Woman wants Kansas library to get rid of children’s book about boy who dresses in mom’s clothes

An Oakley woman wants to ban a children’s book from the public library because it contains drawings of a naked boy who gets dressed in his mother’s clothes.

The Oakley Public Library Board of Trustees could decide later this month whether to get rid of “Fred Gets Dressed,” by New York Times bestselling author Peter Brown, after the woman filed a formal complaint regarding the book’s content.

Brown, responding to questions for this story, questioned the woman’s sense of humor, called her un-American and rejected her concern that his book contains LGBTQ content.

“This crap really fires me up,” Brown said.

The book, which is intended for children ages 3 to 6 years old, is about a boy who loves to “romp through the house naked and wild and free.” The boy wanders into his mother’s closet and tries on her blouse, scarf, shoes, jewelry and makeup. When he is discovered by his parents, “the whole family” — including the father and dog — “joins the fun.”

The book ends with an image of a bare-bottomed Fred running through the house in his mom’s attire.

Patricia Keyes, assistant director of the Oakley Public Library, declined to identify the woman who objected to the book or provide a copy of her complaint. Keyes said the woman’s two children, ages 9 and 11, discovered the book and brought it to their mother’s attention. The mother was troubled by what she viewed as LGBTQ content, Keyes said.

“Her concerns were the boy runs around naked and then gets dressed in his mother’s clothes,” Keyes said. “Her children brought it to her attention. And then it went from there. Her children looked at the book in the children’s room and then brought it out to her, and showed her, and she did not like the content.”

Oakley is a community of about 2,000 people along Interstate 70 in the northwest corner of Kansas. Keyes said library staff was unaware of any other challenge to a book in the past 25 years.

Keyes said she ordered the book because she “started seeing this book everywhere,” and the library had encountered problems with securing copies of popular children’s books in the past. The library’s copy of “Fred Gets Dressed” sat on the shelf for two months before the woman filed her complaint April 12, Keyes said.

Before that, Keyes said, the book had caught the attention of a 4-year-old whose mother also thought the book was inappropriate.

“They just passed on the book and left it on the shelf,” Keyes said. “They didn’t pick it out because they did not want to read this book. But they didn’t complain about it. Censorship is nobody else can read this because I don’t like the content. And that’s exactly what’s happening: ‘I don’t like the content of this book, so nobody can read it.’ And that’s what we’re trying to get across. It doesn’t really matter what the content of the book is — we don’t condone it or say, ‘Hey, we like this content.’ But everybody should be allowed, if they want, to read it.”

The library board considered the woman’s complaint during a meeting April 27, and plans to make a decision on May 25. In the meantime, Keyes said, the book “still sits on the shelf.”

Brown said this was the first he had heard of an attempt to ban “Fred Gets Dressed” anywhere.

“But given the political climate of America these days, I figured it was only a matter of time,” Brown said.

Brown said “Fred Gets Dressed” is about a boy who knows he is so loved by his parents that “he feels free to play and explore in any way that comes naturally to him.”

“The woman trying to ban ‘Fred Gets Dressed’ has the right to keep her children from reading the book, but controlling what other people can read? That’s downright un-American,” Brown said. “I think everyone needs to lighten up, and let children be whoever they’re going to be, and let them read what they want to read. Everything is going to be fine.

“Oh, and if a pair of naked buns doesn’t make this woman laugh, or at least smile, then she clearly has no sense of humor, and I have to seriously question her qualifications for judging children’s books.”

Brown is a straight, cisgender man who wrote the book about an experience he had as a little boy. But there are many children who, at a young age, “already feel a little different from their peers,” Brown said.

“Those children deserve to see their own life experiences reflected in books and culture,” Brown said. “Not only that, but all the non-LGBTQ kids need to learn to accept and appreciate their LGBTQ peers so we can all get along, in real life. Books are a great way to communicate those messages. But by removing that kind of content from libraries we are sending a clear message to children that certain ways of being are unacceptable. We’re telling LGBTQ children that if they want to survive they need to cover up who they really are. That sickens me. Call me old-fashioned, but I think we should accept people as they are.”

Tom Witt, executive director of Equality Kansas, said if the mother who objected to the book doesn’t want her kids to look at something she doesn’t approve of, she shouldn’t let her kids wander unsupervised.

“Taking a book away from everybody else because they’re afraid their kids might learn something is ridiculous,” Witt said.

George W. Seamon Jr., director of the Northwest Kansas Library System, said libraries oppose censorship because it is up to every individual to determine what they read and view, censorship denies parents the opportunity to parent, censorship harms those who are unable to access the information they want or need, censorship stifles expression and development, and censorship will not stop once it starts.

“The freedom to read and learn are fundamental foundations for all individuals and the democratic societies in which they live,” Seamon said. “An important part of reading and learning is experiencing different ideas, beliefs, cultures and alternative perspectives in life, which enrich our development and grow our society.”


Kansas Reflector is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Kansas Reflector maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Sherman Smith for questions: info@kansasreflector.com. Follow Kansas Reflector on Facebook and Twitter.

Kansas Democrat threatens to recruit parents to sue schools for lack of honest history lessons

Rep. Valdenia Winn offered a proposal to House Republicans: If they were to override the governor’s veto of legislation installing a parental bill of rights, she would recruit parents to file lawsuits over the lack of honest history lessons in public schools.

After all, Winn said, the parental bill of rights “essentially” gives parents the ability to sue schools over any materials they find objectionable.

The House on a 72-50 vote fell short Thursday of the two-thirds majority needed to complete the override of Gov. Laura Kelly’s veto. Senate Bill 58 would have required school boards to adopt policies to guarantee parents the right to inspect and object to any learning materials, activates, curriculum, surveys, handouts or health records, and seek the removal of any book or magazine from a school library.

Winn, a Democrat from Kansas City, denounced the legislation as “a ploy to capitalize on the national manipulation of some parents’ anxieties.”

“There is this big problem if you accept this ploy that children are being brainwashed, and there are these nefarious things going on in schools,” Winn said. “It’s not happening.”

The bill is driven by anxiety of those who don’t want to accept the U.S. is changing, Winn said.

She said the bill coopts the language of the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964, and that the bill’s supporters couldn’t tell her why. That legislation, she said, prohibits discrimination in schools.

“So what I will do if you pass this, I will personally and collectively engage parents who may have marginalized students, or other parents who look at the curriculum in their districts,” Winn said. “And if it does not truthfully and honestly talk about the 300 years of brutality of African American enslavement, or if it does not teach about Jim Crow and lynching and domestic terrorism, and the Ku Klux Klan. Or if it does not talk about the Japanese American concentration camps. Or the Stono Rebellion. Or the Stonewall Inn riots. Then those parents have the same right to sue the school district. And if that’s what you want — all the litigation — then that’s what you have in this bill.”

Rep. Stephen Owens, a Hesston Republican, said parents frequently have complaints with schools. Directing his comments at Winn, and misinterpreting hers, he said the assertion that “this never occurs is patently false, period.”

He read several complaints from his phone. One parent claimed a teacher lined up children based on their views of gun rights.

“From that day forward, she gave our son near-failing grades no matter how hard he tried,” Owens quoted from the unnamed parent’s complaint. “We email the teacher: No response.”

Another parent complained about being denied information from a high school teacher. Another complained about the lack of communication from various school officials.

This happens more than people realize, Owens said.

“Do you want the government raising your children?” Owens said. “Or is it your responsibility to raise your children?”

Winn returned to the floor to address Owens’ comments.

“What I said was not happening was the nefarious brainwashing,” Winn said.

“I will continue to say that there is a manipulation of parental anxieties,” she added. “There is a national successful manipulation of parental anxieties. And it appears to come from the fears of change. The concern that some kids would feel badly doesn’t address the concerns of the kids that perhaps are the targets. So I say again, clearly, everyone in the world supports parental rights.”

Rep. Steve Huebert, a Republican from Valley Falls, argued the parental bill of rights isn’t a ploy. The issue is coming up, he said, because of “real things going on in this country that need to be dealt with.”

“Just yesterday, and we talked about it in our caucus, President Biden in talking to teacher unions just said — and I’m not making this up, you can go read it online — that when those kids are in your classroom, they’re your kids, not the parents. You can say, ‘Well, that’s a misinterpretation of what he’s saying.’ But there’s a whole lot out there that says that’s real. That’s the belief. And they just as soon not.”

Biden said students are “all our children,” and “they’re like yours when they’re in the classroom” during remarks Wednesday for an event recognizing the 2022 national and state teachers of the year. Republicans across the country have omitted the “like” when referencing Biden’s quote.

Huebert said he was shocked the governor vetoed the parental bill of rights, especially since she signed legislation banning protections for undocumented residents in response to a Wyandotte County ordinance.

“I appreciate she’s got some high-paid consultants,” Huebert said. “She needs to get some new ones.”

Rep. Brenda Landwehr, a Wichita Republican, said lawmakers for years have heard from educators who say they welcome parental engagement and that they want more.

“But as the parents started getting involved and getting engaged, it’s like, whoa, whoa, whoa, wait a minute, maybe we didn’t mean it quite that much,” Landwehr said.

She objected to school libraries providing access to “Gender Queer,” a comic book by Maia Kobabe about Kobabe’s path to gender-identity as nonbinary and queer. The book has been targeted through a national campaign to ban books written by authors who are people of color, LGBTQ+, Black and Indigenous, and feature characters from marginalized groups.

“Some parents may approve of that book, and that’s their right,” Landwehr said. “But some parents may not want their kids to have access to that book. And that is also their right.”

