US Rep. Roger Marshall: Kansas State Sen. Barbara Bollier

In last week's primary election, Kansas voters said no thank you yet again to the state's former secretary of state Kris Kobach, that vile rightwing snake who gained national infamy for his twin loves, beating up on immigrants and vote suppression. After getting spanked in the 2018 governor's race by Democrat Laura Kelly — that's Kansas Governor Laura Kelly (D) now — you'd think Kobach might have learned his lesson. But nah, Kobach ran for the US Senate seat being vacated by retiring Sen. Pat Roberts (R), only to lose the 11-candidate primary Tuesday to two-term congressman and obstetrician Roger Marshall.

It's just so much fun to review just what a complete losing loser Kris Kobach is. Remember that time his defense of his signature voter suppression law was so inept that a federal judge not only threw out the law, she also found Kobach in contempt of court and ordered him to take remedial classes on federal trial procedure? But today, we will instead look to November, and the Senate race between Marshall and his Democratic opponent, Kansas state Sen. Barbara Bollier — an MD herself, retired from anesthesiology — who appears to have a pretty fair shot at actually getting elected to the Senate from red, red Kansas.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, it's pronounced "Bowl-yay," though news anchors seem to insist on adding an "i" between the two syllables the candidate uses herself. Here's her first campaign ad for reference. We kind of love that stylized DNA logo.

A Voice of Reason youtu.be

The ad is from last October, so the metaphor of poisonous partisanship spreading like an ugly infection from Washington DC is purely coincidental.

As for Kris Kobach, he'll no doubt keep showing up on Fox News, and may well end up with a nice, well-paid job with some rightwing think tank pushing to end immigration and/or keep minorities from voting.


But is this not Kansas, where Donald Trump won in 2016 by 20 percentage points over Hillary Clinton, and where no Democrat has won a Senate seat since 1932? The land of Ike, Bob Dole, and so on, not to mention Mike Pompeo, Sam Brownback, and Kris Kobach? Sure is, but until the Tea Party wave of 2010, Kansas would occasionally vote for Democrats, like former Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, who served from 2003-2009 and then became Barack Obama's first secretary of Health and Human Services. And in December 2018, four moderate Republican state legislators — all women — switched parties, saying they no longer wanted anything to do with Trump's GOP.

One of them was Barbara Bollier, who had been in the lege since 2010, and explained why she became a Democrat in a Facebook post:

I always embraced the common-sense policies of Governor Bill Graves, US Senator Nancy Kassebaum, and President Eisenhower. But during the last eight years, I've grown increasingly uncomfortable with Republican leaders' hardline rhetoric, contempt for compromise, and obsession with putting political power before children and families. With this recent election it has become clear that the majority of the Republican Party does not accept moderate Republicans any longer.

Bollier certainly would have preferred running against the more extreme Kobach. A Democratic-backed PAC even tried, unsuccessfully, to repeat Claire McCaskill's fun trick from 2012, by running reverse-psychology ads calling Kobach "too conservative" for Kansas, but you can't always get the Todd Akin you might want. And the downside of Kobach as the GOP nominee, as Wonkette's own Stephen Robinson put it after the primary, would have been the danger that "that Kobach could wind up having lunch in the Senate cafeteria with Tom Cotton."

In the run-up to the Republican primary, Marshall and Kobach beat up on each other a lot, with Kobach regularly trashing Marshall as a RINO who didn't deserve to win conservative votes. But don't bet on a lot of rightwing Trumpers withholding their votes for Marshall in the general.

Even so, there's reason to think Bollier has a chance against Marshall, as Kansas City Star columnist Dave Helling explained in July. For starters, she had the primary election all to herself, which meant that all her considerable fundraising — $3.7 million in the second quarter, a state record — can go toward the general. Helling notes that Bollier wouldn't be attracting money if donors didn't think she had a shot, and that means she "should have at least $2 million a month available this fall, likely more, in a state where media buys are relatively cheap."

So far, while Marshall has establishment Republican support and an assload of money from Mitch McConnell, his campaign strategy during the primary mostly involved being for the same things as Donald Trump, like touting hydroxychloroquine even though its primary advocates have tended to be Fox News talkers and the weird Dilbert guy, not his fellow medical doctors. (Fun fact: Marshall wanted to have the nickname "Doc" included on the primary ballot, but that made state elections officials Grumpy. What a Dopey idea!) He's also pretty big on warning about the threat of Democrats' "liberal, socialist agenda trying to take your way of life" — which may not really convince anyone, considering Bollier's very recent moderate Republican bona fides.

