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Republicans Are Bailing On Candidate Forums And Other Campaign Appearances

Democratic Kansas state senate candidate Lindsey Constance appeared alone at a District 10 forum. Incumbent Republican Mike Thompson pulled out of the event.
Shawnee Mission Post
Democratic Kansas state senate candidate Lindsey Constance appeared alone at a District 10 forum. Incumbent Republican Mike Thompson pulled out of the event.

Voters can usually count on local candidates to appear with their opponents at public forums and to talk to newspaper editorial boards. Not this year.

Republican candidates in Kansas and Missouri are breaking with tradition and refusing to appear at public forums or to talk to editorial boards.

“We’ve been hosting these candidate forums since 2012 and we’ve never had a situation where we’ve had a wave of candidates drop out like this,” Jay Senter, publisher of the Shawnee Mission Post, told KCUR.

So far five legislative candidates have backed out of Post forums. The latest happened Wednesday night when Kellie Warren, who is running in state Senate District 11 in Overland Park, bailed in an email to the Post.

"Voters in my District are hearing from me at their doors, on their driveways, in their mailbox, and when they email, text, or call me with questions," Warren wrote.

The other four Republicans who initially agreed to appear at Post forums and then reversed course are: Jane Dirks running in House District 20 in Overland Park and Leawood, Kristine Sapp House District 17 in Shawnee, Laura Williams in House District 30 in Olathe and Lenexa, and Senator. Mike Thompson in Senate District 10 which takes in parts of Overland Park, Shawnee and Bonner Springs.

Newly elected Johnson County Republican Chair, Fabian Shepard, said he understands all of these cancellations.

"Many of the GOP candidates believe their district constituents are better served and informed through face to face meetings and doorstep conversations," he said in a statement to KCUR.

But, it's not just the Post having trouble getting candidates to talk.

"We're encountering some of the same challenges," Kansas City Star editorial page editor, Colleen Nelson, said.

She wouldn't say who is refusing to appear but she remains hopeful.

Nelson added, "We're still sending out interview invitations and having conversations with candidates."

While Nelson is hopeful Washburn University political science professor Bob Beatty said this is a different type of election.

"We're seeing what we call a base election, especially on the Republican side. That means the GOP is really only interested in turning out what he calls its most "fervent voter," he said.

So expect many Republicans to campaign door-to-door, with direct mail, and with radio and TV ads.

Beatty offered an explanation, saying "Their message can get muddied when they sit there taking questions from editorial boards and debate moderators."

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