Rep. Pat Proctor, a Leavenworth Republican, also appeared to reference “Gender Queer” when he complained about “highly charged explicit sexual comics in our library.” Other gripes on his list included teachers flying Black Lives Matter flags and asking students if they are vaccinated.

Rep. Chuck Schmidt, a Wichita Democrat, said no parent testified in favor of the bill. Only large organizations, including some from out of state, that regularly criticize public schools supported the bill, and “that ought to tell you something,” he said.

But there is a bigger problem to consider, he said.

“I’ve talked to a lot of teachers,” Schmidt said. “They see this as an attack on them when their morale is already at an all time low.”

Rep. Kristey Williams, an Augusta Republican and chairwoman of the K-12 Education Budget Committee that produced the bill, led a crusade against the teaching of critical race theory, later rebranded as “critical pedagogy,” in hearings last fall and early in this legislative session. In a hearing in October, Williams said legislators should consider the mental health of a “little white girl” who is burdened with the shame of learning about racial oppression. A two-hour hearing in January provided a platform for two white parents who objected to themes of LGBTQ tolerance, implicit bias, white privilege and white fragility.

As the House concluded its debate Thursday, Williams said the interest in parental rights is “not because we fear history, but because we want to bring parents, teachers and students together.”

“I do love a respectful, robust debate on issues that matter to all of us,” Williams said. “There’s no need to vilify our discussion or distract from the facts. It was said that this is attack on teachers. And they have a low morale at this time. I would challenge each one of you to go visit with teachers and find out why their morale is low at this time. There are reasons, and I’ll tell you what — it has nothing to do with the parents bill of rights or the Legislature. It has to do with the culture and the climate that exists in the schools.”


Kansas Reflector is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Kansas Reflector maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Sherman Smith for questions: info@kansasreflector.com. Follow Kansas Reflector on Facebook and Twitter.

Activists ask Kansas House leadership to discipline representative over hateful email

TOPEKA — Equality Kansas on Tuesday asked House leadership to take disciplinary action against Rep. Cheryl Helmer for “incendiary” comments about a transgender House member.

Helmer, a Republican from Mulvane, said in an April 23 email from her legislator account to a transgender college graduate student that she didn’t appreciate sharing a restroom at the Statehouse with Rep. Stephanie Byers, a Democrat from Wichita. Helmer described Byers as a “huge transgender female.”

Helmer also falsely claimed “wee little girls in elementary and middle and high school … have been raped, sodomized and beaten in the restrooms by these supposedly transgenders who may or may not be for real.”

Tom Witt, executive director of Equality Kansas, sent a letter to House leaders urging them to “take immediate and appropriate action.”

“Helmer’s comments are outrageous, offensive and slanderous,” Witt wrote. “She is going out of her way to perpetuate dangerous, hateful stereotypes of the LGBTQ community — stereotypes that have led to hate crimes against members of the community, and to self-harm by vulnerable LGBTQ Kansans.”

Witt’s letter is addressed to House Speaker Ron Ryckman, Majority Leader Dan Hawkins, Pro-Tem Blaine Finch, Minority Leader Tom Sawyer and Assistant Minority Leader Jason Probst.

Kansas Reflector on Monday first reported on Helmer’s email to Brenan Riffel, a graduate student at the University of Kansas who identifies as transfeminine. Helmer didn’t respond to questions from Kansas Reflector, but the representative referenced the story in posts on her personal Facebook page.

“Wow! My mailbox is full!” Helmer wrote in a Tuesday post. “First- you must remember that the media only publishes what the liberal left want you to hear so they have not told you of the supposedly transgender boys acting as girls who have harassed, raped, sodomized, harmed in school locker restrooms and who may also be under the pretext of competing in athletic Girl events against the girls.”

Helmer also said Kansas Reflector should instead write about “all the plane loads of Mexico Illegal Immigrants that have arrived in the last few days.”

“They are staying at a downtown hotel at taxpayer expense ($800) per room, plus all free meals and free laundry,” Helmer wrote. “And they have those nice big I-phones!”

In his letter to House leadership, Witt referenced a 2015 investigation against Rep. Valdenia Winn, a Democrat from Kansas City who said the supporters of an immigration bill were “racist bigots.” Legislators dismissed the attempt to expel or censure Winn.

Witt’s letter said Helmer’s comments “went far, far beyond anything Rep. Winn said in 2015.”

“Bigotry, transphobia, homophobia, and hatred have no place in the Kansas Legislature,” Witt wrote.

Kansas Reflector is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Kansas Reflector maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Sherman Smith for questions: info@kansasreflector.com. Follow Kansas Reflector on Facebook and Twitter.

Kansas Republican complains about sharing Statehouse restroom with 'transgender female'

Rep. Cheryl Helmer told a transgender college student she doesn’t appreciate sharing a restroom at the Statehouse with a “huge transgender female” and falsely claims transgender people are assaulting “wee little girls” in school restrooms.

Helmer’s hate-filled remarks were made in an April 23 email from her legislator address to Brenan Riffel, a graduate student at the University of Kansas who identifies as transfeminine and provided a copy of the exchange to Kansas Reflector. Helmer, a Republican from Mulvane, didn’t respond to questions for this story.

Riffel contacted Helmer and three other House Republicans to express disappointment in their sponsorship of House Bill 2210, which would make it a crime for a doctor to perform gender reassignment surgery or hormone replacement on minors. The legislation, introduced Feb. 3, 2021, has not received a hearing.

Helmer, who worked as a guidance counselor for Wichita public schools, responded with her views on biology and another bill that would ban transgender girls and women from participating in sports. The Legislature is expected to attempt an override of the governor’s veto on the transgender athletes bill this week.

“No surgeon can cut, remove, wop, add to change the biology that is chemically occuring [sic] in each and every fiber, bone and molecule of every human being,” Helmer wrote in her email to Riffel. “A doctor can inject meds and dilute but cannot destroy what God has done in the perfection of the HUMAN BEING.

Helmer’s comments about sharing a restroom with a transgender colleague are an apparent reference to Rep. Stephanie Byers, a Wichita Democrat and the state’s first transgender legislator.

“Now, personally I do not appreciate the huge transgender female who is now in our restrooms in the Capitol,” Helmer wrote. “It is quite uncomforting. I have asked the men if they would like a woman in their restroom and they freaked out. Just to make my point — I went into their restroom one day. They were all standing in a circle talking but they all in unison started screaming like girls ‘Cheryl – you’re in the men’s restroom!’ It was quite apparent by their bright red faces that they were extremely embarrassed that I had entered ‘their territory’.

“But now we have a very unfair situation. We as women have humans that are much larger, stronger, more adrenaline and testosterone and therefore possibly more dangerous and we have to share our restrooms. Not only that but our wee little girls in elementary and middle and high school are having to be exposed and many have been raped, sodomized and beaten in the restrooms by these supposedly transgenders who may or may not be for real.”

There is no evidence to support Helmer’s claims of sexual assaults.

Riffel initiated contact with the legislators to let them know how harmful House Bill 2210 would be for transgender children in Kansas.

“With the rise in attacks of trans people and with the growing acceptance of violence towards the trans community, it’s important to advocate and fight back this legislation that aims to erase us and make us targets,” Riffel said in an email to Kansas Reflector.

“Unfortunately,” Riffel said, “I expected such a bigoted and close-minded response.”

Riffel said the representative’s willingness “to make a political point” by going into a men’s restroom was surprising. Riffel said they didn’t know “the trans individual” referenced in the email, “but I am sorry that you have to deal with Rep. Helmer’s antics and discrimination.”

“I am appalled that she is in office with such beliefs,” Riffel said. “My concerns about the well being of our trans kids was not addressed by Rep. Helmer and all I got back in return was blatant transphobia fueled by hateful religious rhetoric.”

Helmer’s comments “were perhaps some of the most hateful things I have ever been sent,” Riffel said.

Byers said Helmer’s email is emblematic of disinformation and talking points provided by politically motivated national organizations.

Helmer took it to the “next level,” Byers said, with her comments about sharing a restroom.

“How embarrassing is it that this is the same argument that was said in the 1950s and 1960s about why you couldn’t have Black people in the same restroom — because they were predators,” Byers said. “And you know, that stigma carries on. We still see it.”

Byers said her response to Helmer would be: “Learn to live her life out of love instead of out of fear, and to put people first, above politics.”

Tom Witt, executive director of Equality Kansas, said Helmer’s comments point to the motivation behind the attempt to ban transgender athletes from school sports.

“It’s rare that they say the quiet part out loud, but it’s clear that the backers of this bill are driven by nothing but hatred,” Witt said.

Senate Bill 160 is model legislation backed by anti-LGBTQ organizations who say it is necessary to protect Kansas girls from the hypothetical threat of losing scholarships. The law has been struck down by federal courts as unconstitutional when enacted in other states.

Helmer concluded her email to Riffel by saying it is “totally, 1000% unfair that a man can ‘feel’ like a woman and change his sex” in order to “compete against women.”

“Offended? Disdain? That doesn’t even begin to speak for the women who are being cheated out by males now dominating the women’s sports world,” Helmer wrote. “I believe the only fair proposition is if transgender males compete in their own category and must fund it themselves.”

House Minority Leader Tom Sawyer, D-Wichita, said Helmer’s “dehumanizing commentary” is evidence the ban on transgender athletes is not about empowering young girls.

“It is quite the opposite,” Sawyer said. “It is about a deep hate of others. It’s about endorsing state-sanctioned discrimination.”

Byers said .000047% of athletes in Kansas schools are transgender girls.

The legislation is about “bullying somebody who’s different,” Byers said.

