TOPEKA (AP) — A white Kansas lawmaker who suggested at a public forum that African Americans were predisposed to abusing drugs resigned from two legislative committee leadership jobs on Tuesday but did not give up his seat in the Legislature.
Republican Rep. Steve Alford, from the western Kansas town of Ulysses, faced calls on social media to leave office altogether from critics who saw his remarks as racist. And a black House member said Alford should resign from the Legislature.
Alford stepped down as chairman of the House Children and Seniors Committee and as vice chairman of a joint legislative task force on child welfare. He won't keep a seat on either panel but will retain other committee assignments.
"We came to a mutual understanding," House Speaker Ron Ryckman Jr., a Kansas City-area Republican, told reporters after meeting Tuesday with Alford. "His remarks were a disappointment and unfortunate."
But Rep. Valdenia Winn, a black Kansas City, Kansas, Democrat, said Tuesday that Alford should leave the Legislature. She said giving up committee leadership jobs is "insignificant."
"Until he resigns from the Legislature, there is no difference," Winn said. "You owe that to your constituents and the state of Kansas."
Alford declined to comment Tuesday after issuing a statement saying he was giving up the two jobs and attending the day's House session.
During the public meeting Saturday in Garden City, Alford discussed his opposition to legalizing any use of marijuana and referenced a time in the 1930s when it was outlawed.
Kansas is one of the few remaining states that haven't legalized some form of medical marijuana.