FREDONIA – The Democratic candidate for Congress made a whistle-stop visit to Fredonia Wednesday evening for a campaign rally.
Michelle De La Isla is running against Republican Jake LaTurner for the 2nd District seat previously held by Republican Steve Watkins. She answered questions for more than an hour from people gathered around the bandstand at the Wilson County Courthouse.
De La Isla fielded questions on Social Security, gun ownership, healthcare, education, the coronavirus and other topics.
A native of New York who lived in Puerto Rico, she came to Wichita State University to study healthcare and entered politics through working with people interested in revitalizing downtown Topeka. De La Isla is currently the mayor of Topeka since 2018, and said the kindness and selflessness of Kansans had lifted her up. She said things happening at the national level are scary.
“People are scared,” she said, noting that Kansans are common-sense people who find ways to work together, and she will partner with others in Congress who face the same issues as Kansas.
“That’s how we get things done,” De La Isla said. “I will be your warrior in a way that is effective.”
On Social Security, she said she supports ensuring the program will remain in place.
“Social Security is not something that we’re just giving you,” she said. “You guys have paid into it.”
She said she has had video of her remarks cut to make it appear that she supports defunding police, but said there is a way for police to build relationships.
“There is nothing wrong with having conversations about bias training,” De La Isla said. “There is flawed thinking that it’s all or nothing. I know heroes in our police department. They’re doing this knowing that they may not come home.”
As a state, Kansas has lost more than $2 billion in healthcare aid from the federal government by not expanding Medicaid and four hospitals in the district have closed, she said. She wants to keep the Affordable Care Act, add a public option, and safeguard existing insurance.
She said the global warming issue starts with farmers.
“Our farmers are struggling,” she said, and Kansas is third in wind energy but nobody is talking about how to store that energy, which is a significant frontier.
Asked about immigration, she said the issue has gotten complicated and America needs to figure out a more humane way to deal with it. She said “the wall” is automatically an insult.
“Last time I checked, we had two borders,” she said.
De La Isla said parents who have had children taking distance classes while parents try to work from home have seen the importance of what teachers do, and the US needs to figure a way to rethink education and invest in preschool.
She said the gun ownership issue is painted as either “yes” or “no.”
“That’s not the way it works,” De La Isla said, noting that when she started to drive, she had to take a class and renew a license periodically.
“Let’s just make sure that you are safe and you are responsible,” she said.
She said as mayor, the coronavirus has been challenging, and she has received offers to make face masks with her campaign logo, which she declined.
“The virus, last I checked, was neither a Democrat nor a Republican,” she said, adding that COVID-19 is both a health problem and an economic issue.
“Data is data is data is data,” she said. “In this virus, choose to love others. Choose to be kind.”
De La Isla is Topeka’s first Latina, first single mother, and second woman to serve as mayor.