“It’s heartbreaking for the community at large,” Byers said. “You get a 15-year-old kid who’s going to try to tell his classmates that he’s really a girl. And she’s all set, ready to do this. And she’s found a teacher who’s supportive, and she’s found a counselor who is supportive. And then an article runs about the state banning trans girls, or an article runs about other states like Alabama or Florida or wherever, considering or passing laws to ban affirmative health care. All that bravery begins to wane. Because the minute you say something, people are looking at you differently.”


Kansas Reflector is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Kansas Reflector maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Sherman Smith for questions: info@kansasreflector.com. Follow Kansas Reflector on Facebook and Twitter.

Congressional map drawn by Kansas Republicans is unconstitutional, Wyandotte County judge rules

Wyandotte County District Judge Bill Klapper ruled Monday that Kansas Republicans violated the state constitution by targeting residents on the basis of politics and race when drawing new congressional districts.

Klapper’s order, which is certain to be appealed to the Kansas Supreme Court, blocks the state from preparing for the congressional election until a new map is drawn. The judge ordered the Legislature to come up with “a remedial plan” as soon as possible.

Republicans drew a map that divides the Kansas City metro along Interstate 70, separating a diverse community in the northern part of Wyandotte County from the 3rd District, making it more difficult for the state’s only Democrat in Congress, U.S. Rep. Sharice Davids, to win reelection. The map avoids giving Democrats an edge in the 2nd District by carving Lawrence out of Douglas County and placing the liberal-leaning community into the highly conservative 1st District that extends to the Colorado border.

The ruling follows a consolidated trial for three lawsuits that were filed in response to a new congressional map passed by the Legislature this session. The American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas, former federal prosecutors Barry Grissom and Stephen McAllister, and the D.C.-based Elias Group and Campaign Legal Center were involved in challenging the map.

“We are thankful that Judge Klapper saw this map for what it was — a deliberate attempt to silence the political voices of Democratic and minority Kansans,” said Sharon Brett, legal director for the ACLU of Kansas. “Although we know this case is not over yet, we look forward to settling this issue and securing the rights of our clients in the Kansas Supreme Court.”

This is the first time a gerrymandering cases has been litigated in Kansas courts.

The Kansas Supreme Court tasked Klapper with determining whether the Kansas Constitution contains protections against dividing communities of color and partisan gerrymandering, with the understanding the ruling would be appealed regardless of the decision. Federal courts previously handled these disputes, until a U.S. Supreme Court decision in 2019 determined federal courts should have no say on the topic.

Plaintiffs pointed to comments made in 2020 by former Senate President Susan Wagle, who said a Republican supermajority in the Legislature would allow the party to draw congressional districts that ensure the state only elects Republicans. As Wagle predicted, the two-thirds majority allowed the Legislature to override a veto by Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly.

In a statement, House Republican leadership said “it is not surprising that a partisan Democrat judge sided with Laura Kelly’s East coast special interest groups to usurp lawfully enacted maps approved by a supermajority of the people’s representatives. We look forward to the Attorney General’s appeal of this erroneous decision.”

Attorneys hired by Republican Attorney General Derek Schmidt, who faces Kelly in this year’s gubernatorial race, argued that the redrawn map still gives Davids a chance to win reelection.

Klapper agreed with the argument that lawmakers produced maps that dilute the voting power of residents in Wyandotte County and Lawrence, violating multiple protections found in the state constitution’s Bill of Rights.

“No surprise,” said Senate President Ty Masterson, a Republican from Andover. “On to the next step.”

Senior reporter Tim Carpenter contributed to this story.


Kansas Reflector is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Kansas Reflector maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Sherman Smith for questions: info@kansasreflector.com. Follow Kansas Reflector on Facebook and Twitter.

Kansas GOP senator warns doctors of consequences for failure to treat COVID-19 with ivermectin

Kansas Sen. Mark Steffen bragged about the attention he received for sending a threatening letter to doctors encouraging the use of ivermectin for early treatment of COVID-19 based on a law the Legislature didn’t pass.

In a Facebook post from his personal account, Steffen said he sent the letter — dated March 31 and written on “Senate Chamber” letterhead — to “over 250 Kansas hospitals, clinics and government agencies.”

The Republican and anesthesiologist from Hutchinson pointed out the letter earned praise in a tweet from Peter McCullough, a national figure known for spreading misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines and the off-label use of drugs like ivermectin.

McCullough called Steffen “an American hero.”

Steffen called the tweet “humbling.”

Steffen has championed proposed legislation that would shield doctors from discipline for prescribing unproven treatments for COVID-19, and require pharmacists to fill those prescriptions. He revealed that he was under investigation by the Kansas Board of Healing Arts after personally prescribing ivermectin to patients.

The Senate passed the bill, but the House didn’t consider it before adjourning last week for a three-week break.

In his letter, Steffen said support for the law means doctors no longer have to worry about interference from pharmacists or the Board of Healing Arts. Furthermore, Steffen wrote, the “legal community” has indicated that a failure to prescribe drugs like ivermectin will be considered “wanton disregard.”

Jeremy Presley, a family physician in Dodge City, said he was shocked by the unsolicited correspondence from a state senator he had never heard from before.

“I interpreted it as the intent being, ‘This is the word and you will follow it,’ and, ‘This is me warning you,'” Presley said. “I mean, it’s worded in a mildly threatening manner.”

Medical literature doesn’t support Steffen’s claims about the use of off-label drugs to treat COVID-19, Presley said.

“Basically,” Presley said, the letter is “blatantly telling us that you will be guilty of malpractice by not providing this care.”

Presley said he wasn’t aware before checking with colleagues that the Legislature didn’t actually pass the law referenced in the letter. He now reads the letter as “a bald-faced lie,” Presley said.

“It really came across as a real threat,” Presley said. “It’s telling us this is the law, and here’s your expectation, and you will do this or you will be held accountable for it. So not something I want to hear from a elected official.”

Steffen didn’t immediately respond to emails seeking comment for this story.

Susan Gile, acting executive director of the Board of Healing Arts, said the board hasn’t provided any direction regarding the use of specific medications for COVID-19.

However, the board provided some direction for the use of off-label drug prescriptions in a Feb. 8, 2022, memo. The memo said investigations into the use of off-label drugs to treat COVID-19 will be based on the “standard of care,” which can generally be defined as “what a reasonable physician would have done under the same or similar circumstance.”

“The board cautions health care professionals to ensure that they are complying with the standard of care and standards of professional conduct in regard to any prescription order for ‘off-label’ use of drugs,” the memo said.

The memo said the board has not taken any public disciplinary action against a physician for off-label prescriptions to treat COVID-19.

Steffen’s letter begins with a passage about the two-year struggle to respond to COVID-19 and the “legal duty” a health care provider has to facilitate treatment as quickly as possible.

Delays in treatment, he wrote, are no longer acceptable.

“All providers caring for those infected with Covid must have mastery of protocols heretofore considered beyond the FDA or CDC,” Steffen wrote.

Doctors use drugs like Paxlovid because studies show they are effective in treating COVID-19. But Steffen pointed out there are concerns about the availability of those drugs, and that those drugs can cause problems when interacting with other medications. Meanwhile, Steffen wrote, “ivermectin, hydroxychloroquine, and fluvoxamine remain readily available and are historically well tolerated.”

Peer-reviewed clinical trials routinely show those drugs provide no benefit in the prevention or treatment of COVID-19. Still, Steffen said “hundreds of studies” show the drugs have “significant efficacy that can no longer be dismissed.”

“With the recent passage of Senate substitute for HB 2280 by the Kansas Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee and subsequently the Senate as a whole, there is no reason to think that prescribing problems will arise from pharmacist or Board of Healing Arts interference,” Steffen wrote. “In consultation with the legal community, indications are that ‘failure to treat’ will now be considered ‘wanton disregard.’ As such, any perceived statutory immunity will be rendered invalid.

“Providing care to the ill is difficult yet rewarding when done correctly and with a patient­-first approach. I wish you the very best as our treatment of Covid becomes more sophisticated.”

Rachelle Colombo, executive director of the Kansas Medical Society, said Steffen’s letter has prompted questions from physicians.

“While it’s concerning and confusing to those who have received the letter, because it is presented as factual and authoritative, there should be no confusion that the Board of Healing Arts is the arbiter of standard of care,” Colombo said.

She also said physicians could look to a recent opinion issued by Attorney General Derek Schmidt for guidance on the topic.

The March 24 opinion from Schmidt was written in response to Senate President Ty Masterson and concludes that “nothing in Kansas or federal law prohibits the off-label prescribing of FDA approved drugs such as ivermectin or hydroxychloroquine for the prevention or treatment of COVID-19.”

“In so prescribing, physicians and other prescribers are bound by professional standards of care in the treatment of patients,” Schmidt wrote. “Determinations as to standard of care are factual determinations based on the particular circumstances of treatment and, as such, is outside the scope of this opinion.”

Mike Pirner, spokesman for Senate leadership, said “senators all choose their letterhead” and Steffen’s use of “Senate Chamber” at the top of the letter “has no relation to leadership or the Senate.”

COVID-19 has killed 8,397 Kansans since the start of the pandemic, according to an official count from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. The agency has recorded more than 770,000 infections.

Medical professionals encourage the use of safe and effective vaccines to prevent serious illness from COVID-19. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 71.6% of Kansas adults have been fully vaccinated.


Kansas Reflector is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Kansas Reflector maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Sherman Smith for questions: info@kansasreflector.com. Follow Kansas Reflector on Facebook and Twitter.

