More than 50 protesters gathered outside a campaign rally in Olathe, Kansas, for Republican governor candidate Derek Schmidt, which featured an appearance and endorsement by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.
Jae Moyer, president of the Kansas Democrat LGBTQ caucus, said they protested the event to take a stand against both Schmidt’s and DeSantis’ policies.
“They support all of these right-wing policies that I know that Kansas voters don’t stand for,” Moyer said. “And we have proof because on Aug. 2, we voted overwhelmingly to protect access to abortion and reproductive health care in our state.”
While leading chants of “DeSantis get out of Kansas,” Moyer said the group thinks an out-of-state governor campaigning for Schmidt reveals his unpopularity, considering that Kansans defeated an anti-abortion amendment by a ratio of nearly 60-40%.
Moyer has concerns that, despite August’s decisive vote, Schmidt would attempt to enact abortion restrictions anyways if elected governor.
“It just kind of shows how Derek Schmidt is in with these horribly divisive, horribly extreme politicians, that is just not right for Kansas,” Moyer said. “I really think that this will affect the election. I really think that this is a bad look for Schmidt and that this is not something that Kansas wants.”
In a speech before hundreds of attendees at the Embassy Suites Olathe Conference Center, Schmidt pledged to bring DeSantis’ stance on immigration and his anti-LGBTQ education policies to Kansas if elected governor.
DeSantis recently came under fire for sending Venezuelan migrants on a plane to Martha’s Vineyard under false pretenses, a stunt that paralleled segregationist tactics during the Civil Rights Era and which some legal experts warned could qualify as human trafficking.
Schmidt last week told the Kansas City Star that he supported DeSantis’ migrant flights.
“If rerouting the influx of migrants to sanctuary cities filled with some of our nation’s richest and most powerful elites will force Democrats to finally take this issue seriously — as Kansans have for decades — I’m all for it,” Schmidt said.
Conservative talk show host Pete Mundo, who opened the event, also praised DeSantis and suggested a similar tactic of relocating the nearby protestors, who held up signs such as “Shame on DeSantis: Immigrant kidnapper” and “Vote no on authoritarianism.”
“I couldn’t help but think maybe somebody here would have a plane they could fly them to Martha’s Vineyard,” Mundo said to resounding cheers. “They might fit in pretty well up there.”
Schmidt also promised to immediately sign a transgender sports ban and a so-called “parents bill of rights,” both of which Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly vetoed earlier this year.
DeSantis stressed education issues in his support for Schmidt.
“We are not going to allow our tax dollars to be used to teach our kids to hate our country or to hate each other,” DeSantis said. “That’s not happening on my watch.”
Scott Callaway came to Schmidt’s event specifically to see DeSantis.
“I think it’s good for his campaign that he has (DeSantis) here,” Callaway said. “Voters are supporting Ron DeSantis means Derek Schmidt will probably also receive some support as well as a result of this.”
Dan and Susan Carey currently live in Lawrence, but said they’re considering moving to Florida. They hope DeSantis’ support for Schmidt will make Kansas more conservative.
“We just are done with the liberal politics, and the state is not going in the direction we would like it to,” Susan Carey said. “I’m glad to see this many people here. So I’m really, really hopeful that we can get rid of Kelly. We can’t take four more years of her politics.”
Outside the building, holding a sign that read “Schmidt/DeSantis unfit to govern,” protester Henry Stoever said he believes the politicians are a threat to democracy.
“Derek Schmidt spent so much time involved in these lawsuits that were really a front for Trump issues,” Stoever said. “He did not serve the people of Kansas as he should have as an attorney general. He was so involved in politics that he should be turned out of office.”
Elizabeth Fiedler, a senior at Gardner Edgerton High School, recently led a school walkout against a policy she said put transgender students at risk.
Fiedler said the protestors were met with some opposition from attendees, but otherwise got the support of many people driving by.
“We do not stand for hate, and we want to make it known that we, the future voters, do not stand for this,” Fiedler said. And if they don’t pay for the consequences now, they will later.”