key players in Kansas is November contest for US senate is set. Republican Jerry Moran, of course won the party's nomination in a landslide. Democrats dealt with a crowded field in the primary by nominating more Colin, the former mayor of the Unified Government of Kansas City, Kansas and Wyandotte County. Harlan nearly doubled the votes of his closest rival in the August primary prevailing with 38% of the vote. He joins the Kansas reflector podcast to talk about why he wants to be part of that elite 100 men and women in the United States Senate. Welcome.
Thank you. I appreciate the invitation.
Thanks for being here. Appreciate you hopping off the campaign trail to talk to us about what's going on. So let's start with the very basic fundamentals. Something you might talk about on a on the stump is Why are you running in 2022?
I'm running because Washington DC has really been given over to the extremes. And Jerry Moran has bought into that, you know, Jerry Moran has sided with the extremists on really every issue that we can think of that we'll talk about today. I mean, he has chosen to he's left the moderate Republicans behind on issues including abortion and guns and econ economics. And he's voting with the extremists. And it's out of touch with Kansas. I mean, Kansas is a pretty moderate, pretty low key plainspoken group as a whole, and you know, I'm a fourth generation Kansas. And Kansas is not an extreme place. And so Jerry Moran's choosing to move to the extremes has necessitated new leadership in Washington DC, we deserve someone who has the courage to stand up because right now, being a moderate takes courage, because the extremes want to pull you off. And Jerry Moran lacks that courage to stand up to the most extremes in his party and do what's right for Kansas. And I hear that across the campaign trail is I'm talking to people, both Democrats and moderate Republicans who will say, you know, Jerry Moran has changed. He's gone off to the extreme, and we need mainstream leadership in Kansas.
I'm struck by the fact that Kansas has elected a series of Democrats to serve as governor and these are in statewide races. But take a different perspective. When it comes to United States Senator, I think it's been nearly 90 years since a Democrat was elected US Senate. So what's going on there?
Well, it's been 90 years since we've elected a Democrat to the US Senate. It's not been that long since we've elected moderates to the US Senate. And we have a history of electing moderate governors. And in fact, you know, we've won three of the last five Governor races that are held in this non presidential cycle. And they've been moderates, Kathleen Sebelius is moderate, or Kelly's moderate, and the one non moderate, we like to Sam Brownback, there's huge backlash against his economic experiment. So it's been in the last 20 years that we've been electing extremists, to the US Senate instead of moderates. And I think that necessitates the Democratic Party stepping up. And providing that kind of leadership. I say all the time, I can work with people who are left and right of center. But if you can't see the center, from where you're standing, you're likely standing in the wrong place.
You know, good point from both sides of the political spectrum, I
would imagine Exactly. That's exactly right.
So tell us a little bit about yourself. We grew up in education.
So I was raised in northeast Kansas. My dad's a pastor, we grew up in Kansas City, Kansas, back and forth. I do tell folks when I'm out in Dodge City, I did tell him that I used to have a southwest Kansas address. Now it was Southwest 34th Street in Topeka. But it did have Southwest and Kansas on the same envelope, right. But no, I grew up in Kansas City and Topeka, went off to college, went off to college at SMU in Dallas Seminary in Denver. And then when I came back, I took my first two churches after I was ordained in northeast Kansas in donathan, County, watin, and Elwood and I tell people all the time, the part of Kansas that keeps us from being a rectangle. And I served in those two communities and things I learned, you know, I was in two towns whose combined population was smaller than the high school I attended. And one of the things I learned about that is we all want the same things. Right? We all want meaningful work. We all want opportunities for our kids. We all want to live in a community we're proud of. I think Washington DC could learn something that what holds us together is much greater than what pulls us apart.
Let's talk about your work experience. Mostly as a pastor, there's a political part there, too.
That's right. Yeah. When I came back to Kansas City, Kansas, I served it as a senior pastor at Trinity United Methodist for 2019 years. And while I was there, I heard the call to public service ran for the unified government served as county commissioner in the unified government, Wyandotte County, Kansas City, Kansas. And after six years as Commissioner, I ran for mayor and served as mayor in 2013. So and you know, I learned the same thing in the faith community. We don't sit on the left or right side of the church depending on whether we're Democrat or Republican. We worship together singing the choir together we will serve in the food kitchen together and again, DC could learn something about how we serve together and the same is true in the city you know, in There's no democrat or republican way to pave a street. People elect officials to solve problems, and Washington DC has become the problem that we need to solve. And that's why I'm running against Jerry Moran.
