Barry Grissom speaks to picnic attendees on Saturday at Jackson Park.

While the 2018 midterm elections are a mere seven months behind us, organizers are already gathering for the coming campaign season.

The Atchison County Democratic Party hosted a picnic on Saturday, June 8, at Jackson Park. Speakers included Barry Grissom, the former U.S. Attorney for the District of Kansas — a probable contender for U.S. Senate — and Dustin Brinkman, a candidate for the First Kansas Senate District.

Both speakers discussed issues revolving around rural communities. Citizens in attendance also discussed issues such as school funding, access to healthcare, government transparency and infrastructure.

Grissom and Brinkman made their visit in the wake of high flooding and regional disagreements on federal tariff policy. President Donald Trump’s trade actions against nations like China have triggered retaliatory tariffs on U.S. agricultural goods, a consequence largely borne by U.S. farmers.

“If anyone knows anything about farming, you’re at the whims of the weather, we’ve seen that recently with all the flooding,” Grissom said. “But to be at the whims of a political operation, or plan, that really hurt family farms, it doesn’t help them, I think that’s a bad way to have public policy.”

Brinkman noted that federal decisions have an impact on the state level.

“As a state, we need to look at the levees that are not being promoted by the Corps (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers) and what can we do to increase that infrastructure,” Brinkman said.

Grissom continued to explain his view that access to affordable healthcare and keeping doctors in rural communities would help farming communities.

“The reason that they (doctors) leave is they want their children to have the same type of grade school or high school education they had but those resources aren’t there, so they leave,” Grissom said. “When we talk about rural America and farming, we really have to talk about an overall plan, it’s not just one or another.”

Brinkman, if successful in his quest to become the Democratic Nominee for the First Kansas Senate District, would contest the seat currently held by Sen. Dennis Pyle, Republican of Hiawatha.

According to Associated Press media reports, Grissom has met with Chuck Schumer, Senate Minority Leader, and is considering running to represent Kansas in the U.S. Senate; incumbent Sen. Pat Roberts, a Republican, intends to retire after serving for four terms, since 1997; he had served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1981 until that point.

“We are looking at some opportunities and we’ve been talking to lots of people,” Grissom said. “But when you make a decision to put yourself out there in front of the public, you have to know to have pretty thick skin because it’s not always going to be kissing babies and slapping backs.”

Grissom said he expects to make a decision on the Senate race within the next six weeks.

Maddie Bruegger is a freelance journalist in Atchison; to provide feedback, call 913-367-0583 ext. 20410

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