Here's a question for observers of politics at the Kansas capitol, who are the current longest serving members of the House and Senate? Well, I'll in the suspense for you and tell you in the house, its Representative Barbara Ballard, a Lawrence Democrat. She's been a state representative since 1993. And in the Kansas Senate, the most veteran among them is Senator David Haley, also a Democrat. He's from Kansas City, Kansas. And he's been in the legislature since 1994. They joined the Kansas reflector today to talk about their lives and Statehouse politics. Welcome to you both.
Thank you. Thank you,
thanks for being here, taking time out of your day. representative value are initially elected to the House in 1992, taking office in 93. And for reference, also, in 1993. Beanie Babies went on sale, the United States and Russia signed the start to ICBM weapons treaty, Nelson Mandela won the Nobel Peace Prize and Bill Clinton was President. So think back to that time, and why did you decide to run for the legislature?
Well, actually, when you put it, but no, I was in good company Mandela was doing was, was out of prison, right, coming into his own. And Bill Clinton was President. And that was a really happy time. I can remember my mother was just beside herself. She just thought it was absolutely fabulous that he was elected. So why did I decide to run? Well, you know, I was on the school board in Lawrence, Kansas for eight years. And I was in my eighth year, and someone asked me, was I really going to resign? And I said, Well, yeah, I said, eight years, you know, I would be, and Jessie Branson was serving in the 44th. District. And she had announced her retirement. And I guess it was couple of weeks later, she just asked, would I be interested? And I said, No. And that's how we left it. And then she came back and she says, Do you know there's they've never really elected African American woman to the house? And I said, No, I didn't know that. And so she kept talking so fondly, so I guess I guess I will read. And as it turned out to Ruby Gilbert was in the house and she was from Wichita, and Ruby Gilbert had taken Leo Crips. I hope I have the right name. But also representative Crips. He had resigned in she took that session. So she came in as an incumbent. And so we were both running. And I guess the rest is history really. Because, you know, I ran in and was very happy to, to do my part.
Have you ever had any close calls and those elections since then?
No, but you know, I'm trying to think I was looking at it in 99. Yeah, I guess I could go back a little bit. When I think about that, though. I did run. And I lost that election to Sandy Prager. And it was a very close election. And my mother had cancer. And I, you know, it's really funny, because I left in September, and I spent a lot of time with her. And then I came back and kind of finished up. So it's sort of like I knew kind of like, why loss, loss level election and everything else. And then I came back because she took that in one article a while ago, and they kind of put them figures together. So So then, right, read the second time, you know, it was like, Okay. I want it. And I knew how well I had done before, in what areas and everything else. So. The rest I just am still here.
All right. Senator Haley, you were elected to the House in 1994. That's correct.
Yes, I'm one in the primary and service there
in the house from 95 to 2002 1001. You move to the Kansas Senate, also for reference and 94 Steven Spielberg's Holocaust drama Schindler's List, one seven Oscars, former President Richard Nixon died. Amazon was founded by Jeff Bezos, and the US troops invaded Haiti. I forgotten that. So why did you seek elective office back in the day?