So how long were you on the commission itself?
Six years, six years in a new four years as mayor where yours is? Yeah. So 10 years total,
you ran for reelection in 2017 2017. That's right. What happened in that room?
I wasn't reelected. I you know, it's interesting. One of the things you learn its political philosophy, you really focus on high propensity voter turnout. And we didn't focus on low propensity voters. And it turned out that the other side had more energy. And the Challenger had more energy and ran a better race. And so one of the things I've learned in this race is you have to go after the folks, you have to motivate people who are low propensity voters, if you're going to get elected, so it was a good learning experience for me. And a bummer, but you know, roll with punches.
So over the years of wind County has had some economic juice out there. And so I wondered, you know, what, maybe part of your work with the the unified government might actually apply to your role as the United States Senator.
You know, I get it in terms of what a lot of our communities in Kansas are going through, because why not county went through it, you know, why not county between 1970 and 2000, had a net loss of 30,000 people, which are 10,000 Empty Homes, which have become today 6000 vacant lots and 4000 blighted properties. I've seen that the cost on a community of depopulation. The hospital I was born in torn down the church, I was baptized in closed. The school I went to where my mom taught public school teacher has been torn down. So you look at the loss of people and you look at the loss of institutions, a lot of Kansas communities are going through the same thing. And the experience of turn of the turnaround wind up County has experienced in the last 20 years has been about going about new jobs. You know, if I stood up in wind County and said I'm bringing back the stockyards, you know, everyone would know you'd have I mean, I'd be run out of town, a laughingstock. But there's an entire political party in our state and in our country that Jerry Moran is a part of that wants to make America something it used to be, folks, those jobs aren't coming back, you know, the mechanization and consolidation of agriculture has reduced the number of jobs available, it simply takes fewer people to raise more crops than ever before. So we need to think outside the box in terms of new opportunities for folks, new jobs. And a big part of that is the new economy, which includes broadband, and we had an opportunity, the federal government had an infrastructure bill to bring rural broadband to give these opportunities to everywhere in Kansas, and Jerry Moran voted against it. You know, he put politics ahead of people and instead of voting for jobs and infrastructure for the people of Kansas, he played games. And And fortunately, there were enough votes enough moderate Republicans voted for it, that it actually passed. And Kansas is getting that benefit $3.8 billion in economic development. But that's the kind of development we learned in one county, you have to go after new jobs and new opportunities. If you're going to grow your community, the past isn't coming back. That's a key factor. And I say this all the time. I have a former bishop in the United Methodist Church, he used to say, The United Methodist Church and there are 700, United Methodist churches in Kansas, by the way, the United Methodist Church is perfectly positioned for mission and ministry, in the unlikely event that the 1950s come back. Friends in 1950s aren't coming back, those jobs aren't coming back, that economy is not coming back. If we're going to grow rural Kansas, if we're going to grow Kansas, generally, it's going to be the way we grew wind at County, which is new opportunities and new jobs. And that's the entrepreneurial spirit we need to bring to leadership in Washington, DC,
and a lot of state government incentives. Well, there are you got to
partner. I mean, there's no question that you've got to partner with companies, because here's the deal. And I had this trouble with him. When I counted. People said, Why did you do incentives to bring companies in? Because everyone else does, right? You either are in the incentive game or you're not in the economic development game. And it's just an unfortunate reality of the world we live in.
Right. And maybe if everybody would agree to disarm doesn't happen in international politics, and it doesn't happen in state by state. That's economic warfare. So on your campaign site, you have a slogan, people over politics. What do you mean by that?