NOW WATCH: Trump supporter get stumped by comedian after blaming antifa for the Jan. 6 attack

Trump supporter get stumped by comedian after blaming antifa for the Jan. 6 attack www.youtube.com

Pro-Trump huckster peddles bogus election conspiracies with Kansas lawmakers at Topeka church

Douglas Frank entertained a church crowd in Topeka with bogus conspiracies about hacked voting rolls, fake ballots, machines secretly connected to cellphone towers and a plot by technocrats to predetermine the outcome of elections.

The March 15 performance followed a presentation hours earlier before the House Elections Committee, where the Republican chairman admonished Frank for denigrating and promoting violence against government officials.

Frank, backed by MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, travels the country propping up the Big Lie with talk of “a sixth order polynomial,” Frank’s discredited algorithm for finding irregularities in voting data. In his appearances before state legislatures, Frank describes himself as a math teacher from Ohio. Community Church in Topeka billed Frank as “a world-renowned physicist” for a “special event” that would answer the question: “Are elections in Kansas safe?” Four Republican members of the House were among an estimated 50 people in attendance.

“Your secretary of state knew before the election that your books are completely hackable, that your poll books, when you sign in when you go to the polls, are completely hackable,” Frank said in audio obtained by Kansas Reflector. “They knew it. And they were hacked big time. Because we have recordings of that. By the way, those recordings have usernames and passwords. I have the usernames and passwords for all your county clerks in your state. That’s how secure they are.”

Secretary of State Scott Schwab said his office reviews voter rolls and computer logs regularly and hasn’t seen any evidence of compromise.

“These types of unfounded allegations,” Schwab said, “are harmful to our republic.”

Frank doesn’t let facts get in the way.

President Joe Biden’s legitimate victory in the 2020 election is the culmination of a scheme that began in the 1990s, Frank said, to gradually pad voter registration rolls so that fake advanced ballots could be generated to sway elections. Nationally, he pegged the fraud at 30 million ballots. In Kansas, he said without evidence, there were 45,000 phantom voters.

“If you want to stay red, you have to fix this problem,” Frank said, without offering a solution.

Joining Frank in the presentation of flawed and fake analysis were retired Air Force Lt. Col. Gregory Shuey, who came equipped with a QAnon explanation for how the election was stolen from Donald Trump, and Dakota Davis, a data scientist from the Kansas Voter Research Project. Kansas Reflector couldn’t readily find an online record of the organization.

Rep. Tatum Lee, R-Ness City; Rep. Randy Garber, R-Sabetha; and Rep. Cheryl Helmer, R-Mulvane, addressed the crowd. Rep. Clarke Sanders, R-Salina, also was there, speakers said.

“The Democrats aren’t our problem up here in Topeka,” Lee said. “And let me just tell you, Topeka is worse than we thought. It’s terrible. It’s absolutely terrible. But it’s not the Democrats. We know where they stand. We know they’ll stab us in the back, because we know what we know, right? It’s those that come to your Republican events, and they tell you how conservative they are. It’s the RINOs.”

‘Purge the evil’

Frank warmed up the church crowd with a charming story about how he has been married to his high school sweetheart for 40 years.

The couple has three children. The youngest, a son, is 19.

“He says there are no conservative girls left in the world,” Frank said. “So what I do is, when I come home from my trips and I find these really beautiful 19-year-old girls, I take selfies with them, and I get their information. So every time I come home for two or three days, I say, ‘Here are some more, son.’ It’s pretty fun.”

Frank received a warmer welcome at the church than he did for his performance earlier in the day in the House.

Garber had invited Frank to testify at a hearing in February, and Frank returned for an encore after Garber helped secure a meeting between Frank and Nemaha County election officials. This time, Rep. Emil Bergquist, a Park City Republican who chairs the Elections Committee, began the hearing by raising concerns about one of Frank’s messages on the Telegram social media platform.

Using his “Follow the Data with Dr. Frank” account, Frank on Dec. 18, 2021, posted an image of a mob carrying pitchforks and sickles. Taking inspiration from a passage of “Deuteronomy,” Frank wrote: “Imagine if someone has a gutless and corrupt official who does not respect the constitution nor the will of their constituents, the citizens shall take hold of him and bring him to the elders at the gate of his town. They shall say to the elders, ‘This official of ours is gutless and corrupt. He ignores the will of the people. He is tyrannical and evil.’ Then all the men of his town are to stone him to death. You must purge the evil from among you. All communities will hear of it and be afraid.”

“Oh, wait,” Frank added. “That’s what a tar and feathering is … torches and pitchforks. We already have that. We don’t need more laws. We need accountability. And it’s up to the citizens to make it happen.”

Bergquist told Frank there is no room in civil government for threats, mob burnings or lynching.

“We are blessed with a process that few others in the world see. Freedom of speech and civil discourse. That is all we need here,” Bergquist said. “And that’s what we came here for. Without these, we lose this gift of liberty that God has blessed us with.”

Frank proceeded to describe how easily an election can be stolen, using Nemaha County as an example.

Bloated voter registration rolls are central to Frank’s argument. People often move without updating their voter registration, and election officials have to be careful about whom they delete from records.

The idea is “they” — when pressed by legislators on the panel, Frank identified Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates and George Soros as likely culprits — decide the outcome of an election in advance, then print ballots that correspond to excess registrations and have them delivered to drop boxes en masse.

If that isn’t enough, they can hack into voting machines that secretly connect to cellphone towers while monitoring results on election night.

“Before all the elections, they get together?” said Rep. John Toplikar, R-Olathe. “The ‘they’ people get together and decide what they’re going to do?”

“Somebody does,” Frank said.

Rep. Vic Miller, D-Topeka, joked that he has “hard evidence” of voter fraud within his district.

“I only got 70% of the vote,” Miller said. “When people I talked to, every one of them said they voted for me.”

‘Why even vote?’

Frank’s conspiracy theory quickly falls apart under scrutiny.

Advance ballots contain a unique barcode and must be matched to a voter’s signature. Even if those security measurers could be thwarted, Rep. Ken Collins, R-Mulberry, pointed out, the scheme would require a lot of manpower, and it would be difficult to keep everybody quiet.

The best evidence Frank could offer was reference to a video showing a lot of ballots being transported in another state. The obvious explanation: It was a Post Office driver.

Frank, who referenced his appearances in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Arizona and Georgia, said he plans to canvass Kansas voters to find evidence of fraud.

Rep. Pat Proctor, R-Leavenworth, wondered why someone would go to such trouble to rig an election on behalf of Democrats and still give Republicans a supermajority in both the House and Senate in Kansas.

“What did they accomplish?” Proctor said. “Because there’s a huge risk to engaging in felonies to sway an election. What’s the point?”

Maybe the goal wasn’t to win in 2020, Frank said. Maybe they are looking at a longer-term strategy.

Bergquist reminded Frank of a conversation the two had the night before the hearing, in which the chairman told him not to denigrate anyone. And yet, Bergquist said, Frank had made hurtful remarks about county officials who weren’t present to defend themselves.

“Forget about a political year — talk about individuals and their lives,” Bergquist said.

The 105 counties in the state are filled with people who “do their very best to present a good election for their people,” Bergquist said.

The people of Kansans “would love to have a nation that they can depend on for the next 100 years,” Bergquist said, and few people are intentionally trying to destroy it.

“There’s going to be a lot of comments come back from counties all over the state, saying, ‘Do we even have an election? Is there any reason for us to hold an election? From what you’ve told us today, there’s probably no way we can fix it in a short time. So why even vote?’ ” Bergquist said.

Bergquist also directed his attention toward Lee, the panel member who would join Frank at the church later that evening. Lee apologized to Frank for the rudeness of committee members.

“You don’t need to apologize for anybody but yourself,” Bergquist said.

Schwab said Frank wasn’t being honest during the hearing when he claimed the secretary of state had refused to meet with him to review evidence of voter fraud. Schwab said his office provided several opportunities for a meeting and didn’t get a response.

“I hope future presenters who claim fraud in Kansas review our election laws prior to presenting to at least know Kansas has voter ID and signature verification,” Schwab said.

‘Guns and Jesus’

At Community Church, Lee told the crowd that legislators were getting tired with the end of the session.

“We’re a little bit grumpy. Holy Spirit help us,” Lee said. “I was praying in tongues today in the Elections Committee. I was like, ‘I don’t know if you’re Pentecostal, Dr. Frank, but I’m praying for you.’ ”

Lee directed her frustration at Republican leadership in the House who initially resisted calls for a special session last fall to address federal mandates regarding COVID-19 vaccines. Only 19 of the 165 legislators “care about your liberty,” Lee said.

“This is not a popular message with my colleagues, by the way, in the Capitol, because nobody wants to talk about these things, because we don’t want to tell on our own party,” Lee said. “But I’m telling you, we’ve been hijacked.”

Lee encouraged everybody in attendance to figure out who represents them in the Statehouse and start holding them accountable.

“And you let them know, ‘We will fire you,’ ” Lee said. “And then you tell your neighbors and then you tell your coffee group. And you know what? We can’t play anymore, you all. We’re done playing. I am done sitting in sweet little meetings in churches like this.”

She continued: “If you’re not doing your job, you don’t know what to say to your state rep or senator when they come back to your district and tell you how wonderful they are, and they love guns and Jesus. There’s more to liberty than guns and Jesus. But if you’re not holding them accountable, we deserve what we get.”

‘Greatest crime in American history’

Shuey, the retired lieutenant colonel, told the church crowd he flew 350 solo combat missions in Vietnam.

“I don’t like Marxists in my government,” Shuey said. “I tried to shoot as many of them as I could.”

Shuey engaged the crowd with a QAnon theory known as Italygate and fueled by dark money interests.

His story begins like the start of a bad joke: An Italian general, a CIA operative and State Department official walk into the second floor of the U.S. embassy in Rome.

