Republican U.S. Senate candidates reflect on coronavirus response

Capitol Bureau

TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) — The August 4 primary election is just around the corner. Leading up to the election, we will be getting answers from the candidates on topics that Kansans care about, including the coronavirus pandemic.

It has been nearly seven months since the first confirmed coronavirus case in Kansas. Since then, many tough decisions have been made at both the federal and state level. The Trump administration and congress have implemented travel restrictions in and out of the country. The federal government has also sent millions of dollars of aid to Kansas to be used for the coronavirus response.

We asked the republican candidates for the open U.S. Senate seat in Kansas what they thought of the federal and state response to the pandemic. While some believe that President Trump has not been taking the pandemic seriously, the four republican candidates all feel that the President has done well. Read the candidates full answers below:

Bob Hamilton:

On federal coronavirus response: “It’s kind of hard, you know, we didn’t know what we were dealing with. But he did jump in there and he shut of travel from China, from bringing the virus here. He found that it’s coming from China, so he shut down people from China coming here to get it spread. What more could he do? I think it’s revisionist history. We didn’t know what we were dealing with, this invisible bug that’s out there and how dangerous it was. I still think we’re figuring that out, you know, what exactly are we dealing with?”

On state coronavirus response: “I think it’s a little too far-reaching because I’ve traveled all through Kansas and I’ve been to several counties and they don’t even have coronavirus cases, so why are we shutting down those economies? Put that at local level, local government, and let them decide. I don’t think that it should be this big super entity up there saying, ‘Okay, everybody’s got to wear a mask’, ‘You can’t open up’, ‘You can’t have a barber shop’, ‘You can’t have food’. More localized control.”

Dave Lindstrom:

On federal coronavirus response: “I think the President’s done a pretty nice job as it relates to corona [sic] so far, shutting down the borders early, making sure that the folks here are safe and trying to maintain that we have PPE for, not only the federal needs, but also for the state needs and local needs. So yes, I do think that we’ve done a good job, but I think it’s important now that, and most people agree and I agree, that the best government is local and we need to rely on our local governmental entities to determine what do they need for the folks they represent.”

On state coronavirus response: “The best government is closest to the people and the folks at the local level and, having been a county commissioner for 10 years, I know that people will let you know how they feel and you can react accordingly.”

Kris Kobach:

On federal coronavirus response: “I think that President Trump has done a very good job with the coronavirus pandemic. One of the most important things he did early on was closing our ports of entry and closing the borders. That is so critical. If we had waited, if it had been a President Clinton and she hadn’t shut down the borders, shut down the ports of entry to travel from China and Europe and she waited two weeks or not done it at all, we would have seen hundreds of thousands of additional cases in the United States. So President Trump had the courage to close the borders.”

On state coronavirus response: “I think Governor Kelly’s response has been rather heavy-handed. Her early decrees, in March and early April, were found to be unconstitutional, as regarding churches and the right to worship freely, a federal court struck that down in a ruling. Now her latest decrees mandating masks, have also gone beyond not only what the Constitution permits, but also what Kansas state statute permits. So, it’s still early, but if there are lawsuits against her latest decrees, I’m pretty confident that those lawsuits will prevail.”

Dr. Roger Marshall:

On federal coronavirus response: “Look at the results, Kansas has done incredibly well. The number of people that have died has been a fraction of what we thought it would be. Something is happening right. So, I’m very proud of our response. Everybody that needed a test, got a test. Everybody that needed PPE, got it. I was working at an ICU, in an emergency room down in Liberal, Kansas, when it was being swamped with the virus. I called up the White House on a Friday afternoon and said, ‘We need more ventilators.’ Sunday afternoon, two blackhawk helicopters with four ventilators showed up. On a Saturday afternoon, we were running out of PPE. I took a photo of myself and the nurses and sent it to the President, Sunday afternoon a personal message from the President, ‘We’re going to be sending more PPE to Kansas.’ So I think under a very very tough situation, we’ve done an incredible job and that really Kansas has solved this problem as much as the federal government.”

On state coronavirus response: “I’m not going to sit here and criticize someone retrospectively, I think there’s some things that I would have done differently. But I’m still very grateful to be in the position that we are today. My biggest concern would probably be that one size doesn’t fit all. That even though there was an epidemic happening maybe in Wyandotte and Johnson county, we only had 50 cases total in the entire northwest corner of the state. So why were we shutting down that economy when there was very minimal virus in that area? So I wish we would have made those decisions more to county to county level rather than the macro state level.”

In May, Governor Kelly announced that her Ad Aspira reopening plan would simply be recommendations. Final decisions were turned over to the county governments.

Next week we will hear from the candidates on immigration in the United States.

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