Well, first, I think there's a great perspective. Thank you for going through this sitting down with Barbara Ballard. Who is a LEGEND within the Kansas legislature in and of itself and myself, I, I really appreciate that perspective I ran and had run several times before. So coming out of law school, I'd been the class president, law school, I've always wanted to be in public service. My dad, George Haley, was the first black elected state senator in Kansas, getting elected in 64, as a Republican, representing Wyandotte County. And so public service or the thought of being elected to office that always been something I picked up from that I admire you dinner table conversation. It was and what were you doing to address societal ills? I saw him busy either. My mother was a high school teacher Sumner High School, the infamous Sumner High School. And so between the two, I always saw being involved in issues and public service and getting up and going to forums and what have you, I grew up like that. And myself and my sister and who's also an attorney. At made that thing, she's in Los Angeles. Now at the city attorney's office, we always wanted to be involved in community and whether that's political or social, service, and service. So when I came back to Kansas City after living in in DC, and Atlanta, Georgia came out of Morehouse College, which is a George Haley's alma mater, as well. Coming back after Howard law school, to in DC to Kansas, it's kind of natural. I looked at it. So I was Republican at the time. Oh, okay. I wasn't aware of that. Yeah. And I wasn't the Republican Party was kind of respectable still. I mean, it was a party of Bob Dole with whom I worked. When I was in law school, I was at the US Capitol, I worked for Senator dough, respected him and still respect him tremendously, despite the fact that he, toward the end, life just took everything with the are behind it, regardless of the values behind it. But he used to really be a great leader. I came out of that era. Again, my father was Republican. And the party used to be, you know, I won't get into that right now. But so when I came back, we know what has happened to the Republican Party in this country. I saw the harbinger of things to come after having run twice as a Republican in Wyandotte. County. And losing in a district that was primarily democratic, but still raising the values that I switched over and became, as a Democrat, the issues that I supported were largely progressive, I've always been pro choice as a Democrat and as a, as a Republican, have always supported, you know, access and inclusion, criminal justice reform, as a Republican and as a Democrat. So the label change was really all that I did in 94. I ran as a Democrat, actually, I ran in 92 for the Senate seat, which had been redrawn the first time as a Democrat in a three way primary with against representative Sherman Jones, who was running for the Senate. And third, a third party person whom I forgot. And Representative, then Senator Jones bested me by like 150 votes. And then my first one is a Democrat. That was during the time Clinton was running as well. For for president, Governor Clinton was running. And that was the best thing that could happen for me because Senator Sherman Jones, became, in his own way, a guide for what, who I could be by way of representation in the district where I was two years later ran in 94, in a three way primary for the house. And I ran, and also in another district, Broderick Henderson ran, and another district, Doug Spangler ran, so we had three new state reps, who won against incumbents in our primary, my incumbent, immediately resigned. The pension here is very good. And I mean, the capers was such that he, Representative Watson, Bob Watson said, Look, I'm not going to wait around to January, I'm resigning. Now, as I probably would do to if I were to be, you know, it makes better sense. And so I was appointed in September, ahead of the others that were there. So that's how the 94 comes in, even though the full term did not begin until 95.
Good thanks for clarifying that. I wouldn't. It's hard to discern some of those. Start Stop dates when you go way back so far. So when I decide to track down the longest serving legislator in terms of the current 125 member house and the 40 member Senate, I was struck by the fact that in a legislature that is exceptionally white. In Kansas, the longest serving members are a black woman and a black man can can you guys address that? Barbara, can you talk about the role that you may feel you play in the legislature and what it means? I don't know if you necessarily refer to it as representing but you just talk about.
But when you when, when you and I talked earlier about this, I was surprised when you say, well, there was you and Senator hazely. Haley, were there I you know, I have to tell you, in all actuality, I have never given it much thought whatsoever. And I think because in many ways, I would have to really refer back to my father, my father was saying, you know, you should work hard on things that you control, or that you had something to do with. And his point was, you had nothing to do with the fact that you were born a woman, you had nothing to do with the fact that you were born black, you know, you had nothing to do with that. That was your mom and me, you know, when you think about that. And so, you know, it's that those were like things that were given. I mean, from that standpoint, and you know, he wanted us I have an older brother and had to assist us and our younger sister died four years ago. But you know, can work on things that you have something to