Well, I mean, just what I described in terms of I want jobs for Kansans. You know, I don't want the government to put food on your table, I want you to put food on your table. And I want you to be I want you to have meaningful work with real wages. So you can look your kids in the eye and say I did this, right. That's meaningful work. We need to support the traditional family. There are many families where one of the parents wants to stay home with kids, at least while they're young. Now, I will confess, I tried this for eight weeks, and I would do anything not to have to deal with a baby right? They scare me to death. And we had we went through four kids, I mean, just just a lot. So God bless everyone that wants to stay home with their kids. But people, traditional families, someone wants to stay home with their kids. And the wages that Jerry Moran supports do not support that. But infrastructure provides real jobs for real families where people can, can work and be proud of the work they're doing. The minimum wage has been $7.25 in DC, the entire time Jerry Moran has been there. Since 2009, has been frozen, he's never once raised the minimum wage to help working families in Kansas. And if you want your spouse to stay home, it's an economic decision. Your spouse not only can't stay home, if they're making seven and a quarter, they're taking two jobs. So if we're going to support families in Kansas, we need to support the kind of jobs that this infrastructure bill brought. And we need to support the kind of economic development that's going to let families thrive.
Now you're talking about livable wage jobs so that you don't have to take to pay wages seem to have gone up recently. You know, maybe that's one benefit of of COVID, I guess. But there's an economic decision, as you say, if somebody has to decide how much income they have to afford to pay for daycare, so they can be at work. So if they have substandard wages, it's an economic decision. Stay home.
That's exactly right. And people are going back to work to get health care. We're the only developed country in the world where families are worried about health care. And we have to control those costs. We just fortunately, Congress just passed a new bill to bring down health care care costs, including having a market economy free market economy that allows the government to negotiate prices on bills that's bringing down prices on for seniors medications, during Rand voted against that he wants Kansas seniors to pay more for medication. He just voted against a cap on insulin, friends, wheat, nuttin, all of us have friends and family who struggle with diabetes, all of us. And the lack of access to insulin is pricing Kansas families to a point where people are taking a second job, people are not able to take care of their families the way they need to because we're not controlling costs. I will help control costs and DC the way we've just seen and Jerry Moran continues to side with the pharmaceutical companies over Kansas families, putting political donations ahead of people.
Let's talk about another element of healthcare. You said you're a defender of women's rights. And I presume you're talking about abortion rights in the context of the constitutional amendment that was rejected by Kansas voters by an overwhelming margin, that would have said that that important document didn't contain a constitutional right to bodily autonomy, which in this case meant abortion. So is is that what you mean by defending women's right
now? There's no question. You know, Jerry Moran, have supported some religious extremists on the US Supreme Court to take away a woman's constitutional right to save her own life during pregnancy, to deny a woman's constitutional right to seek medical care if she's raped. And he wanted to do the same thing in Kansas, he went all in on this vote yes, he spent $50,000 of his own campaign money. He did digital misleading digital ads for it, because he doesn't think women have a constitutional right to save their own lives or to seek medical care if raped. That's an outrageously conservative position that is very marginal. And we saw just how marginal it was with the vote. Kansas is a conservative place. I say all the time. I look forward to Kansas, the pendulum swinging back in Kansas going back to being conservative, because it's gone off the rails to the right. And Jerry Moran has been a part of that leadership. The idea that women don't have the right to make their own decisions about their body is again, that's looking backwards to the 1950s. And the women in Kansas and the men, the majority of people in Kansas came out in force and said, not only did not only they vote no, they voted hell now. Jerry Moran keep your religious ideology off the families of Kansas, we'll make our own choices.
So when you think about the idea of making the concepts of Roe v Wade, embedded in federal law,
well, I support that I think Roe v. Wade is a neutral position because it doesn't require anyone who thinks abortion is wrong to have an abortion. But it does allow those of us who support abortion rights to keep it safe, legal, and rare. I get very frustrated with the talking point. You know, Democrats want abortion up until the day before delivery. Folks in wind out we call that a C section. Right? I've never I've been a Democrat my whole life. I've never met the person that supports an abortion up to the point of delivery. It's outrageous. We do support a woman making decisions about her own body. I have pastored families who have lost a pregnancy late and it's a tragedy. We need to let families make these decisions on their own. The government has no role and having a national law that allows women to make that decision is right because I believe women's rights are embedded in the Constitution. They're not embedded in states rights. Men apparently according to Jerry Moran, their rights are embedded in the Bill of Rights but women's goes to state rights and it depends on whatever fundamental as religion is running your state depends on what kind of rights women have. It's a problem with the separation of church and state. And as a pastor, I'm uniquely qualified to talk about this, I don't want to push my religious beliefs on you. And I sure don't want you pushing your religious beliefs on me, we need to maintain the separation of church and state. And this abortion example is a prime example of Jerry Moran trying to push his religious views on the women of Kansas and on the women of this country,
you suggested that you want to keep government out of people's lives, talking about personal freedoms. So beyond abortion, what would be some of those areas?
