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Democratic Topeka Mayor Announces Run for Congress

Topeka Mayor Michelle De La Isla at a campaign event Monday. (Photo by Stephen Koranda)
Topeka Mayor Michelle De La Isla at a campaign event Monday. (Photo by Stephen Koranda)

Democratic Topeka Mayor Michelle De La Isla said Monday that she’s running for the Kansas 2nd District seat in Congress currently held by Republican Steve Watkins.

That brings a Democrat back into the race for the U.S. House after Abbie Hodgson dropped out last year citing a lack of fundraising.

Speaking at an announcement in Topeka, De La Isla said health care is a top priority for her. She recounted struggling to pay for health care for her family when she didn’t have insurance.

“When I hear that families in the 2nd Congressional District are concerned because they’re having the same issue, it breaks my heart,” she said.

To help grow health coverage, she said she’d fight in Congress to make sure federal health care funding stays intact for programs like Medicaid. If Kansas lawmakers choose to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act that could potentially offer health coverage for up to 150,000 low-income Kansans.

De La Isla is candid about struggles she’s faced earlier in her life, including poverty, homelessness and fighting cancer.

She touted her bipartisan work to help bring economic development to Topeka, pointing to a new technical college campus recently opened in the city.

“I’m focused more on people,” she said. “I don’t see red and blue.”

On the Republican side, Watkins already faces a primary fight. Kansas Treasurer Jake LaTurner is challenging Watkins for the Republican nomination.

The 2nd Congressional District covers the eastern quarter of Kansas, except for the Kansas City area, which falls in the 3rd District.


Stephen Koranda is KPR's Statehouse reporter.