My Fellow Kansans

Podcast

  

In the first season of My Fellow Kansans, we examined the forces and consequences of Kansas politics, the history behind it, and the likelihood of another course-changing election in 2018.

Podcast host Jim McLean in season two explores the past, present and future of rural Kansas because it too has a storied history. But as once-thriving towns continue to shrink, does it have a future? That, fellow Kansans, depends on whom you ask.

And, in season three, My Fellow Kansans tells the stories of people across the state to learn how the coronavirus pandemic has affected us all. Subscribe to My Fellow Kansans wherever you listen to podcasts.

 

 Discover new episodes or subscribe here.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas News Service

Getting married and having your first child is stressful enough. Try making those life changes during a pandemic. As a teacher.

CORINNE BOYER / KANSAS NEWS SERVICE

One western Kansas resident's recovery from COVID-19 was made worse by an unpleasant health care experience.

Stephan Bisaha / Kansas News Service

 

What happens when the coronavirus comes between your senior year and dreams of a state championship?

Celia Llopis-Jepsen/Kansas News Service

A first-hand account of what it's like to be hospitalized with COVID-19, and how a family handled the situation.

The term "essential worker" covers a wide range of jobs that proved especially vital when Kansans were hiding out at home from the coronavirus.

Nomin Ujiyediin / Kansas News Service

Besides the coronavrius, another urgent topic again surfaced this year: an end to racism.

The Wichita vintage store that Gabrielle Griffie co-owns had been open mere weeks before the coronavirus forced businesses to shut down.

And just weeks after it reopened, Griffie found herself focused on something entirely different, something she'd fought for in 2014 as a high schooler and would lead the fight for now — equality.

Brian Grimmett / Kansas News Service

Hair has been quite the topic during the coronavirus. For the first episode of My Fellow Kansans: People and the Pandemic, we spoke with a salon owner.

Montella Wimbley has owned a combination salon and barber shop in a predominantly Black neighborhood in Wichita for 34 years.

When Kansas shut business down, she had to put down her trimmers and pick up the phone — over and over again, taking weeks to get through to someone at the state’s beleaguered unemployment agency.

Go here to subscribe to the My Fellow Kansans podcast. This season, we look at the prospects of rural places.

DODGE CITY, Kansas — The history of this small city built on the cattle trade sets it apart from most towns in rural Kansas. The mere name of the place evokes recollections of the Wild West and the subsequent romancing of that age.

Yet Dodge City also stands apart from the region that surrounds it. This place is growing.

Go here to subscribe to the My Fellow Kansans podcast. This season, we look at the prospects of rural places.

GREENSBURG, Kansas — The massive tornado that leveled this town in 2007 pretty much defines disaster.

Eleven people dead. The place in ruins.

Yet without the tragedy, Greensburg wouldn’t have had the chance to transform itself into “the greenest community in America.”

Go here to subscribe to the My Fellow Kansans podcast. This season, we look at the prospects of rural places.

ANTHONY, Kansas — Few things signal a rural community’s decline more powerfully than the closure of its hospital.

Like shuttered schools and empty Main Streets, an abandoned hospital serves as a tangible reminder of the erosive power of decades of population loss and unrelenting economic trends.

On Tuesday, Nov. 19, you are invited to a live event featuring Jim McLean, host of the award-winning podcast My Fellow Kansans, in Dodge City, KS. 

This one will take place at the Depot Theater Company, 101 E. Wyatt Earp Blvd., Ste. 201. in Dodge City, KS. Doors open at 5:30 p.m., and the event runs from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Refreshments provided by the Depot. 

Go here to subscribe to the My Fellow Kansans. This season, we look at the prospects of rural places.

PHILLIPSBURG, Kansas — The opening of a child care center attracts little notice in a city or suburb.

In rural Kansas, it’s cause for celebration.

The focus on young families, and the hope that represents, is remarkably rare in small towns fighting for survival against forces largely beyond their control.

Go here to subscribe to My Fellow Kansans. This season, we look at the prospects of rural places.

COURTLAND, Kansas — Rural Kansas has a storied past, but decades of population decline stand poised to turn many once-vibrant places into ghost towns. 

The struggle for survival reveals itself in emptied Main Streets, shuttered factories and tired-looking neighborhoods dominated by houses built before World War II.