do with in many ways. And so don't pay attention to what other people are saying about those things that they had nothing to do with either in the process. So I think for me, it was a given I guess, from the time I was in high school, I was on Student Council. Manual I was just actively involved in I went to an all girls Academy Loretto Academy in El Paso, Texas, because my father was his last duty station was Fort Bliss. Army base. And, you know, I saw girls doing all kinds of things that perhaps they would not have been involved through inviting President, the Secretary that this, this and all of that, you know, outside of if, if you were in a coed high school, I also went to a Catholic Women's College, Webster College in St. Louis, Missouri, I went 1100 miles from El Paso, Texas, you know. And again, the president of our college was sister Frances of Barbera. And she was the first woman and a nun that served on President Clinton's President Kennedy's Education Board. And so I saw all of these women and they may be nuns. But then I saw, you know, we're in my studying how women especially controlled all of these issues. And so I've never had the, the thought that Oh, when we can't do that, because I saw them do that, you know, through high school, and through college. So it's just a matter of what you want to do. Are you willing to work hard to do it? What is it that you believe in? So it's made it very easy, I think for me, and our dad was a master sergeant in the Army. And you know, that at the time was the highest rank, you had as a noncommissioned officer. And I mean, he ran our household like a master sergeant, you know, and my mom was a nurse. And it was just he was more political than my mother was, though they both were, you know, paid attention to elections. They always voted. They told us about voting, why we needed to vote why people before us were killed when because they couldn't, didn't want them to learn to read or to write or to vote. And, you know, to me, I learned early that vote had power. And I think that always stayed in my mind that if you have some say, so and what's going on, then you are part of this world that you live in. And that just always stuck in my mind. So when I went to college, it was like, Yeah, I was, you know, I ended up being a voice major. I was a music major, but it was in St. Louis, Missouri, and in St. Louis, Missouri, was really active town and had lots of black people involved in what they were doing. And, and so I got to see it, you know, but also we were encouraged if you don't question the status quo, then from a woman's can knowledge, they haven't done their job yet, you should challenge the status quo. And you should see what kind of changes you can make and what kind of changes would be effective. And you don't wait for everyone else to make those changes. You get in there and you help make those changes. And I believe that, and I believe that today that that race is important to me, because I know how people of color are treated. But does that make me any less than someone else? I have never believed that. You know, I'm not better than anyone else, but neither am I less than they are. And so it is always been, I want to have some say so in what happens, I want to look at those people that are most vulnerable, that don't have a voice, or don't feel they can use their voice that I can be that person. And at the same time, I had my own goals. i We knew from the time we were in school, we were going to go to college. I mean, that was a given in our house that this is what's going to happen. Then after I did that, and then later on, I thought, yep, I want a master's. And then I'm finally at the point. Yep, I want a PhD because that's the highest in the university system that you can really get. So if the doors not open to me, it's not because I haven't gotten the credentials. And if the doors not open, then we're going to keep pushing and pushing into that door is open.
Senator Haley, the same question to you. That do you feel about serving as a black legislator? I'm not sure that percentage of the racial makeup of the Kansas House and Senate but there's essentially a handful 10.
Well, black members there to the to in the Senate to a reporter so what 5% in a state where the black population is what eight and a half 9%
Clearly underrepresented? Well,
we tried to even the scale, I mean, we try to even
be powerful intellects and make up for the gap. Anyway, you talk about your service. Do you view it as a service as a black man? That's that's a big chunk of your constituency.
I have the four states in a district in Kansas City, Kansas is the fourth most diverse state senate district in the country. It was one in Florida. in Broward County, there's one near San Diego, there's one in Brooklyn, New York, and then this Kansas City, Kansas. So there's a large percentage, black, brown, white, and then a mixture of yellow and red, if you will, if we're going to look from color standpoint. For me, it's the social condition, though, that brought me to it. And it's more those that don't have access to the system. What got me in this was the I was assistant DA. And at the time that I was in the DHS office, I noticed that they were tearing down houses, we had a problem with housing the under house, but there was a demolition of historic older houses in the community where I live. I live in the inner city, I live in the core inner city. And here we had people who couldn't pay the rent, or who were marginal income, but the city was tearing down houses. It's been a prevailing theme that exists to this day. And this is so I did this year I am