An African-American Democrat in the Kansas Senate is defending the free-speech rights of a fellow state lawmaker who made racist comments about blacks and marijuana.
Sen. David Haley, a Kansas City, Kan., Democrat, confirmed to The Star Wednesday that he had sent a letter to House leadership about the remarks by Republican Rep. Steve Alford of Ulysses.
“I, in NO way, concur, agree with or find ANY merit in these ludicrous beliefs of statements made openly by Representative Alford,” Haley said in the letter. “But, I will defend, encourage and support (as I trust every conscientious legislator would) his every right to say it.”
Alford was responding to a question about marijuana legalization at a legislative coffee over the weekend.
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“What you really need to do is go back in the ’30s when they outlawed all types of drugs in Kansas (and) across the United States, what was the reason they did that?” Alford said. “One of the reasons why, I hate to say it, the African-Americans, they were basically users and they basically responded the worst off those drugs just because (of) their character makeup, their genetics, and that.”
Alford has since apologized and resigned his leadership positions in the Legislature. He has not resigned from the Legislature.
Haley, who says he has served in the Kansas Legislature for 24 years, is the nephew of Alex Haley, author of “Roots.”
Haley said he does not want Alford to resign. He said he believes in the First Amendment.
“I do not believe it’s the proper place of the Legislature to squelch free expression or thought,” Haley said.
The Wichita Eagle’s Jonathan Shorman contributed to this report.