With healthcare one of the campaign's top issues in this battle of the doctors, we sure hope Bollier will get some mileage from the comments that first got Rep. Marshall national attention. During the failed effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act in 2017, Marshall explained It was OK to eliminate health insurance for 20 million Americans, because Jesus was just fine with poverty, and besides, poor people just don't take care of their health anyway. In an interview with medical blog STAT, Marshall cited the Book Of I Got Mine, Fuck You:

"Just like Jesus said, 'The poor will always be with us,'" he said. "There is a group of people that just don't want health care and aren't going to take care of themselves."

Pressed on that point, Marshall shrugged.

"Just, like, homeless people. … I think just morally, spiritually, socially, [some people] just don't want health care," he said. "The Medicaid population, which is [on] a free credit card, as a group, do probably the least preventive medicine and taking care of themselves and eating healthy and exercising. And I'm not judging, I'm just saying socially that's where they are. So there's a group of people that even with unlimited access to health care are only going to use the emergency room when their arm is chopped off or when their pneumonia is so bad they get brought [into] the ER."

He's not judging, just offering a broad-brush generalization that conveniently justifies letting people get sick and die. Homeless people don't really want housing, and sick people don't really care about seeing doctors. Shrug.

In Kansas, Medicaid expansion is a pretty hot issue this year. In January, after the Republican-controlled Lege had blocked it for years, Gov. Kelly and Republican leaders reached an agreement that would finally expand Medicaid under the ACA. That would have brought health coverage to 100,000 Kansans who hadn't had it. But in May, the legislation was killed in the Senate by Republicans who had insisted that Medicaid expansion be tied to an unrelated state constitutional amendment restricting abortion rights. That's a classic GOP "compromise": if you're going to help people get health care, you have to balance it by making sure women don't start thinking they have any rights.

Kelly will try again to get Medicaid expansion passed in 2021, and Bollier, as that initial ad emphasizes, has made healthcare a central part of her campaign. She notes her own fight in the state Senate to expand Medicaid, and her "issues" page calls for a public health insurance option, real protections for people with preexisting conditions, allowing the government to negotiate prices for prescription drugs, and prevention of surprise medical billing.

Marshall's campaign site, not surprisingly, notes that he voted to eliminate the individual mandate and other parts of the ACA (without noting his 2017 votes to eliminate the entire law) and hilariously claims he "supports covering individuals with pre-existing conditions." Please don't bother him with details, like how removing the individual mandate opened the door to the lawsuit currently threatening all of the ACA, including the protections for preexisting conditions. The site also offers this vague but red-meaty call for everyone to go it alone for healthcare:

As a physician, Doc has seen firsthand the negative consequences of government-controlled healthcare systems. Obamacare, and now, government-controlled socialized medicine are some of the most egregious examples of what Doc has fought against.

Government-run healthcare has not only harmed small business, but directly interferes with the doctor-patient relationship. For health care delivery to thrive in America and rural Kansas, we must repeal and replace these broken systems.

Replace it with what? He doesn't say. The very next section of Marshall's "issues" page is all about his absolute opposition to abortion rights, which is so complete that it actually requires a link to its very own page.

Bollier's campaign, which knows damn well she's running in Kansas, doesn't say "abortion" or even "choice," but also makes clear her position:

Barbara knows that when people are making private, complex, personal medical decisions, the last thing they want is a politician in the middle of it. As a doctor, Barbara has a unique appreciation for the doctor-patient relationship and why it is so important to preserve.

That's consistent with her voting record as a legislator, which is a string of "No" votes on state abortion restrictions.

Oh, hey, this is fun, too: Marshall recently voted to keep Confederate statues on display in the House, a weird vote for a guy from a state where abolitionists were massacred by pro-slavery terrorists and whose own Union troops suffered some 8,500 casualties during the Civil War. Guess Marshall just likes "heritage" a lot.

With three months to go until the election, Marshall is way behind Bollier on fundraising, and he's tying himself to Donald Trump even as Trump's approval rating gets shakier in the 'burbs, and as fewer and fewer Americans trust his "handling," if any, of the coronavirus pandemic. (Marshall said in a recent radio interview that schools should fully reopen, and that, as the station's summary puts it, "the chance of a healthy child dying from the novel coronavirus is very slim," so that's reassuring.) Now that the nominees are set, a Public Policy Poll released last week has Marshall leading Bollier by just a single point (43 percent to 42 percent) and Bollier leading Marshall among women (45-40), voters aged 18 to 45 (46-37), and independents, with a healthy lead of 18 points (45-29).

Again, we're talking Kansas, but it would be wrong to say Barbara Bollier is a long-shot candidate. Send her campaign some money if you can (I just did!), and let's see if we can pull off a hell of a surprise in the Senate.

[Kansas City Star / NYT / KSN-TV / STAT / ProPublica / Wichita Eagle / KMAN radio / Business Insider / PPP poll / Barbara Bollier campaign site]

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.

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