supposedly respected Assistant District Attorney, standing in front of bulldozers coming out to tear down houses and raising the issue and getting press, you know, with Muy Thai loosened like Tiananmen Square or something in front of the tanks, can you please don't tear down this house, the house is not the problem. It's the societal conditions that allow inequities to exist. We should be fixing up with at that time, the $4,000 it takes to demolish this house, put $4,000 in windows or doors, clean it up and put somebody in who can pay it back. That just makes better sense. We're here as we're speaking now, in this beautiful historic building. This could have been on the chopping block if it were in Kansas City, Kansas, if it sat boarded up for a while because of the mentality of our society, which doesn't look at the big picture to try to bring about sensible solutions that can ease the social and economic plight of all people. That's what got me some I said you ought to run for office like oh, yeah, you know, my dad was in office. I'm going to do that at some point in time, but I really don't want to do it right now. I need to pay off my student loans. Kansas legislature doesn't pay anything and I don't want to be on the city council. And again, that's when I started running, you know, versus a Republican and later as a Democrat Read. But it's not just housing. It's not just access to those basics that continues to drive me. And that's your question is, it's not whether or not this overwhelming this critically white, Kansas Legislature turns a deaf ear or a blind, I have hardened heart to those conditions because of race. It's across the board. That's what I've learned. They couldn't care less about many of it's almost an elitism that has nothing to do with race. Because, again, the race of Kansas, I don't know what percent is black and brown, but it's certainly in the distinct minority. What they do, they being those with these hardened hearts, in this legislature in the one that I started in, and that barber started in, you know, almost three decades ago. It's kind of it's a class struggle. And that's what I've learned more than anything else, because they don't mind this affecting white Kansans, as much as they do, as long as they empower those that are in the position to be better representative better hurt.
Let's think about some of the evolution of politics in Kansas. But it's probably a national thing, too. I think there's a general perception that the State House is less civil. You guys have a lot of perspective on this. What do you think harder to form relationships with Republicans, and it used to be
I believe the makeup of the legislature and I can speak to the house is very different. When I was elected, moderate Republicans were a much larger number. moderate Republicans in some states would have been very equivalent to a Democrat, you know, so you had more moderate people serving. And so therefore, our legislation was more moderate.
If I could interrupt, there's times when people have thought in various chambers of the legislature in Kansas, that there's really three parties there were as the Republican conservatives, the Democrats, and then the mod ours.
Yeah, but but when I came in, it was actually no one ever talked about it being three yet because it was still two. Yeah, it was Republican and Democrats and moderates, were in a larger number, then later on, yes, then it split. So that you did have three times you had the conservative you had the moderates, in many ways. And what we noticed that moderate Republicans and conservatives were more at each other than they were at, you know, Democrats is a result of that. So I think that changed, and the more conservative it became, the issues became more conservative, and many ways, but it also followed, sort of like a national pattern in a way. But I believe social media had more to do with this, in many ways, because now there were people in different states and everything else could now connect, where before they couldn't connect, they were only part of the area where they were among their people, but now they could all get together because social media made that possible. And that is when I think the federal legislation became a bigger factor in many ways. Because up until then, it was pretty moderate. You would not have even heard transgender. You know, and we didn't talk a lot about LGBTQ because those letters were added later, over the years, it was only just gay, you know, or the lesbian or whatever. But then all of that changed. So it all kind of changed with social media, it changed with the house becoming more conservative and then gaining the higher number. A lot of it had to do with a promise that Brown, you know, Governor Brown Bag said to the senate members, he would get rid of so many of them moderate Republicans there and he would replace them. And he replaced a significant number.
A decade ago, he took out took a hand real leadership role and taking out a half a dozen moderate Republicans in the Kansas Senate.
So when you look at that, then that changed how the legislature began to change in many ways. So you know, when I look at that you can you can see the changes. Now it's like you almost can look at part of aren't changes To a certain degree might mirror some of the federal changes that we're dealing with, you know, today, but that has
to consider the federal influence on Kansas politics hasn't necessarily been a positive center. Haley, can you talk about the the notion that, well, maybe the members of the Senate go to their respective partisan corners more readily than they used to be used to?
