In recent years, we have become accustomed to only considering presidential candidates in our discussions of politics and elections. The same has been true in 2016. Currently much is being said about a candidate who has absolutely no political experience, nor foreign policy experience, possibly being the next leader of the free world, and another who would be the first female President of the United States. There are also other candidates running for this nation’s highest office, but they have received significantly less coverage than the two representing the Democrat and Republican parties.

What has been missing from this conversation is the fact that State Board of Education seats, judges, two county commission seats, all 125 seats in the Kansas State House and 40 seats in the Kansas State Senate are up for election, and through the August primary we have already seen some of Governor Brownback’s closest allies who supported and carried his failed policies, lose their re-election bids. Federally, even Tea Party favorite U.S. Congressman Tim Huelskamp lost his primary to his Republican opponent, largely because of his D.C. antics that brought no progress to the district he represented. The Sedgwick County Commission also saw the loss of one of its strongest voices of hate — Commissioner Karl Peterjohn.

Locally our Governor, State Legislature, State Board of Education, Sedgwick County Commission, USD 259 School Board, local judges and Wichita City Council have much more of an impact on my/our daily lives than the President of the United States. What we truly need is more people in local offices who put people before party, and common sense before ideology.

So far, 2016 has proven if we collectively get informed and cast our votes, we can begin to bring common sense back to our state and end the failed experiment that has plagued us since 2012.

With the right people in office, we can expand Medicaid and help more than 150,000 Kansans who need healthcare. We can provide real support for mental health issues and ease the burden on our jails for citizens who truly need help and not jail.

We can ensure that body camera footage is accessible and not blocked through Kansas Open Records Act revisions. We can fully fund education, likely decrease class sizes and pay teachers what they deserve. We can fix the unfair practice of allowing more than 300,000 businesses not pay their fair share of state income taxes, which continues to lead to our state borrowing hundreds of millions of dollars and being downgraded in credit ratings.

We can remove the arbitrary tax lid from the City of Wichita which has the potential to negatively affect future spending to improve our city. With the right judges, we can see the unfair practices that overwhelmingly harm people of color begin to be reduced. With more people like Tim Norton on the County Commission, we can see a restoration of common sense and proper health and arts funding.

Voting is only step one in bringing about change. After the election, whether your preferred candidate wins or loses, we must then engage our elected officials and continue to make our demands known to hold them accountable.

We can no longer vote, and forget; we must show up to hearings and meetings. We must make those phone calls, speak up at meetings, send those letters, and let them know we are actively paying attention.

With that being said, the general election is Tues. Nov. 8. Prior to that, Sedgwick County offers early voting and advance voting by mail. The USD 259 school board and Wichita City Council elections will be held in 2017, and some candidates have already announced their intent to run. I encourage you to engage all who intend on making official decisions representing you!

Brandon Johnson is chair of the Sedgwick County Democrat Black Caucus.

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