An exodus that started more than 100 years ago and gained momentum during the Great Depression has now thinned the population of most of the state’s 105 counties to fewer than 10 people per square mile.

Rural Kansas has a storied past. But as once-thriving towns continue to shrink — does it have a future? That depends on who you ask. In season two of My Fellow Kansans, host Jim McLean explores rural Kansas to discover what the future holds for rural communities across the state. 

Our conversation begins October 18. Subscribe now.

Kansas voters elected a new governor, Democrat Laura Kelly, who wants to promptly expand Medicaid eligibility, resolve a long-running lawsuit with more school funding, and address a crisis in the state's foster care system. But her ability to fulfill that agenda will depend on how willing a more conservative Legislature is to work with her.

Following an on-stage conversation with the governor-elect, My Fellow Kansans host Jim McLean was joined by Washburn University political scientist Bob Beatty and Kansas News Service reporters Stephen Koranda and Celia Llopis-Jepsen for a live panel discussion of the dynamics heading into the 2019 legislative session. 

Beatty, armed with insights from a Fox News exit poll, said voters are looking for their elected officials to chart a center path. 

 

With the election of Democrat Laura Kelly as governor, it appears Kansas is trending back to the center. But voters sent a mixed message as conservatives regained control of the Legislature. 

To cap off this season My Fellow Kansans, the incoming governor sat down with Jim McLean of the Kansas News Service and took questions from a live audience at Washburn University in Topeka. 

As Kelly prepares to take over the reins of state government, she said she's found the problems to be worse than she thought. But the governor-elect, a veteran of the state senate, is confident she'll have a "moderate majority" of Democratic and Republican lawmakers working with her on solutions. 

Well, fellow Kansans, it’s over.

Democratic state Sen. Laura Kelly, running as the “fix-it” candidate on the premise that Kansas had gone off the rails, beat “full-throttle conservative” Kris Kobach in the race for governor.

Her win signaled Kansans’ desire to, if not reverse the state’s turn to the right, at least turn down the political rhetoric and focus on the basics.

A race that looked to be oh-so-close turned out to be a clear victory for Democrat Laura Kelly, the new governor-elect of Kansas.

On this mini episode of “My Fellow Kansans” we hear what Kelly had to say on election night and her explanation of what vaulted her to victory over Republican Secretary of State and conservative firebrand Kris Kobach. 

If conservative firebrand Kris Kobach would continue Kansas on its path to the right, Democrat Laura Kelly would be its pivot back to center.

After a weak start early in the campaign, polls suggest Kelly is now virtually tied with her Republican opponent in the heated race for Kansas governor.

If there’s a talking point in Kris Kobach’s campaign that virtually no one could quibble with, it’s captured in his billboards: “The consistent conservative.”

On the campaign trail, he offers another term that underlines the ambitious Republican secretary of state’s approach to politics and to governing. He promises to be a “full-throttle” conservative.

Indeed, if his politics are conservative, his approach to public life is aggressive. He pledges a hard line against abortion, on immigration, for lower taxes.

And he promises to fashion a Kobach administration in Kansas the way President Donald Trump has remade politics in Washington.

Of the three leading candidates in the race for Kansas governor, polls suggest Greg Orman is the least likely to win.

Recent surveys show the independent in single digits — well behind Republican Kris Kobach and Democrat Laura Kelly, who are virtually tied.

In 2016, as Kansas voters revolted against Gov. Sam Brownback and his conservative allies in the Legislature, one-time Republican gubernatorial nominee Jim Barnett, saw an opening.

The Topeka doctor bought a red pickup truck, and, with his wife, Rosie Hansen, started exploring the possibility of running for governor again — this time as the unabashed moderate in a field of conservatives.

Before he was governor, Sam Brownback had been state agriculture secretary, congressman, and U.S. senator. But when he captured the state’s top office in 2010 he had even bigger plans: to transform Kansas into a red-state model for the nation.

That’s not the way things panned out.

Thirty years after its hard turn to the right — driven largely by abortion politics and the anti-abortion Summer of Mercy protests — Kansas is on the cusp of what could be another course-changing event: the 2018 race for governor.

 

From its bloody free-state beginnings to present-day, red-state conservatism, we ask: How did Kansas get here?

My Fellow Kansans explores one of the most pivotal chapters in the state’s history — its hard turn to the right over the past three decades. A turn driven by abortion and other culture-war wedge issues, and by politicians skilled in exploiting them.