US Senate candidate tours southeast Kansas
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Eric Spruill

HUMBOLDT – Longtime Republican Barbara Bollier charted new territory when she switched political parties in 2018 while holding the 7th District seat of the Kansas Senate. She endorsed Democrat Tom Niermann’s failed run for Congress, then followed that up by endorsing current Gov. Laura Kelly early on in the 2018 election.

Now the former surgeon is making a bid for the United States Senate seat vacated by Pat Roberts. She is running against another doctor, Roger Marshall, the Republican candidate.

On Tuesday, Bollier toured the cities of Iola, Humboldt and Parsons, visiting with local business owners about the struggles they are facing. This was one of Bollier’s first campaign stops since the COVID-19 pandemic, as she had been campaigning in a virtual environment.

During her trip, she said the hardships on small businesses regarding healthcare and internet access have been her biggest takeaways. 

“I’ve been through here several times, but one of the biggest things I have learned today is barriers between business development. And one of the biggest barriers is healthcare availability. If I want to work from home or I want to start a business, then I need access to healthcare. It’s hard to keep people here when the only access to healthcare they have is through low wage jobs,” she said. “And then there is the access to the internet. It has to be frustrating. What I learned here (Humboldt) today is they already have a cable running through town, but it hasn’t been activated.

“I had never heard of it before, but I am starting to hear people talk about having the internet as a utility, and that’s a great idea. As the gentleman just explained to me, each individual city would know who needs assistance with their bill. We definitely know now in 2020 that we have to have access to broadband internet. 

She went on to explain that it was important to keep small businesses thriving in our communities, but it all goes back to affordable healthcare. 

“The employees of these businesses not only need healthcare availability, but they need it at a rate they can afford,” Bollier said. “I grew up with the likes of Nancy Kassebaum (Kansas US Senate representative from 1978-97) being my role model. She was one who always worked across the aisle. When that was no longer possible as a moderate Republican, I just kept being blocked from things like expanding Medicaid and funding public education. The people here know the value of public education.”

Bollier also hit upon other social issues.

“When it gets down to it, I am for equality for all people. I am for funding our public schools and making healthcare affordable for everyone. I am an independent voice,” she said. “I have done it time and again for both sides. I am an independent voice and I will speak up for what I think is best for all people.”

Bollier thought Gov. Kelly was doing a fine job in regards to her response to COVID-19.

“As a doctor, I believe we need to listen to science. Listen to the health experts and that’s what we all need to do. None of us are happy that we have this virus, but it is here and the best way to get our economy back on track and all of our kids back in school is to follow these simple guidelines,” Bollier said. “Having worn a mask in the operating room for years and years, you can do it. You might not like it, but it’s worth it. We need to make sure these businesses in southeast Kansas can actually do business. Just be responsible.” 

This article originally ran on chanute.com.

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