Well, I think, again, it comes back to I think, real freedom, real independence, real freedom, is deciding what to do with the money that's left over at the end of the month. And too many Kansans don't have money left over at the end of the month, you know, people want to be able to improve their house, they want to be able to take their kids on a trip, they want to buy a boat, you know, we want economic freedom. And I think the biggest Liberty we can give is to is to help is to give people opportunities, economic opportunities with real wages, where people can make decisions for themselves for their families. The worst kind of dependence is an economic dependence on the government. And Jerry Moran has set up and is supported this economic experiment, where we suppress wages, where we benefit corporations and not workers. And where we force people to have two and three jobs in order to make ends meet. If we're going to have true personal freedom, people need to have more than just having their head above water, economically, and I think economic development for Kansas is a primary goal that we need to work on,
I believe you indicated an interest in campaigning in all 105 counties, I know you're people who have made it to the mall, it is quite the slog. And that basically, Democrats shouldn't give up on rural Kansas in terms of political elections. Well, this
is right. I mean, the political math that everyone knows, you know, five counties have half the votes, the next five counties get you to two thirds, so everyone wants to win the big 10. big 12 fan, but gotta win the big 10. But we also we have to respect that 95 counties have a third of our votes. And we have to respect it. And I get frustrated with Democrats nationally, who complain about losing rural communities complain about losing red states, and don't spend a minute listening to people in these communities. We have a better message on public education, we have a better message on health care, we have a better message on wages, we need to get out and share our message. And we need to spend the time listening to the real concerns of real people, you know, we get caught up in our bubbles. So I want to get out and I've had a great experience. I mean, this going to all these communities has been fantastic. And I feel it I feel it from why not? You know, why not? We have our own chip on our shoulder from feeling neglected in the metro area, right. We have our own parochial view of the world. And getting out and talking to people, I feel that same sense from rural Kansas of feeling neglected and left out and not having the opportunities. And so I'm sympathetic to that. And I want to I want to be a part of hearing what matters to rural Kansas, and bringing the kind of development that can allow the community to grow. We have the same problem when to county when our kids get out of school, out of high school, they leave and we don't have the economy to bring them back. That's something we've worked hard to change. rural community after rural community, I talked to that, like we want our kids to move back to our community. We want it to be a community people want to live in. And that requires economic development. It requires jobs, it requires rural broadband.
So you can run a business from Claflin if you have really excellent broadband services, you know, Internet services. But if you can't take orders online, or you can't communicate with your clients, then you're gonna have to go to a different plays.
That's exactly right. And I think that's the that's the key piece of of listening to people's needs, and working on their behalf. And not just grandstanding when it comes time to vote, hoping the other moderates will pass it for you. Jerry Moran has let down rural Kansas by voting against rural broadband voting against health care reform voting against public education, investment. These are the things that matter to rural Kansas. And these are the things that I would bring to the table and actively advocate for
just playing the devil's advocate on some of that legislation. Parts of it were extremely expensive for the federal government do you do you think there's an there's a an argument to be made for restraining costs?
Absolutely. You know, this is one of the things that as mayor and that I dealt with all the time people would come and say why have you fixed my street yet? Why isn't my sidewalk fixed yet? Well, and I would say all the time Well, here's the bummer it the city hall we don't have a printing press just to print money. We only get to print We only get to spend $1. Once right? Washington DC feels completely unrestrained from just printing whatever money they need. It's irresponsible. What's happening with this gross spending. And there's two sides to this. There's the spending side, there's also the revenue side, the Republicans have been attacking the revenue side, I think Amazon, which is the wealthiest company in the history of the world, should pay a minimum tax that benefits. Amazon is driving on our interstates, they're using our airports, they're using the infrastructure a previous generation of businesses built to make their fortune. They should be reinvesting in infrastructure for the next generation of businesses. And to have them paying zero federal income tax is wrong when working families in Kansas or paying our taxes for their roads. We need a fair share. And the issue with funding this kind of infrastructure is of course, we should have the corporations paying a minimum 15%. That's half what a middle class family percentage is paying. We're asking corporations to pay half. And that would and Jerry Moran voted against that he doesn't think corporations should pay any taxes. And then what happens to our infrastructure? How do we develop look at the economic engine i 70 is that's federal taxes right there. We have a new proposal now to build a four lane across southern Kansas. I think that's a great idea. Jerry Moran voted against the very infrastructure bill that would fund that. You can't vote against it and then grandstand on projects. And, and continue to not be held accountable for that.
