PRATT — James Thompson, the Democratic candidate for the Kansas 4th Congressional district, told a small crowd at Pratt Community College about growing up in poverty in Oklahoma City and being homeless at one point. That early life experience has shaped his perspective, he said.
“That has kind of shaped the way I see things,” Thompson said. “I was fortunate enough to have a teacher in high school who took an interest in me and made me see that I could do something with my life. I could be something more than just a kid who lives in poverty and education was the key. He emphasized that over and over.”
Thompson spoke to a an audience of around 30 people last week at Carpenter Auditorium in Pratt Community College in an address sponsored by the Pratt Area Chamber of Commerce. His Republican challenger, Ron Estes, was invited to speak as well, but did not attend.
After high school, Thompson served in the Army, then attended Wichita State University on the GI bill and later Washburn Law School. He is currently a Civil Rights attorney in Wichita.
“The things I want to concentrate on are the things that got me out of poverty, which are good jobs, a living wage that allows a person to work with dignity and then go home and spend time with their family,” he said.
He said he was motivated by Bernie Sander’s Democratic campaign for the Presidency.
“I’ve been accused of being a socialist because of that,” he said. “I’m not. But I do believe in returning power to the working class. We’ve lost that.”
Republican as well as Democratic friends encouraged Thompson to run for office, he said, because he is a moderate and thinks like most Kansans.
He said it is important that a targeted farm trade bill gets passed that allows farmers to get their products to the market. Thompson also was critical of Pres. Trump’s talk of renegotiating or withdrawing from NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement).
“That’s got a lot of people scared because our farmers export a lot of products to Canada and Mexico,” Thompson said. “What we’re seeing now are these different solutions by the President that don’t take Kansans into account.”
He also said he was scared of his opponent, Estes, “taking Gov. Brownback’s policies and nationalizing them.”
Thompson was critical of Estes’s desire to repeal Obamacare.
“I think it’s a horrible idea,” he said. “We need to reform the Affordable Care Act and work on the problems we have. We shouldn’t be throwing out the baby with the bathwater. We should have common sense approaches. We should sit together like grown-ups and try to work out the problems.”
The first paragraph of the Constitution mentions providing for “the general welfare,” Thompson noted.
“To me, healthcare falls under that,” he said. “It needs to be treated as a right.”
He was critical of Brownback vetoing the expansion of Medicaid in Kansas, saying the Affordable Care Act is not being given a chance to work.
Thompson also talked about immigration, saying there needs to be a firm, but fair way to give people who are undocumented the opportunity to become U.S. citizens.
“Mass deportation is not the answer,” he said, calling the separation of families “immoral.”
He talked about an immigration rally he recently attended. A woman whose son is serving in the U.S. military told him she was afraid of being deported because she is undocumented. As a veteran, Thompson said he found that to be “extremely offensive.”
Thompson also was critical of a voucher system, which he said would destroy public education by taking money away from it. He called the school voucher a “false choice.” Also, it is a violation of church and state for public money to go to private religious schools, he said.
He also said there needs to be a Constitutional amendment to counter the Supreme Court Citizens United decision, which allows for unlimited contributions to political campaigns.
“We need to get back to one person, one vote, not one dollar, one vote,” Thompson said.
Thompson has been married for 13 years to his wife, Lisa. They have a daughter, Liberty.
The election is April, 11. Registered voters can vote early by contacting the county clerk’s office.