KANSAS CITY, Mo. — As Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis prepared for his rally Sunday in Olathe to support the GOP candidate for Kansas governor, about 50 protesters gathered outside, chanting “DeSantis, get out of Kansas” and holding signs reading, “Take your hate back to Florida” and “Protect trans students.”
DeSantis, on a nationwide tour, stopped in Johnson County to campaign for Attorney General Derek Schmidt, the GOP nominee for governor, at a rally at the Embassy Suites.
Outside, some protesters brought campaign signs supporting Schmidt’s opponent, Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly and Lt. Gov. David Toland. Democratic state Sen. Cindy Holscher, who represents the 8th District, said she hoped the protest would show that even though Kansas voters strongly defeated an amendment that would have allowed more restrictions on abortion, there’s still more work for Democrats in the state.
“We have seen through Derek Schmidt’s alignment with various politicians that he brings a brand of extremism that is very concerning for Kansas and out of touch with Kansas voters,” she said outside the rally site.
Members of Gardner Edgerton High School’s Young Activists for Change were there to protest DeSantis and his anti-LGBTQ policies. They worried Schmidt would try to emulate them in Kansas, such as a bill that bars educators from discussing LGBTQ issues in the classroom.
On Friday, the high school group helped organize a walkout against their district’s proposal to ban trans students from the bathroom of their choice and to require staff to inform parents, against students’ will, of their choice of pronouns.
“Kansas has already proven we don’t stand for (DeSantis’) ideas anyway,” said Elizabeth Fiedler, a student who started the group.
“We voted no Aug. 2 with a loud majority, and we continue with all of the people here fighting to stop policies like this from even being put into place.” Bridgette Moore, a teacher at Arrowhead Middle School in Kansas City, Kansas, said she couldn’t continue teaching if Kansas adopted the kinds of restrictions DeSantis has enacted in Florida, prohibiting teachers from talking about LGBTQ issues.
If Schmidt were elected, Moore said she fears he would put similar policies in place. She said those policies would most harm vulnerable students who would lose teachers as a trusted source. Studies show that LGBT students are at a higher risk of suicide.
“If I’m not free to talk to my students, and my students aren’t free to talk to me, and I have to go to their funeral,” she said, “I cannot live with myself.”
Joan Robbins, who worked in special education in three Johnson County school districts, said she also worries Schmidt would enact deep tax cuts similar to those of former Gov. Sam Brownback, who served from 2011 to 2018.
“The great schools we have in Kansas really declined under Brownback,” she said, “and I see Schmidt as another Brownback.”
The protest unfolded as Schmidt and DeSantis supporters filtered into the event. Signs saying “Unite & win” were placed on seats. One attendee wore a Ron DeSantis 2024 T-shirt — a nod to the possibility he’ll run for president — while others sported clothes supporting Schmidt as well as GOP congressional candidate Amanda Adkins and Johnson County Commission chair candidate Charlotte O’Hara.
In opening the event, local conservative talk radio host Pete Mundo praised DeSantis for “political brilliance” in sending Venezuelan migrants to Martha’s Vineyard. Ahead of the rally, Schmidt said he supported the move.
“If rerouting the influx of migrants to sanctuary cities filled with some of our nation’s richest and most powerful elites will force Democrats to finally take this issue seriously — as Kansans have for decades — I’m all for it,” Schmidt said.
In a statement earlier, Schmidt described DeSantis as a model for how a Kansas governor should lead.
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