At 11 p.m. on election night, when Trump held a small lead, there was a coordinated effort to halt ballot counting in five states where the results were close, Shuey says without explaining who or how such a thing could be coordinated. Back in Rome, the aforementioned operatives compel an IT worker to hijack voting machines using an encrypted satellite signal and change the outcome. Voting resumed at 3 a.m., and by 6 a.m. Biden was ahead of Trump.

In reality, officials were busy counting a record number of advanced ballots and those cast in densely populated urban centers, both of which favored Biden.

The way Shuey sees it, the 2020 election “was the greatest crime in American history because it stole our country.”

He said “cheating has been going on forever,” and pointed to 1860 as an example of a “fraudulent election.”

Davis, who said she has a master’s degree in biostatistics from the University of Kansas Medical Center and a PhD in epidemiology, told the church crowd that voter registration lists are “dirty and not properly maintained.”

“If the things we are feeding into our electoral process and into our elections is dirty and smells a little bit like the garbage we take out every week, then why do we expect the outcomes from the elections to somehow be this nice, clean-smelling house?” Davis said.

Her big revelation: Seven Kansans with a documented age of 219 years old participated in the 2020 election.

“Tell me how that happens,” Davis said.

Davis Hammett, president of Loud Light, which advocates for voting rights, said the federal Help America Vote Act of 2002 required counties to digitize voter registrations, and some counties didn’t previously record birthdays. The software filled in the blanks with a birthdate of Jan. 1, 1800. The seven Kansans referenced by Davis would be legal, eligible voters who haven’t moved in the past 20 years.

“It’s really easy to just make up bullsh*t, and if you have a receptive audience, you can just make it up super fast,” Hammet said. “It’s very time consuming to actually understand how they make that falsehood and then start to debunk why it’s not true.”

‘Blame it on the leaders’

Helmer, one of the four legislators in attendance, said these are desperate times.

People in the Statehouse “think I’m half looney,” Helmer said, and “won’t talk to me.”

“We are here tonight because of President Trump,” Helmer said. “I see it. I hear it. We’re all very concerned. And so what I heard tonight was something that hurt me very bad.”

She was referring to anger being directed at Republicans.

“I’m a Republican,” Helmer said. “I’m about as conservative as you can get. I am a real conservative. I want your vote.”

Helmer said Republicans have “some harsh leaders” who “try to keep us in line.”

“So if you have to,” Helmer said, “blame it on the leaders.”

“Please, dear God, pray for freedom. Pray for conservatism. And don’t leave tonight mad at Republicans,” Helmer said.


Kansas Reflector is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Kansas Reflector maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Sherman Smith for questions: info@kansasreflector.com. Follow Kansas Reflector on Facebook and Twitter.

Big Lie huckster peddles bogus election conspiracies with Kansas lawmakers at Topeka church

TOPEKA — Douglas Frank entertained a church crowd in Topeka with bogus conspiracies about hacked voting rolls, fake ballots, machines secretly connected to cellphone towers and a plot by technocrats to predetermine the outcome of elections.

The March 15 performance followed a presentation hours earlier before the House Elections Committee, where the Republican chairman admonished Frank for denigrating and promoting violence against government officials.

Frank, backed by MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, travels the country propping up the Big Lie with talk of “a sixth order polynomial,” Frank’s discredited algorithm for finding irregularities in voting data. In his appearances before state legislatures, Frank describes himself as a math teacher from Ohio. Community Church in Topeka billed Frank as “a world-renowned physicist” for a “special event” that would answer the question: “Are elections in Kansas safe?” Four Republican members of the House were among an estimated 50 people in attendance.

“Your secretary of state knew before the election that your books are completely hackable, that your poll books, when you sign in when you go to the polls, are completely hackable,” Frank said in audio obtained by Kansas Reflector. “They knew it. And they were hacked big time. Because we have recordings of that. By the way, those recordings have usernames and passwords. I have the usernames and passwords for all your county clerks in your state. That’s how secure they are.”

Secretary of State Scott Schwab said his office reviews voter rolls and computer logs regularly and hasn’t seen any evidence of compromise.

“These types of unfounded allegations,” Schwab said, “are harmful to our republic.”

Frank doesn’t let facts get in the way.

President Joe Biden’s legitimate victory in the 2020 election is the culmination of a scheme that began in the 1990s, Frank said, to gradually pad voter registration rolls so that fake advanced ballots could be generated to sway elections. Nationally, he pegged the fraud at 30 million ballots. In Kansas, he said without evidence, there were 45,000 phantom voters.

“If you want to stay red, you have to fix this problem,” Frank said, without offering a solution.

Joining Frank in the presentation of flawed and fake analysis were retired Air Force Lt. Col. Gregory Shuey, who came equipped with a QAnon explanation for how the election was stolen from Donald Trump, and Dakota Davis, a data scientist from the Kansas Voter Research Project. Kansas Reflector couldn’t readily find an online record of the organization.

Rep. Tatum Lee, R-Ness City; Rep. Randy Garber, R-Sabetha; and Rep. Cheryl Helmer, R-Mulvane, addressed the crowd. Rep. Clarke Sanders, R-Salina, also was there, speakers said.

“The Democrats aren’t our problem up here in Topeka,” Lee said. “And let me just tell you, Topeka is worse than we thought. It’s terrible. It’s absolutely terrible. But it’s not the Democrats. We know where they stand. We know they’ll stab us in the back, because we know what we know, right? It’s those that come to your Republican events, and they tell you how conservative they are. It’s the RINOs.”

‘Purge the evil’

Frank warmed up the church crowd with a charming story about how he has been married to his high school sweetheart for 40 years.

The couple has three children. The youngest, a son, is 19.

“He says there are no conservative girls left in the world,” Frank said. “So what I do is, when I come home from my trips and I find these really beautiful 19-year-old girls, I take selfies with them, and I get their information. So every time I come home for two or three days, I say, ‘Here are some more, son.’ It’s pretty fun.”

Frank received a warmer welcome at the church than he did for his performance earlier in the day in the House.

Garber had invited Frank to testify at a hearing in February, and Frank returned for an encore after Garber helped secure a meeting between Frank and Nemaha County election officials. This time, Rep. Emil Bergquist, a Park City Republican who chairs the Elections Committee, began the hearing by raising concerns about one of Frank’s messages on the Telegram social media platform.

Using his “Follow the Data with Dr. Frank” account, Frank on Dec. 18, 2021, posted an image of a mob carrying pitchforks and sickles. Taking inspiration from a passage of “Deuteronomy,” Frank wrote: “Imagine if someone has a gutless and corrupt official who does not respect the constitution nor the will of their constituents, the citizens shall take hold of him and bring him to the elders at the gate of his town. They shall say to the elders, ‘This official of ours is gutless and corrupt. He ignores the will of the people. He is tyrannical and evil.’ Then all the men of his town are to stone him to death. You must purge the evil from among you. All communities will hear of it and be afraid.”

“Oh, wait,” Frank added. “That’s what a tar and feathering is … torches and pitchforks. We already have that. We don’t need more laws. We need accountability. And it’s up to the citizens to make it happen.”

Bergquist told Frank there is no room in civil government for threats, mob burnings or lynching.

“We are blessed with a process that few others in the world see. Freedom of speech and civil discourse. That is all we need here,” Bergquist said. “And that’s what we came here for. Without these, we lose this gift of liberty that God has blessed us with.”

Frank proceeded to describe how easily an election can be stolen, using Nemaha County as an example.

Bloated voter registration rolls are central to Frank’s argument. People often move without updating their voter registration, and election officials have to be careful about whom they delete from records.

The idea is “they” — when pressed by legislators on the panel, Frank identified Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates and George Soros as likely culprits — decide the outcome of an election in advance, then print ballots that correspond to excess registrations and have them delivered to drop boxes en masse.

If that isn’t enough, they can hack into voting machines that secretly connect to cellphone towers while monitoring results on election night.

“Before all the elections, they get together?” said Rep. John Toplikar, R-Olathe. “The ‘they’ people get together and decide what they’re going to do?”

“Somebody does,” Frank said.

Rep Vic Miller, D-Topeka, joked that he has “hard evidence” of voter fraud within his district.

“I only got 70% of the vote,” Miller said. “When people I talked to, every one of them said they voted for me.”

‘Why even vote?’

Frank’s conspiracy theory quickly falls apart under scrutiny.

Advance ballots contain a unique barcode and must be matched to a voter’s signature. Even if those security measurers could be thwarted, Rep. Ken Collins, R-Mulberry, pointed out, the scheme would require a lot of manpower, and it would be difficult to keep everybody quiet.

The best evidence Frank could offer was reference to a video showing a lot of ballots being transported in another state. The obvious explanation: It was a Post Office driver.

Frank, who referenced his appearances in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Arizona and Georgia, said he plans to canvass Kansas voters to find evidence of fraud.

Rep. Pat Proctor, R-Leavenworth, wondered why someone would go to such trouble to rig an election on behalf of Democrats and still give Republicans a supermajority in both the House and Senate in Kansas.

“What did they accomplish?” Proctor said. “Because there’s a huge risk to engaging in felonies to sway an election. What’s the point?”

Maybe the goal wasn’t to win in 2020, Frank said. Maybe they are looking at a longer-term strategy.

Bergquist reminded Frank of a conversation the two had the night before the hearing, in which the chairman told him not to denigrate anyone. And yet, Bergquist said, Frank had made hurtful remarks about county officials who weren’t present to defend themselves.

“Forget about a political year — talk about individuals and their lives,” Bergquist said.

The 105 counties in the state are filled with people who “do their very best to present a good election for their people,” Bergquist said.

