A crowd of about 40 people gathered in Long’s Park on Saturday to attend 1st Congressional District Rep. Roger Marshall’s campaign stop in Manhattan ahead of the Aug. 4 primary election.
Starting off the half-hour event, Marshall invited two speakers to address ethanol and agriculture: Scott Anderson, national ethanol marketer at Pratt Energy, and Greg Kissek, CEO of Kansas Corn.
“A couple of our customers, from the beef industry to the ethanol industry, saw dramatic declines in either the ability to process or demand for gasoline fuel,” Kissek said, referring to challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. “Aid has come along, and we appreciate that.”
Marshall then addressed COVID-19 vaccine development, saying the vaccines would be manufactured in the U.S.
“I got [Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex] Azar’s commitment that we’ll manufacture in the United States,” Marshall said. “Some people have concern about vaccines and the impurities and they’re made in India, made in China. … Nobody’s going to be forced to take them. This is a decision between you and your doctor, right? We don’t want the national media dictating who should take hydroxychloroquine, who should be getting vaccinations or not.”
Marshall said he wants the vaccine to be available at every nursing home in the country, as “nursing homes are like the canary in the mine; the first outbreaks in the community are often identified in nursing homes.”
Marshall also addressed school reopenings.
“Right now, I would say … if a child gets this virus, the chances of them having a serious complication: one in a thousand,” Marshall said.
The American Academy of Pediatrics states that data from 20 states and New York City shows children diagnosed with COVID-19 have a hospitalization rate between 0.6 and 9 percent.
“I think the benefits outweigh the risks,” Marshall continued. “It does need to be a county-by-county situation. If we see the virus peak, hey, let’s shut things down for a couple of weeks, but there’s a safe and responsible way to do it.”
Marshall finished his speech by talking about “law and order.”
“I believe every person has a right to peaceful protest, but nobody has a right to riot, to steal, to harm other people’s property,” he said.
Kevin Bryant, co-chair of the Manhattan Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Committee, asked the first audience question, which addressed racial bias in policing.
“I’m already working on it; I’m not waiting until I’m a senator,” Marshall said. “We need more transparency, and we need to set the bar higher. Like, for instance, our state training place out there by Hutchinson … don’t teach chokeholds.”
Bryant pushed back on Marshall’s statement, saying the law enforcement training centers in Wichita, Kansas City and Topeka teach policing differently. He said he was not satisfied with Marshall’s answer to his question.
“[Marshall] talked about his dad being a police officer,” Bryant, a former police officer himself, said. “He should have a little more insight as what it takes to be a police officer and some of the biases that come with the job. If he’s going to be in the Senate, he should have a solution on how to solve this problem, since he’s got that much experience.”
Marshall also fielded a question about recent United States Postal Service policy changes and how that could impact mail-in voting.
As Marshall’s event wrapped up, a few people, including some members of BLM MHK, asked questions about tear gas used against protesters in Washington, D.C. and what the representative’s thoughts were on the Black Lives Matter movement. Marshall did not address those questions to the group, but spoke to press on the issue.
“I’m a physician,” he said. “Every life is infinitely valuable to me. I don’t see skin color.”
Co-founder of BLM MHK Teresa Parks said that was not what the group needed to hear.
“We need you to see color,” Parks said. “We need you to acknowledge the issues that come from color and systemic racism and be willing to do something about it. We don’t need politicians who want to bury their head in the sand. So, it wasn’t very comforting.”
On the Republican ballot, Marshall is running for Pat Roberts’ Senate seat, facing former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach and nine other candidates in the primary.
Some attendees said they had already voted for Marshall, including Phil Mattox, candidate for the Riley County Commission District 2 seat, and Eileen King, former Riley County treasurer.
“He’s just down to earth, and it’s come across this way even when he was on the congressional side of the House, when he was running,” Mattox said.”