Still a bunch of people that want to relitigate the 2020 20 election. So what do you think about folks that have these claims of widespread fraud, and the election that President Joe Biden won defeated? Donald Trump?
Look, I used to be a police chaplain in the Kansas City, Kansas police department and would do death notifications for homicide, suicide accidents. And I would knock on a door at 2am. And with two police officers and say, is John Smith your son? Yes, we need to come in and talk to you. It's every family's worst nightmare. And when I go in and sit down at the kitchen table, I looked at people in the eye and I would say your son, John Smith is dead. It's a very hard truth. But here's the thing, if I said he's passed away, they say, passed out where if I said, he's gone, they say, well, When is he coming back? The reality is, you have to tell the truth, in a compassionate but clear manner, so that people can move and then what happens next is they start the grief cycle. They start the denial, they start the bargaining, you know, if no, Johnny's coming home, Johnny's coming home. No, ma'am. Johnny's dead, and you have to repeat it in a compassionate way. So people understand. And then they go into the bargaining? Well, if only we'd call them if only we'd picked them up, this wouldn't have happened. Then they go into the anger. How dare you come into my house and tell me this? And then they go into the depression, folks, if you don't tell the truth, people cannot move through their grief. Look, Donald Trump lost the election. And people are grieving. They're mad about it. And they're in denial. And people go through denial, and then they go through bargaining, and now they're in anger. And if we had leaders who would look them in the eye, if Jerry Moran had the courage to look his supporters in the eye and say, Donald Trump lost, we need to move on. And the longer you live in the past, it keeps you from moving forward into the future. So we need to let people know that elections over, you lost, there's no evidence of fraud. 50 different lawsuits have been litigated, they've all been thrown out. It's clear Joe Biden's the president, United States. And here's the good news. In Russia, you're stuck with Putin forever. In China, you're stuck with D forever. In four years, you get to vote again in the United States of America, your guy last move on, and now you get to vote again. But what we're seeing right now is this long play grief cycle that is born because the leaders in the Republican Party have refused to have the courage to look people in the eye and tell them the plain truth. And I'm just as plain spoken preacher, and I'm just going to tell people the truth. And we need we need the courage to tell people the truth, even an unpopular truth or a truth they don't want to hear. But that truth. John eight will set you free.
So I believe Senator Moran voted against a broad joint January 6 Investigation Commission, I think yes, he did. So what's your take on what the US House has done without the Senate's help in terms of the January 6 inquiry?
Well, I think it's information that the United States public needs to see and has been glad to see people have tuned in. People want to know what happened. And Jerry Moran's refusal to be a part of that, again, is putting politics ahead of people. I don't I say this all the time. I don't. After voting against the January 6 inquiry, he turned around and asked for Donald Trump's endorsement. I don't know how to spell quid pro quo, but I'm pretty sure that's what it looks like. that there was a political deal that he wouldn't look into it if he could get the endorsement, folks. plainspoken. Kansans just need people who tell the truth who had the courage to stand up for what's right, and the refusal to even look into what happened in January 6. Once we know what happened, then we can move on. But again, we have to have the truth. It's a whole part of the end. We're all in this grief cycle. We have to know the truth. And when we know the truth, we can move on to the future.
All right, before we close out our podcast interview here, I wondered if you would just pretend like you're at a venue and we'll say Franklin County in rural Franklin County, you can hear the horses and the cattle in the background. How would you close out your stump speech to them?
I would tell them that we have a great opportunity right now. The Kansans have rejected Jerry Moran's extremism across the board. And we just saw it play out on August 2, we just saw Kansans come out and say we're not buying into this extremism that he has led us down and that particular case is a religious extremism. Kansans are middle of the road common sense people in the extremist agenda. Jerry Moran has just been rejected overwhelmingly, friends, we're going to be the Georgia the Midwest, and we're gonna do it by working together.
All right, excellent. I want to thank Mark Holland, the former mayor or the unified government of Wyandotte. County and Kansas City, Kansas, the Democratic Party's candidate for United States Senate. I want to thank you for your time today and good