The people of Kansans “would love to have a nation that they can depend on for the next 100 years,” Bergquist said. Few people are intentionally trying to destroy it.

“There’s going to be a lot of comments come back from counties all over the state, saying, ‘Do we even have an election? Is there any reason for us to hold an election? From what you’ve told us today, there’s probably no way we can fix it in a short time. So why even vote?’ ” Bergquist said.

Bergquist also directed his attention toward Lee, the panel member who would join Frank at the church later that evening. Lee apologized to Frank for the rudeness of committee members.

“You don’t need to apologize for anybody but yourself,” Bergquist said.

Schwab said Frank wasn’t being honest during the hearing when he claimed the secretary of state had refused to meet with him to review evidence of voter fraud. Schwab said his office provided several opportunities for a meeting and didn’t get a response.

“I hope future presenters who claim fraud in Kansas review our election laws prior to presenting to at least know Kansas has voter ID and signature verification,” Schwab said.

‘Guns and Jesus’

At Community Church, Lee told the crowd that legislators were getting tired with the end of the session.

“We’re a little bit grumpy. Holy Spirit help us,” Lee said. “I was praying in tongues today in the Elections Committee. I was like, ‘I don’t know if you’re Pentecostal, Dr. Frank, but I’m praying for you.’ ”

Lee directed her frustration at Republican leadership in the House who initially resisted calls for a special session last fall to address federal mandates regarding COVID-19 vaccines. Only 19 of the 165 legislators “care about your liberty,” Lee said.

“This is not a popular message with my colleagues, by the way, in the Capitol, because nobody wants to talk about these things, because we don’t want to tell on our own party,” Lee said. “But I’m telling you, we’ve been hijacked.”

Lee encouraged everybody in attendance to figure out who represents them in the Statehouse and start holding them accountable.

“And you let them know, ‘We will fire you,’ ” Lee said. “And then you tell your neighbors and then you tell your coffee group. And you know what? We can’t play anymore, you all. We’re done playing. I am done sitting in sweet little meetings in churches like this.”

She continued: “If you’re not doing your job, you don’t know what to say to your state rep or senator when they come back to your district and tell you how wonderful they are, and they love guns and Jesus. There’s more to liberty than guns and Jesus. But if you’re not holding them accountable, we deserve what we get.”

‘Greatest crime in American history’

Shuey, the retired lieutenant colonel, told the church crowd he flew 350 solo combat missions in Vietnam.

“I don’t like Marxists in my government,” Shuey said. “I tried to shoot as many of them as I could.”

Shuey engaged the crowd with a QAnon theory known as Italygate and fueled by dark money interests.

His story begins like the start of a bad joke: An Italian general, a CIA operative and State Department official walk into the second floor of the U.S. embassy in Rome.

At 11 p.m. on election night, when Trump held a small lead, there was a coordinated effort to halt ballot counting in five states where the results were close, Shuey says without explaining who or how such a thing could be coordinated. Back in Rome, the aforementioned operatives compel an IT worker to hijack voting machines using an encrypted satellite signal and change the outcome. Voting resumed at 3 a.m., and by 6 a.m. Biden was ahead of Trump.

In reality, officials were busy counting a record number of advanced ballots and those cast in densely populated urban centers, both of which favored Biden.

The way Shuey sees it, the 2020 election “was the greatest crime in American history because it stole our country.”

He said “cheating has been going on forever,” and pointed to 1860 as an example of a “fraudulent election.”

Davis, who said she has a master’s degree in biostatistics from the University of Kansas Medical Center and a PhD in epidemiology, told the church crowd that voter registration lists are “dirty and not properly maintained.”

“If the things we are feeding into our electoral process and into our elections is dirty and smells a little bit like the garbage we take out every week, then why do we expect the outcomes from the elections to somehow be this nice, clean-smelling house?” Davis said.

Her big revelation: Seven Kansans with a documented age of 219 years old participated in the 2020 election.

“Tell me how that happens,” Davis said.

Davis Hammett, president of Loud Light, which advocates for voting rights, said the federal Help America Vote Act of 2002 required counties to digitize voter registrations, and some counties didn’t previously record birthdays. The software filled in the blanks with a birthdate of Jan. 1, 1800. The seven Kansans referenced by Davis would be legal, eligible voters who haven’t moved in the past 20 years.

“It’s really easy to just make up bullsh*t, and if you have a receptive audience, you can just make it up super fast,” Hammet said. “It’s very time consuming to actually understand how they make that falsehood and then start to debunk why it’s not true.”

‘Blame it on the leaders’

Helmer, one of the four legislators in attendance, said these are desperate times.

People in the Statehouse “think I’m half looney,” Helmer said, and “won’t talk to me.”

“We are here tonight because of President Trump,” Helmer said. “I see it. I hear it. We’re all very concerned. And so what I heard tonight was something that hurt me very bad.”

She was referring to anger being directed at Republicans.

“I’m a Republican,” Helmer said. “I’m about as conservative as you can get. I am a real conservative. I want your vote.”

Helmer said Republicans have “some harsh leaders” who “try to keep us in line.”

“So if you have to,” Helmer said, “blame it on the leaders.”

“Please, dear God, pray for freedom. Pray for conservatism. And don’t leave tonight mad at Republicans,” Helmer said.

Kansas Reflector is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Kansas Reflector maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Sherman Smith for questions: info@kansasreflector.com. Follow Kansas Reflector on Facebook and Twitter.

Kansas woman embarks on risky journey to retrieve sister’s children from Ukraine

TOPEKA — Oksana Seitz left Kansas on Tuesday with plans to travel to Romania and return with her Ukrainian sister’s two children by persuading embassy officials to expedite visas or, if necessary, taking the kids to Mexico and slipping across the U.S. border on foot.

The daring journey signifies the risks Ukrainian immigrants are willing to take to help family in their war-torn homeland, and the sea of confusing paperwork Seitz must navigate without guarantee of expediency.

“I’m scared. I’m devastated. And I will do anything to bring these children back,” Seitz said in an interview as she prepared to board a plane. “I need all the help that I can get. And of course I’m scared of what is happening to my country, to my friends, my relatives.”

Seitz, who is now a U.S. citizen, came from Ukraine to Kansas in 1998 in hopes of providing better opportunities for her daughter. She now lives in Emporia, and her daughter is studying to become a surgical nurse.

Seitz’s mother and sister still live in Mykolaiv, a city near the Black Sea that is under siege by the Russians.

Her sister, a nurse, must remain because she is needed at the hospital at all times. Her brother-in-law has been drafted into active duty.

The 79-year-old mother brought the sister’s 11- and 15-year-old children to Romania, where she plans to turn them over to Seitz and then go back to her home in Mykolaiv.

“I need to help my family,” Seitz said. “If I cannot save my mom, my sister, my brother-in-law, at least I’m trying to save my niece and nephew.”

Seitz’s plan was to head to the U.S. embassy in Bucharest and figure out how to take guardianship of the children and secure travel visas, if possible. Her boyfriend of more than five years, Dustin Ochs, has been in contact with authorities there and plans catch a flight to meet up with Seitz in a few days.

The advance legwork indicates a massive administrative backlog as millions try to flee Ukraine. Ochs said one official told him the visa process could take up to 567 days. Another said the first available date would be August, but that they may qualify for an emergency expedition.

If that doesn’t work out, the couple plans to fly the kids into Mexico with the understanding that there is no visa requirement to enter the country, then present paperwork at the U.S. border showing she has guardianship of the children.

If that doesn’t work, they will “try to walk across the border,” with a couple of places in mind, Ochs said.

Seitz said she understands there are risks to this plan.

“Yes, I am aware of that,” she said. “I try to do everything legal. I don’t want to do anything illegal. I don’t understand why, during this hard time for Ukraine, the United States does not accept refugees, at least for kids. There need to be some exceptions for innocent kids.”

Kansas Reflector is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Kansas Reflector maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Sherman Smith for questions: info@kansasreflector.com. Follow Kansas Reflector on Facebook and Twitter.

Kansas Senate’s latest attack on health authorities features another Holocaust comparison

Johnson County resident Melissa Campbell urged state senators Tuesday to remove the authority of state and local health authorities to order quarantines to prevent the spread of an infectious disease.

State law doesn’t provide details about what it means to quarantine, Campbell said, and she fears the worst. Senate Bill 489 would fix that by stripping the secretary of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment and county-level health officers of their powers.

“I go back to old history, and I feel like if we were to not pass out 489, and we did not listen to the voices of the people, you know, we would be giving the state, the KDHE secretary specifically, the opportunity to put my family in what could appear to be like a concentration camp environment,” Campbell said.

Anti-vaxxers and anti-maskers have repeatedly made comparisons between their suffering and that of victims in the Holocaust, in which the Nazis imprisoned, tortured, experimented on, and murdered millions of Jewish people. Last year, in the leadup to a special session to respond to federal vaccine mandates, a family wore gold stars to a legislative hearing.

At Tuesday’s hearing in the Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee, Sen. Pat Pettey, D-Kansas City, challenged Campbell to defend her comparison. Campbell scoffed in indignation.

“Have you ever been in a concentration camp?” Pettey said.

“Oh my God,” Campbell said. “Have you?”

“In your testimony, I’m sorry, you said that,” Pettey said.

“What I said is that I never want to be in a situation where one of your statutes would allow my family to be taken out of their home to a place of quarantine,” Campbell said. “And when there’s nothing that explains what that may be, and as badly as people have been treated who want freedom, it’s a concern that how bad could it be.”

“So since you don’t like that reference, it would be better not to use that in a public setting like this, because it’s very offensive,” Pettey said.

“I appreciate your opinion,” Campbell said.