Well, and edit that? Absolutely. It's very polarized now. I mean, it's almost predictable, who's going to even vote how based on what the issue is, and based on what the litmus test is, for the pirate party loyalty, as has been just been mentioned, it's there has been the characterization of those who are moderates as being rhinos or Republican in name only in their in unworthy to represent or to carry the label, and all that rhetoric that is not only in Kansas, but nationally, that has pulled or constrained litmus test on certain issues. And as it relates to my constituency, or diverse constituency, they have really made a target of the issues of inclusion, calling inclusion woke, and making woke, a negative to look at issues like understanding how America has become, through many racial, sometimes charged strife, what America is and saying that that's critical race theory. And that to teach that is anti American or, and to look at these issues, and to have them defined in a political category has been a concern, because we have some very conscientious I'd say all my time here, most people want to do the right thing. And they get tagged with a label, or you get tagged with being too sensitive or insensitive, or too liberal or too progressive. And they don't want they being these same very good people who otherwise, if you were just sitting at home with them sitting out on their porch, in their corner of the world and talk with them really want to, but they enjoy being elected. They appreciate it. And they don't want to get tagged as being outside of what their party has become, which is, you know, ultra conservative and defined by national rhetoric and administration's as well. And that's really sad in the process, because they they know better, and they can do better, but they enjoy being where they are.
I'm thinking over the years, you've been witnessed to political victories and disappointments, personnel and, and politically, you know, in terms of the party apparatus, but I was wondering if you could reach back and talk about a policy, or a campaign or some other element of your work in the legislature that you find particularly compelling. When I think back I think about Senator long by and gave a speech a handful of years ago, when Kansas was debating, I think the increase in the financial penalty for not wearing a seatbelt. And he gave this poignant speech about his own son dying in a traffic accident. And those are the things that I carry with me years and years later. So I was wondering if you had moments like that to
make Well, Senator Haley? Yeah, there's several of those wrongful incarceration really has struck with me, and I'm glad we see compensation Now, for those that are, any of us can be locked up for crime we didn't commit, you imagine. And that always struck me I mean, a former assistant, da, and that's just so wrong 8% That it's projected, shouldn't even be there in foreclosure. So I'm very glad to see that come through. Glad to see Kansas compensate. Another one that was was very proud of that. A sponsor that hasn't gone through what re litigating and now, the abolition of the death penalty, the inequities that are there inherently, that was something that I introduced then was solo sponsor for years. It's coming back around, I don't get quoted on anymore, but it's still medical marijuana 2009. It hasn't passed, but I did the solo sponsor along with rep Gail, Fannie did it on the House side and did on the Senate. And these are the issues that again, where we look at a system that marginalizes in Kansas and other places, you're trying to catch folks with a little bit of innocuous substance on them, so they get into the pipeline or the system, and that system is self perpetuating our correction system or law enforcement or judicial system. Again, the again, it becomes a class system. It's not as much racial though, when this has been said when white America gets a cold black America gets pneumonia, you know, because it disproportionately impacts black America. Black I Kansas. But these are the issues. And finally, at least in terms of one that comes to mind, the one that I really and one of my mentors, Alvin Sykes, who's deceased, that brought to me that I'm very proud of, and it actually made me emotional when it passed, took eight years to get it was creating animal cruelty, extreme cruelty, scruff, his law, it was the animal cruelty that created a felony, what first blush and many of my constituents didn't understand it, why are you fighting for animals down at? Well, it's the mindset we want to get to those who through Dominionism and bullying thought it was okay to torture or to endure, it's even abject ly neglect something living, and by doing not be held accountable, and later showing that these same people that got away with animal cruelty and animal neglect, who did that intentionally, they grew up to be domestic abusers, they grew up to be serial killers, in some cases, as did the notorious BTK out of Wichita who started by strangling cat but not being held accountable. So I'm very proud of the deep, deep and deeper social impact of creating a felony for extreme animal cruelty, which was my solo and big push for about eight years. And I remember scruffy. Yeah,
those are good points. Representative Ballard, could you look back? And can you also capture some of those moments for us?
Well, you know, early on, when they decided about our mental health clinics, if you've had many groups, and just looking at those issues, it's like, we're going to close these institutions. And in the process of closing it, the money will follow the person. And that is, I'm on Social Services Budget Committee, and I have been on this committee, you know, since 1997, you know, and so when I look at this, it didn't, what we found out is that we closed a lot of, you know, the institutions. But the money did not follow the person. Not only that, but there were some extreme cases, whether they were developmental disabilities or whatever, a lot of communities weren't equipped to handle all of those cases. So as a result of that, that created a real problem for communities. que ni Kansas Neurological Institute is one of my biggest ones that I have fought for I continue to fight for today.
