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Wyandotte Voters Have Trouble Seeing Themselves In Any Presidential Candidate

Denise Cross

Wyandotte County, Kansas, is one of only two counties in the country where three different ethnic groups — Black, Hispanic and White — each make up more than 25 percent of the population.

How residents feel about that diversity though, is about as diverse as the county itself. 

For some, the medley of different ethnicities in the county has given them a unique perspective on life and opened their eyes to other cultures.

"I’ve really appreciated it, I grew up in Johnson County ... I did not experience diversity at all," Kelli Wright told host Steve Kraske on KCUR's Up To Date. She moved to Wyandotte County almost 10 years ago.

Marvin Robinson is a longtime Wyandotte County resident. He told Kraske that sometimes, living in "the Dotte" is "absolute hell." The poverty rate is high, health care is poor and he sees a culture of violence. Sometimes, he says, he feels lucky to wake up in the morning.

To Robinson, the increase of new faces hasn't been a positive experience. The sense of community he once had is now gone, and he feels that the government has paid too much attention to the county's newcomers. 

The Rev. Adrion Roberson, who leads the Destiny Bible Fellowship Community Church at 16th and Quindaro, said he is proud of the strides his church has made to connect with the other diverse congregations in the county. 

Still, he says, problems remain for some established residents living in certain parts of Wyandotte.

"What's crazy about it is that for example, we live in a food desert, we’ve had four administrations that have been promising a fresh produce grocery store," he said. 

As the west side of the county continues to thrive, his neighborhood in the northeast just lost its Wal-Mart — which was the community's main retail center. 

Does unrest in the community translate into votes on election day?

Though Roberson encourages his congregation to vote, he thinks a lot of people have become apathetic about it.

Wyandotte's last mayoral election only saw seven percent voter turnout. 

And although presidential elections generally have higher turnouts, Wright thinks that their votes might matter even less.

"The interesting thing is that living in Wyandotte County, it doesn't matter who we vote for," she told Kraske. 

She fears the Republican electorate in Kansas will render her vote for Bernie Sanders all but void.

Wright says her views align with those of Bernie Sanders, though she questions his "electability" as a candidate. 

For Robinson and Roberson, there isn't a presidential candidate they feel represents their interests and concerns.

"I do my best to do my civic duty, and encourage our people to go the polls and vote," Roberson said.

"[I try to] have a voice and get involved in civic government and civil government and get involved in the community. But on a national platform? Nah."

Robinson echoes Roberson's sentiment. He hears candidates addressing a certain audience — but he doesn't feel like they're talking to him or anyone in his community.

"They keep saying they’re interested in the middle class vote," said Robinson. He notes that some candidates have defined "middle class as earning up to $250,000 per year.

"$250,000 for a person living in our area would be like a lottery winner."

Both feel a civic duty to vote, but making the decision they make on Election Day will leave them unsatisfied. 

Lisa Rodriguez is the associate producer for KCUR's Up To Date. You can reach her on Twitter @larodrig

Slow news days are a thing of the past. As KCUR’s news director, I want to cut through the noise, provide context to the headlines, and give you news you can use in your daily life – information that will empower you to make informed decisions about your neighborhood, your city and the region. Email me at lisa@kcur.org or follow me on Twitter @larodrig.