The proposed legislation would rewrite state law to remove the state health secretary’s authority to prevent the introduction or spread of infectious or contagious disease. Local health officers would lose their power to restrict public gatherings when necessary to control infectious disease. Health officials could not investigate the spread of contagious disease. And local law enforcement officers would no longer be required to enforce health orders.

Campbell, who said the role of government “is to protect the people from too much government,” joined Greg Smith, a former state senator who now works for the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office, in speaking favorably of the bill.

Smith said law enforcement officers didn’t like being in the position of having to enforce the law when it meant carrying out things like the governor’s stay at home order in the early weeks of the pandemic in 2020. The proposed legislation doesn’t apply to the governor’s emergency orders.

“We had a very confused public when the stay in place order was issued,” Smith said. “We had people calling 911 to let us know that their neighbor got in their car and left the house. I mean, things got that crazy.”

He also expressed concern that officers would be forced to enter a dangerous situation without protective equipment for a contagious disease. And he objected to asking deputies to forcibly remove a child from a parent because of a health risk, something that never happened as a result of a health officer’s order.

The Senate panel also returned its attention to Senate Substitute for House Bill 2280, which would allow doctors to prescribe ivermectin or other drugs for off-label use in the treatment of COVID-19 without fear of being disciplined by health authorities. Sen. Mark Steffen, an anesthesiologist and Hutchinson Republican, introduced policies contained in the bill, and revealed he was under investigation by the Kansas Board of Healing Arts after prescribing ivermectin to patients.

The panel adopted two amendments introduced by Sen. Beverly Gossage, R-Eudora. One of the amendments removes a retroactive clause that would have cleared Steffen of any wrongdoing. The other allows pharmacists to reject a prescription if they believe there is a problem with the dosage or if it will conflict with another medication, but not on the basis of using the drug to treat COVID-19.

The hearing coincided with the Kansas Pharmacists Association holding an advocacy event in the Statehouse rotunda. Aaron Dunkel, executive director of the association, said the amendment makes the law better.

“It’s way better than taking away any protections that we can provide our patients, which is really what was happening with the original law,” Dunkel said.

A “huge component” of a pharmacist’s job, Dunkel said, involves “professional judgment and doing reviews and making sure that the patient’s health and safety is taken into consideration.”

Sen. Kristen O’Shea, R-Topeka, introduced an amendment that would remove a section of the bill that allows children to opt out of any kind of vaccine that is required for attendance at public schools or child care. Senators ran out of time before taking a vote on the amendment.


Kansas Reflector is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Kansas Reflector maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Sherman Smith for questions: info@kansasreflector.com. Follow Kansas Reflector on Facebook and Twitter.

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Kansas agrees new mail ballot restrictions are unconstitutional, will pay legal fees

A federal court on Friday struck down parts of a new Kansas law that criminalized the distribution of advanced mail ballot applications.

The state agreed not to object to arguments raised by nonprofit organizations that said the 2021 law violates the First and 14th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. The state also agreed not to appeal the decision and will pay attorney fees and court costs of the plaintiffs.

Gov. Laura Kelly vetoed House Bill 2332 last year, but the law was upheld by the GOP supermajority in the Legislature. Motivated by bogus claims of widespread voter fraud in other states, lawmakers targeted out-of-state groups that bombarded voters in 2020 with applications to receive advanced ballots.

VoteAmerica and the Voter Participation Center, which were represented in court by the Campaign Legal Center, filed the lawsuit last year against Secretary of State Scott Schwab, Attorney General Derek Schmidt and Johnson County District Attorney Stephen Howe.

U.S. District Judge Kathryn Vratil issued a temporary order in November blocking enforcement of the law. In her Friday order, Vratil said the contested sections of the law violate the U.S. Constitution.

“This is a big win for civic engagement groups nationwide,” said Danielle Lang, voting rights director at Campaign Legal Center. “Legislators are taking needless aim at folks that are just trying to give voters the materials they need to participate. This decision should serve as a warning to those who target them.”

The law banned the distribution of mail ballot applications by out-of-state groups and made it a crime to send mail ballot applications with the voter’s name and address already filled out.

Tom Lopach, president and CEO of the Voter Participation Center, said the court order will allow civic engagement groups to continue working to make voting access easier.

“We’re proud that we fought back against this effort to limit access to our democracy and won,” Lopach said. “At the Voter Participation Center, we will keep fighting to overturn anti-voter efforts and ensure every American can make their voice heard.”


Kansas Reflector is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Kansas Reflector maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Sherman Smith for questions: info@kansasreflector.com. Follow Kansas Reflector on Facebook and Twitter.

‘Worry about the Indians raiding’: Kansas education commissioner under fire for 'joke'

TOPEKA — Kansas education commissioner Randy Watson said during a conference earlier this month that as a child, he convinced his out-of-state cousins that American Indians posed a bigger threat to their safety than tornadoes.

Gov. Laura Kelly and three state representatives with American Indian heritage have called on Watson to resign over the remark, and the Kansas State Board of Education plans to discuss the situation in a closed-door meeting Friday.

The Kansas State Department of Education provided access to the video of Watson’s remarks in response to an open records request filed Wednesday by Kansas Reflector. The video is of Watson’s hourlong keynote presentation at the Kansas Virtual Learning Conference, which took place from Feb. 14-15.

The event was hosted by the Andover Center for Advanced Professional Studies. About 40 minutes into the presentation, Watson talks about how he used to teach in Andover. Shortly after he left, he said, the town was devastated by the April 1991 tornado outbreak.

He then launched into a sort of stream-of-consciousness rambling about tornado safety, apparently in response to a question from an unseen and unheard conference participant.

“You guys know what do you do when there is a tornado in Kansas? Not if you’re born in Massachusetts, OK, or you’re Canadian — hey hey you hoser,” Watson said. “You’re a Kansan, and the tornado sirens go off. What do you do? We run outside, right? Where’s it at?”

Why? Watson asks. Because you can watch the cloud formulate into a tornado and see tornadoes coming, or even “fall down on top of you.”

“There’s sirens going off. There’s warnings. There’s danger Will Robinson,” Watson said.

He continued: “I had some cousins from California. They were petrified of tornadoes. They’d come visit us, you know, in the summer. They were like, ‘Are we doing to get killed by a tornado?’ And I’d say, ‘Don’t worry about that, but you got to worry about the Indians raiding the town at any time.’ And they really thought that. Grow up in California, I guess you don’t know much of the history of Kansas.”

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Concerns about the remarks, inaccurately transcribed in a Facebook post on Feb. 15, surfaced this week.

The governor said Thursday the state of Kansas and the state Board of Education must take seriously commentary by officials that expressed insensitivity.

“There is no question that Randy Watson must resign his position immediately, given his comments last week,” Kelly said. “However, the Board of Education must also focus on ways to address these issues going forward.”

Kelly said the state should build on “this moment to celebrate diversity and ensure that all Kansas school children are treated with dignity and respect.”

The state Board of Education made Watson the education commissioner in 2014. The board considers Watsons remarks to be a personnel matter, which allows for Friday’s conversation to occur in executive session. If the board were to dismiss Watson, that action would be affirmed in public session.

Rep. Ponka-We Victors-Cozad, a six-term Wichita Democrat and the first American Indian woman to serve in the state Legislature, Rep. Christina Haswood and Rep. Stephanie Byers asked Watson to resign.

Victors-Cozad said she is “appalled and saddened that our Native American youth have to witness the commissioner of education saying these racist remarks about our people.”

“This is why representation and diversity matters — so we can hold officials accountable for what they say,” Victors-Cozad said. “Nothing like this should happen in the future.”

Haswood, a Lawrence Democrat, said comments like the one made by Watson are harmful to Native American youths.

“I represent a large urban Native American population,” Haswood said. “This situation has reopened a trauma that many Indigenous youth experience in the classroom and contributes to the mental health crises that are faced by Indigenous youths at a disproportionate rate. Our Indigenous students simply deserve better.”

Byers, a Wichita Democrat, said modern Native Americans are descendants of survivors.

“We existed and continue to exist in a nation that has not always been willing to recognize our sovereignty,” Byers said. “The current assault on teaching history truthfully highlights the need for a more thorough teaching of the history of Native Americans in Kansas.”

Kansas Reflector is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Kansas Reflector maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Sherman Smith for questions: info@kansasreflector.com. Follow Kansas Reflector on Facebook and Twitter.

Kansas GOP lawmaker convinces his colleagues to back 'dangerous' bill that provides him with legal cover

Sen. Mark Steffen succeeded Tuesday in persuading Republicans on a health panel to advance legislation that would clear him from punishment by state regulators for prescribing ivermectin to COVID-19 patients.

The Hutchinson Republican and anesthesiologist revealed last month he was under investigation by the Kansas Board of Healing Arts. He proposed legislation that would block the board from taking action against doctors who prescribe ivermectin or hydroxychloroquine for off-label uses.

Steffen amended and expanded the bill during committee action Tuesday to give doctors free range to use any drug for COVID-19 treatment and require pharmacists to fill the prescription, while removing protections for both doctors and pharmacists from civil liability if patients are harmed by the treatment. Lawmakers also added language from another of Steffen’s bills that would allow children to opt out of any kind of vaccine requirement at day care facilities and schools without being questioned.

The GOP-led panel then gutted a House bill that dealt with pharmacy regulations, inserted the Steffen bills and advanced it on a voice vote to the full Senate.

“We are moving a bill forward that decreases suffering and death,” Steffen told reporters after the hearing. “We’re moving a bill forward that allows the true standard of care in the early treatment of COVID to reign supreme. This notion that doing nothing is the standard of care is false, inappropriate and has led to crimes against humanity. The bottom line is we took a step forward in helping our Kansas citizens today and protecting our children.”

