. Bill Graves in 2002, and Stegall, appointed by Brownback in 2014.

During the September debate between Kelly and Schmidt in Hutchinson, Kelly said she would vote to retain all the justices. Schmidt said he would vote against some, but didn’t identify members he would oppose.

Kansas Reflector stories, www.kansasreflector.com,may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0.
See more at https://kansasreflector.com/2022/10/06/schmidt-eager-to-reform-selection-of-supreme-court-justices-kelly-prefers-status-quo/