Democrat candidate Jean Schodorf tells L&T Publisher Earl Watt her thoughts on voter ID laws. According to Schodorf, there has been unintended consequences of the voter registration practices which she said has reversed the standing order of innocent until proven guilty. L&T photos/Larry Phillips
By EARL WATT
• Leader & Times
Jean Schodorf knows something about growing up a Kansas girl with dreams. “Dorothy is probably the most recognized girl from Kansas, but Laura from Little House on the Prairie is probably No. 2,” she said. Schodorf is the president of the Little House on the Prairie Society in Independence, and her family owns the house featured on the popular television show.
Now, Schodorf is seeking to take her Kansas values to Topeka as secretary of state.
After 12 years as a Wichita School Board member and 12 more years as a state senator, Schodorf believed her party at the time, the Republican Party, took a “sharp right turn,” and she was left behind.
“I had a record of working across the aisle,” Schodorf said during a tour of Southwest Kansas during Spring Break week. “I believe in working with both parties. I have worked with Republican and Democratic governors and legislators. I represented the 25th District for everyone in the district. I have been known as a centrist or moderate.”
When Schodorf lost her seat to Michael O'Donnell in the Republican primary, she opted to switch her affiliation to the Democratic Party.
“It’s a big tent party,” she said. “We believe in rights for all citizens and good education. I’m not saying conservatives don’t do that, my family has always been Republican. The party took a sharp right turn, and I was left behind and wasn’t included any more. This is where I’ve been. I think you need to work for the good of the state, and not an experiment for a party.”
While her affiliation may have changed, she said her values remained the same.
“My beliefs haven’t changed,” Schodorf said. “I’m the same person. It’s based on my good old heritage and Kansas values and upbringing. I have always believed in good education, that’s the key. We must provide good education, low taxes, and good business. At some point, people need to access basic government services, and then leave people alone. Let them raise their families and make a living, and stay out of their lives. Lesser government is better. I always believed that. It’s no different.”
Schodorf opted to challenge Kris Kobach for Secretary of State after voting to protect Kansas elections but believing the implementation has not been what she expected.
“It was supposed to help secure elections,” she said. “It was supposed to be seamless, people wouldn’t know there was a change. It didn’t happen that way. I want to implement it properly. If you are hired to do a job, you are expected to do them. There are 600 requirements in the Secretary of State’s office. I intend to be a full time secretary of state for Kansas, not Arizona or Texas or Missouri, and do the 600 duties assigned to the office. That’s the way I was raised.”
Kobach has been involved with citizenship issues that have also been faced in other states. Kobach has worked closely with Arizona and argued cases in front of the U.S. Supreme Court. Most recently, Kobach earned a victory in federal district court by forcing the federal government to comply with Kansas citizenship requirements for registering federal voters in the state.
But Schodorf believed that Kobach’s focus on immigration has distracted from the main duties of the office.
“The Secretary of State’s office is in shambles,” she said. “The duties are not being fulfilled. (Kobach) has done a terrible job. The unimplementation of the voting law is a perfect example.”
According to Schodorf, there has been unintended consequences of the voter registration practices which she said has reversed the standing order of innocent until proven guilty.
“In the Secretary of State’s office, you are guilty until proven innocent,” she said. “Nothing in the duties of Secretary of State has to do with immigration or working in Arizona or Texas. Most of the laws in those states have been proven unconstitutional. That has focused the emphasis on illegal immigration instead of work ethic and following the duties of secretary of state.”
Schodorf said she had a three-step plan for improving the office.
“First we have to be a full time Secretary of State. No moonlighting,” she said. “Second, we need to provide a one-stop shop for Kansas businesses. Every business has to register with the secretary of state before they open their door. The procedures are broken. We want it to be a one-stop shop to get your questions answered, help you with paperwork or wording, and help people get to work, and that brings jobs. The web site is terrible. We want to revamp it, make it easy to use and understand and it doesn’t cut you off and lose your information. There’s a lot of things we can do to help businesses. And third, we have to fix the registration mess and follow the law.”
Schodorf and Kobach will square off in November.