Steffen said he had not heard anything from the Board of Healing Arts since announcing Jan. 26 he had been under investigation for more than a year.

More than 40 people attended the standing-room-only hearing, in addition to journalists and legislative staff members. Many of the observers were affiliated with a prominent anti-vaccination group and held signs supporting Senate Bill 381.

Sen. Cindy Holscher, D-Overland Park, said the committee provided little notice to opponents of Steffen’s bill, then justified moving forward because there was little opposition. She presented a stack of pages that represented “nearly half” of the complaints about the bill she has received in recent days.

“This is a very dangerous bill,” Holscher said. “It was dangerous before. It’s even more dangerous now with what’s been done.”

Sen. Richard Hilderbrand, a Galena Republican who serves as chairman of the Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee, stopped Holscher from making further comments and accused her of misreading the bill.

“The crutch [sic] of the underlying bill was that the Board of Healing Arts were investigating doctors for prescribing off-label drugs, and the Board of Pharmacy was coming down on some pharmacists for filling off-label drugs in this case,” Hilderbrand said. “That is the crutch [sic]. There is nothing dubious or life-threatening in these bills.”

The two Democrats on the committee, Holscher and Sen. Pat Pettey, of Kansas City, and Republican Sen. Kristen O’Shea, of Topeka, objected to considering Senate Bill 398, dealing with vaccination requirements, before holding a hearing on the matter.

The bill applies language passed during a special session in November, when the Legislature responded to federal vaccine requirements for workers, to expand the application of religious exemptions. The proposal makes it illegal for a school or day care facility to question the sincerity of a child’s religious beliefs.

“This is not just COVID-19 vaccine — it’s all childhood vaccinations,” O’Shea said. “And for us to not even have time to fully read the bill and be asked to vote on it is bad policy.”

Hilderbrand defended the process of combining two bills and inserting them into House Bill 2280.

“For those of you listening online that are getting an impression that this is something unique in committees, it is not,” Hilderbrand said. “This is something done every session. This just happens to be on this certain bill. So I don’t want you to be misled that this is something unique.”

Sen. Mike Thompson, R-Shawnee, said the legislation simply reaffirms religious rights already enshrined in the state constitution. He then repeated his false claims that vaccines are harmful and that COVID-19 poses no threat to children.

“It gives parents discretion as to whether or not they want their kid to take a vaccine that is actually dangerous, and has been proven to be so,” Thompson said. “These kids are not at risk.”

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment’s latest summary of Kansas deaths attributed to COVID-19 included four fatalities among children 0-9 years of age and three fatalities among youth aged 10 to 17.

Thompson also said it was important to “get these people these medicines and give these doctors the latitude they need, because this is the final nail in the coffin.”

Federal regulators and the vast majority of physicians agree there is no benefit to treating COVID-19 with ivermectin or hydroxychloroquine, and that the drugs could be harmful in some cases.

Pettey said the discussion demonstrated a need to hold a hearing on the religious exemption component.

“We are talking about vaccinations of our children, and we’re talking about the safety of all, and we’re not talking about religion,” Pettey said. “So I think it’s important that we keep it in the right context.”


Kansas Reflector is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Kansas Reflector maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Sherman Smith for questions: info@kansasreflector.com. Follow Kansas Reflector on Facebook and Twitter.

Kansas GOP lawmaker seeks legal cover as he faces investigation for prescribing ivermectin for COVID-19

Sen. Mark Steffen revealed Wednesday he is under investigation for prescribing ivermectin to COVID-19 patients, accused the chief medical director of the University of Kansas Health System of spreading propaganda, and challenged him to a public debate.

Steffen, a Republican and anesthesiologist from Hutchinson, introduced legislation that would give himself and other doctors the authority to treat COVID-19 patients with ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine without fear of reprimand. He prevented Senate Bill 381 from being published until late Monday night, then complained that a hearing was postponed Tuesday morning because it gave “the media a 24-hour head start.”

About 60 individuals attended the Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee on Wednesday to support Steffen and others who support his proposed bill. The model legislation, which also has been introduced in Tennessee, would require pharmacists to fill prescriptions for the off-label use of ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine, even though health authorities say the drugs are ineffective in treating COVID-19 and could be harmful. Steffen said he intends to amend a provision in the bill that would grant doctors immunity from civil liability for any damages caused by the drugs.

The bill also would overturn any disciplinary action already taken against physicians for prescribing the drugs and block future discipline. Steffen said he has prescribed ivermectin to patients and has been under investigation by the Kansas Board of Healing Arts for a year and a half.

“They clearly have no interest in resolving it,” Steffen said. “They’re using it to hold over to me to think they’re going to silence me as I serve as a state senator. And obviously, that’s not working out for them. None of it is patient-based complaints. It’s all what I’ve said in the public and what I said as a county commissioner. I stand by everything I said. And again, we’ve got board overreach that desperately needs to be put under control.”

Steffen walked away from reporters after the hearing when pressed for details about the investigation and his treatment of patients.

In remarks before the committee, Steffen referred to Steve Stites, chief medical officer of the KU Health System, as the “Fauci of Kansas.” Steffen said Stites spreads “propaganda” through his daily news briefings about COVID-19, and challenged Stites to join him in a public forum on the topic in Hays.


Kansas Reflector is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Kansas Reflector maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Sherman Smith for questions: info@kansasreflector.com. Follow Kansas Reflector on Facebook and Twitter.

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Kansas Republican defends gerrymandering and partisan politics as 'just things that happen'

Rep. Steve Huebert during a four-hour House debate Tuesday defended an obvious attempt by Republicans to gain an upper hand in congressional races through redistricting as simply “a political process.”

The Republican from Valley Center was responding to complaints by Democrats about a rushed process that ignored the voices of residents who wanted to keep the Kansas City metro together in a single district, setting the Legislature up for an inevitable court battle over diluting the voting power of Black and Latino voters.

“Gerrymandering, partisan politics, all those different things that are being discussed and talked about right now, are just things that happen,” Huebert said. “They always have and they always will.”

The GOP-dominated House advanced legislation along party lines that would install a GOP-drawn map that removes a majority minority population in Wyandotte County from the 3rd District.

Democrats, Huebert said, are similarly focused on drawing lines that benefit U.S. Rep. Sharice Davids, the Democrat who has served the Kansas City metro area since winning election in 2018.

“Let’s don’t deny the fact,” Huebert said. “That’s just the pot calling the kettle black. Is there hypocrisy in politics? I can tell you that, yes, even I have engaged in hypocrisy in my life. It happens. It’s a part of the process.”

Rep. Cindy Neighbor, D-Shawnee, said Republicans were prepared to “poopoo” the feedback they heard from hundreds of Johnson and Wyandotte county residents who asked to keep their communities united.

“Yes, this is politics,” Neighbor said. “But this is politics at its worst.”

Republicans in both the Senate and House introduced the prevailing map, known as Ad Astra 2, a week ago, then hurried through hearings in which nearly every person who testified opposed the map. The Senate passed it on Friday, and the House is expected to take a final vote when it reconvenes Wednesday morning.

“I’ve found the transparency in this process to be about as fake as my eyelashes,” said Rep. Stephanie Clayton, D-Overland Park.

Rep. Chris Croft, an Overland Park Republican who served as chairman of the House Redistricting Committee, insisted the map is a solution that meets all guidelines, based on feedback from listening tours last year.

“This is a math problem with a lot of emotion,” Croft said. “We’ve seen a lot of that on display — and I understand. I believe this map was born out of some hard choices.”

All of the proposed maps have to account for the ongoing population shift from rural to urban areas.

Republicans hope to make it more difficult for Davids to get reelected by replacing voters north of Interstate 70 with rural populations in Anderson, Franklin and Miami counties, and keeping Johnson County entirely within the 3rd District. Democrats proposed breaking off more rural parts of Johnson County to keep the metro area intact.

Under the GOP map, the placement of Wyandotte County voters in the 2nd District would be offset by extracting the stronghold of Lawrence from Douglas County and placing it in the rural, conservative 1st District that stretches hundreds of miles to the Colorado border.

Rep. Barbara Ballard, D-Lawrence, questioned the secrecy behind the map’s origins. Croft has refused to say who exactly drew the new boundaries.

The intentional decision to separate Lawrence from the rest of Douglas County is like separating members of a family, Ballard said.

“You would not want that for your county,” she said. “We don’t want it for ours.”

Democrats repeatedly offered amendments during the four-hour debate that would keep the Kansas City metro area together. All of them were rejected by wide margins that generally fell along party lines.

“What a great session it has been so far,” said Rep. Boog Highberger, D-Lawrence. “First I catch COVID here, and now this. And if I had to choose between the two, I’d stick with COVID, frankly.”

Rep. Dan Osman, D-Overland Park, said the GOP map will cause irreparable harm to every urban district across the state.

“That is, in my opinion, what it is specifically designed to do,” Osman said. “It is also, in my opinion, hopelessly, completely gerrymandered. Now, you can waste hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars from Kansans only to be shown that in a couple of months in a court of law, or we can scrap the whole thing today and have a legitimate debate on real maps.”

Rep. Tom Burroughs, D-Kansas City, said the attempt to water down the voting power of an ethnic community as diverse as Wyandotte County is “shameful.”

“People of color deserve to have a voice, whether some like it and some don’t,” Burroughs said. “But they deserve to have their voice heard.”


Kansas Reflector is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Kansas Reflector maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Sherman Smith for questions: info@kansasreflector.com. Follow Kansas Reflector on Facebook and Twitter.