Students hold town hall with KS congressional candidates, Rep. Yoder declined invitation

Posted: 10:47 PM, Apr 07, 2018
Updated: 2018-04-07 23:47:43-04

OLATHE, Kan. -- St. Andrew's Christian Church in Olathe was packed Saturday for a student-organized town hall. 

Six Democratic candidates and one Libertarian candidate vying to represent Kansas's 3rd district all sat at a table, answering questions submitted by the crowd. 

Current Republican Representative Kevin Yoder declined the students' invitation, and a cardboard cutout sat in his place. 

Shannon Skoglund went to the rally with her family and says there should have been three parties represented. 

"I wish he would have been able to come and put his ideas forth along with everyone else because we did hear a lot of same-same. We heard a lot of distinction, a lot of great ideas. I wish he would have come today too," Skoglund said of Yoder. 

The town hall came about following a nation-wide movement of frustrated teenagers wanting to take action in the aftermath of school shootings, most recently in Parkland, Fla. 

Saturday's covered a wide variety of topics, including disparities in education, women's health, the effect of money in politics, but focused on gun violence. 

Jay Sidie, Mike McCamon, Sharice Davids, Sylvia Williams, Brent Welder, and Tom Niermann were the attending democratic candidates. 

Chris Clemmons was the libertarian candidate. 

Democrat Jay Sidie, who lost to Yoder in the 2016 election said politicians are selling out. 

"Our politicians in Washington are being bought by the corporate people that make money off of gun sales and they don't want that business model to go away," Sidie said.

Democrat Mike McCamon said, "Why doesn't Congress do anything? Because the core, the root of this problem is money. The only way we're going to stop this is if we cut off the legs of the NRA." 

The moderator of the town hall, a local high school debate teacher, asked the cutout of Yoder if he'd stop accepting money from the NRA for his campaign. 

He paused and said, "His silence is all I need to know." 

Yoder's office issued a statement saying he is more than happy to meet with the students, but he didn't go because: "Saturday’s last-minute event will be hijacked by forces that want to politicize this tragedy and use it as a political wedge issue." 

Yoder's office went on to say, “Turning a serious, important issue into a political rally is the wrong approach to solving our nation’s toughest problems. Since the Parkland shooting, Kevin’s been focused on solutions like lifting the ban on gun violence research at the CDC, enhancing the background check system, new funding for armed resource officers and other deterrents, and getting new regulations banning bump stock devices. As he’s said, doing nothing is not an option. And Congress has followed through with action.” 

Hali Liu, one of the teen organizers of the event, said they are disappointed Yoder didn't show. 

"A town hall is a place for constituents to ask their candidates what is their plan, what is their thought process. It's not just a democratic primary event as he said before," Liu said. 

Liu also says she hopes they can sit down with Yoder in the future. 

.A voting booth was at the event if anyone needed to register to vote. 

Overall, it seemed people felt good about what happened. 

"A lot of people say this, but I think this is actually going to change our society and the world we live in," high school junior Niki Joshi said. 

One attendee said of the students' efforts, "It's pretty amazing. It's very encouraging."