It's into Pika. Pika. And Governor Sam Brownback proposed at one point to close it Oh, it was the most extremely disabled Kansans.
And that was huge. And that's when I, you know, I decided myself, you know, there's a time to, you know, to always speak up, and then there's a time to really speak up and make sure people know what's really happening. Because with Kanye, you have people that have been there almost since birth, they can be there 5060 or more years, and that's the only home they know, their parents weren't able to take care of them. And if they became Ward's of the states, that would have been part of it, as well. So that's a huge one. And you know, it's like we won it, it took a while. But we we won that round, that we still have k and i here today. There's a moratorium that's on it that says, basically, if those services are not available in communities, and they can't reach them, then maybe you can apply decay in AI. And occasionally they'll take one or two more. So that was huge, but still it exist. And it still provides an extremely valuable service. You know, the other one would be a bill that I passed that I just really enjoyed, and it was setting up visitation, child exchange and visitation centers. And part of that was, if you are the non custodial parent, you have a right to see your child. But if for some reason, you feel that your child might be endangered or could be abducted or whatever, you set up centers, and then you work it out where within a half hour period of time, that's how the legislation was written. You know, you can drop your child off, you leave, there's someone there to do it. The noncustodial parent can come and pick up the child and have it for the visitation times that they want. Then they have a scheduled time that they bring them back and everything else. And that was so helpful, because you know, I got a lot of help from that the Senate helped me with that as well. of the Attorney General. Carla Stovall, at the time was helping me with that bill. And it made it possible for people to be with their non custodial parent. But yet, it alleviated the problem. We were having people were driving their children to the police department in exchanging their children in the lobby, they would be on highway 59, the Highway Patrol would be in between the first car would be in front and another car in the back and you were exchanging your children like that. It was very dangerous, because if you had McDonald's where you were exchanging children sometime, you don't know what's going to erupt, because of the emotions that's involved. Right. So we still have child exchange and visitation centers. And I am extremely proud of that one. And I, I had a lot of people sign on to that bill. And the last one that still bothers me today is gun control. And or lack of, I should say, why do we have concealed carry on a university campus? There's no reason we got crushed to have child exchange, I mean, concealed carry. And so that's still a big issue. Colleges, not just University of Kansas, of which, you know, I work, but other colleges, people have decided not to, because you have to say on your website, and everything else that you that this is allowed, and everything else, and a lot of parents don't feel comfortable. They don't want their children to be in a room with someone that has one yes, you have to be 21 over in order to do it. But
I believe the law was written so that you essentially have to have airport quality security on on every building in order to block the guns.
Well, you know, it was an interesting one, and I have for every year and I just had it drafted today, that I'm introducing that bill again. And you know, we tried for four years before it became law permanently in order to do that. And that's still an important issue. The only place we have on our campus is the athletic department, Allen Fieldhouse, and everything else, because they were able to spend that kind of money because they could control metal detectors. Yeah. And they'll exit, but we have too many exits on a college campus to be able to control that. And yet, to me, it's a safety issue. And the question I always get, and that's why whenever they do guns, they know I'm coming down on it. I don't care what it is. But they've always asked and what has happened? No, we haven't had any problems. No, we didn't have a shooter. Yes, we found a gun in a bathroom, or whatever. But to me, it's not the issue is you want me to say somebody was killed and everything else and now we'll revisit it. My point is, do we need to have that on a college campus?
Well, I can appreciate both of you for being persistent, obviously, with your legislative service, but also just in terms of public policy and your advocacy for those things. I think we're gonna have to leave it there. I want to thank Representative Barbara Ballard, Lawrence, Democrat and Senator David Haley, also Democrat, but from Kansas City, Kansas for joining us today and reflecting on their own personal history. And I want to thank you for your service. Appreciate. Thank you.