Two Black Kansas lawmakers, one Democrat and one Republican, are taking aim at their state's Democratic governor after she torpedoed a project that would restore and develop a significant portion of the Underground Railroad.
Gov. Laura Kelly axed the project, which had been championed by Democratic state Rep. Marvin Robinson, after Robinson sided against the governor on key votes involving abortion and transgender athletes. Kelly used her veto to nix the project from the state budget.
The project would have received $250,000 in the next state budget for drafting a state plan to develop and make restorations to the Quindaro Ruins in Kansas City, Kansas, which Robinson represents. Quindaro was a town and a station on the Underground Railroad that helped enslaved people escape to Canada.
Robinson told Fox News Digital in an interview that Kelly's veto was 'cruel.'
'To me, it was like cruel and torture, I don't know so much about payback and all the other unfortunate terms that people used,' Robinson said, questioning how the funding almost made its way through before it was abruptly halted by the governor.
Despite the 'mean things that were being done during the legislative session, many by the Democrats, mostly by the Democrat-elected legislators in the House,' Robinson told Fox News that it 'wasn't bigger than God.' One of Robinson's fellow Democrats had referred to him as a 'house Negro' for siding with Republicans on key votes.
Kansas Republican state Rep. Patrick Penn, who, like Robinson, is Black and helped secure the funding for the Underground Railroad project, was scathing in his rebuke of Kelly and other Democrats in the state.
'Diversity of thought exists in the Black community just like every other. No other race has the expectation placed upon them by White liberal elites that we line up and vote for Democrats like the Black community does,' Penn told Fox News Digital in a video interview. 'Such bigoted expectations are both unfortunate relics of a small-minded past and simply unconscionable.'
'Marvin Robinson, as a new state representative, has been nothing but the most integrity-filled, the most caring and gentle, and the most passionate for his people here in the House 35th District,' he continued. 'He cares about their vision, their values, and he votes accordingly.'
'He understands that the Quindaro Ruins, the site and the burial grounds and everything, is a good Kansas story because it tells the story of how this state was created in 1861. It's a free state to stand against the tyranny of racism and slavery, and that's his passion,' Penn added of Robinson.
'Democrats owned Marvin's great, great-grandfather down in Texas, so it's no small idea that they think that they own his vote in the Kansas legislature, as well,' Penn added. 'Marvin showed them standing tall that they absolutely do not.'
Kelly told lawmakers in her veto message last week that the Quindaro site is a 'fundamental piece of Kansas history,' but noted that Republicans added the money to the budget during their final days in session this year. Kelly said the idea had not been vetted, and her veto will stand because lawmakers have adjourned for the year.
'Advocates should work through the proper channels to seek funding for this measure and ensure that it receives the recognition it deserves,' Kelly wrote in her message. She gave virtually the same statement to Fox News Digital when asked for comment, noting her administration 'recognizes the importance of this culturally significant site' and that she 'will support efforts to elevate this fundamental piece of Kansas history and honor the surrounding community.'
Robinson told Fox News Digital that he has not spoken with Kelly since she axed the funding from the state budget, insisting she 'had the right to do what she did.'
'I feel kind of sorry for her because what it reflected was a very mean-spirited, almost unbelievable depth of misunderstanding' the importance and significance of the Quindaro Ruins, Robinson said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report