Former Congresswoman Nancy Boyda, a Baldwin City Democrat, is exploring a run for the U.S. Senate seat to be vacated by Pat Roberts.
Several candidates have announced they are considering the same possibility, including former U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom, also a Democrat. State Treasurer Jake LaTurner, a Republican, is the only person to formally enter the race.
Boyda, who served one term in the U.S. House of Representatives for the 2nd District (2007-2009), spoke to about 30 people attending the Labette County Democrats meeting Thursday night in the basement of the Parsons Municipal Building.
She said she and Grissom are in the same place of exploring the race.
It’s been 88 years since a Democrat was elected to the U.S. Senate for Kansas. That person was Sen. George McGill, who served in the Senate until Jan. 3. 1939. McGill was first elected in 1930 to finish the term of Sen. Charles Curtis, who resigned to become vice president. McGill was re-elected in 1932 and lost in 1938 to Republican Clyde M. Reed of Parsons.
Boyda said 88 years is a long drought for Democrats.
“It is a tremendous uphill battle,” Boyda said of winning a Senate seat in Republican-controlled Kansas.
Boyda said she’s trying a different approach in her potential campaign for the Senate, different from when she ran for the U.S. House. She said she has some ideas she would like to share that she hopes would make a difference in Washington, D.C., and in Kansas.
She said Congress is still broken. It was broken 10 years ago when she served and it has not improved. Politicians and the citizens who follow them are more confrontational now and at each others’ throats.
“Today, we don’t have a government that actually functions,” she said.
Still, candidates say they want to go to Washington to change the culture and work with members across the aisle. That thought changes when elected officials get to D.C. and partisanship takes over. Washington is a frustrating environment, Boyda said.
“Washington is not a fun place to be. It’s not fun to get up every morning and go into something where you want so hard to make a difference and you can’t.”
Kansas has a history of changing the country, she said. Populism grew out of Kansas. Kansans fought for improving worker rights and took on corporations.
“I can see a way that Kansas can actually participate on the national level in a way … that we could truly change this country’s history,” Boyda said.
She said the way to move the country forward is not on the left or right of the political spectrum. It’s in the middle.
The middle is where most people live and work. That’s where cities function best.
Working together, “that’s where Kansas’ strength is.”
She said the state’s two senators could work across ideological aisles toward change. She said Sen. Jerry Moran, a Republican, is a decent man and she respects him. He’s made some tough choices in the Senate and she hopes he would work with a Senate Democrat from Kansas.
She said conversations about policy are a way to start a culture change. These conversations need to be shared in communities, high schools, universities, churches and civic clubs.
Boyda suggested the first issue is a conversation about health and how to improve the health of our children. The system is set up to help people when they are ill, not necessarily how to keep children and adults healthy.
She would work with Moran to initiate the conversation and set ground rules. She suggested five ground rules: The government would not tell you what to feed your children; no one would inventory your pantry; the government would not tax Big Gulps and Slurpees; the conversation would be initiated without shaming people; and the conversation would not upset the entire food and beverage industry.
The world is changing, as it always does, and younger people are not going to put up with the status quo. They are concerned with health and the environment.
“And they are ready to do something about it and to speak out,” Boyda said.
Boyda said even though she’s still exploring her candidacy, she knows she would work with Republicans and Democrats to engage in these necessary conversations that would shape future policy.
Several people asked questions of Boyda Thursday.
One person noted that the path to making healthier food choices is blocked by price. The less healthy foods and drinks are cheaper than those that are healthier for you. Boyda said change starts with a conversation in corporations and in grocery stores and through a grassroots effort.
Another person asked about Kansas’ agriculture economy. Ranchers whose livelihoods depend on people buying beef may be defensive if conversations to improve health move toward consuming less red meat.
Boyda said she raises beef, too, and she would work with farmers and ranchers.
Another attendee spoke of a sense of despair and lack of hope for the country’s future. She didn’t feel like she is being represented by politicians. She appreciated that Boyda was willing to compromise.
Boyda said the more politicians argue the more things stay the same or shift to the right. If Moran joined the effort, hope would be possible again.
“There’s no way to get to hope if you don’t have trust,” Boyda said.
She said over the next several months, she will know if her campaign will go forward.