Kansas senator Barbara Bollier hosted a ‘Chat in the Park’ for Crawford County residents on Tuesday, Sept. 15 at Lincoln Park, in Pittsburg. Bollier, a physician and Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate, used the opportunity to answer voters’ questions about topics such as health care, climate change, reducing deficits and debt, college affordability and defunding the police. Bollier is running against Republican Roger Marshall for Senator Pat Roberts’ seat.
Now a Democrat, Senator Bollier spent much of her life as a moderate Republican. Bollier said that when she was younger, longtime Kansas senator Nancy Kassebaum was her role model of what a moderate Republican official should be. But in 2018, her views were often different from those of other Republicans in the Kansas State Senate. She said she was constantly “at odds with leadership” on issues such as school funding, reversing the substantial tax cuts implemented by former Republican governor Sam Brownback and expanding the state’s Medicaid program. Bollier said the most common concern she hears from constituents is healthcare reform.
“One of the key differences between me and my opponent is that I support getting access to care to everyone by maintaining our Affordable Healthcare Act, building on it and expanding Medicaid in the state,” Bollier said. “One in five Kansans have ended in debt, either medical or collections, because of medical debt. Their co-pay (and) deductibles are too high. They also can’t access actual health insurance—one emergency can send them into bankruptcy.”
Medicaid expansion, which would cover an additional 150,000 Kansans, passed in the Kansas Legislature in 2017, but former governor Sam Brownback vetoed it. Officials announced a bipartisan expansion bill earlier this year, but Republican Senate leader Susan Wagle stalled a vote until an anti-abortion bill passed the house. The legislative session ended without either bill being passed.
“If there’s different leadership who will allow the vote to occur, that will change things,” Bollier said. “When you have partisanship getting in the way and not allowing those votes to happen, you’re blocking the will of the people. I want to give Washington the ability to work to get these things passed and work together.”
If elected, she anticipates being on the Agriculture Committee. Bollier was also asked what her policy would be on climate change.
“This is an urgent issue, and we need to be addressing it and not ignoring it,” Bollier said. “One of the reasons why a woman of science needs to be there (is) to help them understand there is scientific evidence of this change. My first promise is I will commit to getting us reduced in our carbon output by 50 percent by 2030, (and) by 2050, having the goal of net zero,” Bollier said.
Bollier emphasized that if elected, she would work diligently to address pressing needs many Kansas students face—making college more affordable, giving people the ability to refinance student debt, expanding Pell grants for low-income students and providing more state and federal funding to universities.
Bollier also said she firmly supported the Black Lives Matter movement, but that she was not in favor of defunding the police. Rather, she said she would support propping up systems such as early childhood education, affordable housing, job training programs and funding mental health services which can head off issues that lead to crime and situations where police become necessary.
“I have always supported the police,” Boiler said. “I have a long record of standing up for funding our police and public protection services. I want us to be safe. I would never defund the police; but I do think we need to do things like expand Medicaid and find other monies to do things like provide mental health care.”
Bollier also expressed satisfaction with the recent Supreme Court’s decision that ruled the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
“I’m thrilled that the Supreme Court supported equality and justice for all in this country,” she said.
Senator Bollier said she became a doctor to help people, and she went into public service to fix things that were broken. She hopes to be a United States Senator who can do both.
“I went into public service in order to improve people’s lives, and for the very same reason that I went into medicine—to improve people’s lives,” Bollier said. “It’s nice to have had that opportunity to do more than one thing, and I will tell you that as a state legislator I was really able to establish myself as a voice of independence and reason.”