If some Kansas Republicans have their way, state Rep. Valdenia Winn, a Democrat from Kansas City, will be punished for calling them racists during debate on legislation that would eliminate tuition breaks for illegal immigrants, Talking Points Memo reported Friday. Nine Republicans signed a complaint that accused Winn of using “inflammatory language” while addressing the bill in committee.
According to a transcript of the March committee meeting, Winn said:
I have dreaded this day because this is a racist, sexist, fear-mongering bill that I would like first to apologize to the progressively-minded people of Kansas who are appalled that we are turning back the hands of time…um…regarding to, and I am going to use strong language, Jim Crow tactics, and once again making Kansas a laughingstock. I want to apologize to the students and their parents whose lives are being hijacked by the racist bigots who support this bill….
“She just referred to this committee as racist,” said state Rep. John Barker, R-Abilene. Winn disagreed, claiming she was referring to institutional racism and not the members of the committee.
“I said supporters,” she told Barker. “I am not saying anything, but you know what, you can do anything you want, but I am going to say what I have to say because if the shoe fits, if the shoe fits, it fits. But this is an example of institutional racism, not individual racist, institutional racism because it deals with societal structural changes.”
An April inquiry into the complaint was postponed, but a special investigative committee consisting of three Democrats and three Republicans are set to address the matter in a public hearing on June 26. The panel will privately consider the matter after the hearing to determine if sanctions should be brought to the House for a vote.
Winn could be expelled from the statehouse, but Rep. John Bradford, one of the Republicans who signed the complaint, said expulsion would be “too harsh.” Instead, he suggested a reprimand while leaving it up to the voters to determine if she should stay in office.
“Valdenia has, I would say, she has a ‘get me’-type attitude. She is a very nice person when she is away from the Capitol, just to converse with,” he said. “But when she comes into the Capitol she puts on this front like she is there to insult me. That day she flew off the handle like I had never seen her do before.”
Democrats support Winn and claim the complaint is an effort to silence the minority opinion. “The Democratic Caucus fully supports Rep. Winn in this matter,” said Minority Leader Rep. Tom Burrough. “This investigation is nothing but an attempt by the majority party to silence a minority voice that dared to speak up in opposition to discrimination. She has a constitutionally protected right to voice her opinion on this or any other issue, as do all Kansans.”
“What’s most disturbing is the purposeful chilling effect that this type of conduct has on legislators,” said Winn’s lawyer, Pedro Irigonegaray, who added:
I cannot imagine that the committee would make such a recommendation [of expulsion], but the degree of inconceivable actions by our Kansas legislature and governor have reached such a level. It’s just gotten to a point where is there a fog of hate clouding the Capitol building, and I certainly do not understand the total dysfunction that exists.
But political discourse in America has been clouded by a “fog of hate” for the much of the last six years. Any criticism of President Obama’s policies, for example, is said to be rooted in racism. The situation has gotten so out of control that a Portland school principal claimed she could spot racism in a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Worse yet, those opposing liberal agenda items are often hit with death wishes and in some cases, death threats.
Two of the Republicans signing the complaint are black, TPM noted. Rep. Tony Barton, one of the two black Republicans, said that if nothing is done, “I guarantee you something like this will happen in the future.”