Changing parties: Welcome, Faris Farassati! “Let’s talk.”

by Victoria Kline

Integrity Intercept: Eyes on the Truth – Intercept #10

Part One of Two

May 13, 2024

Mike Czinege and Dr. Faris Farassati

I want to introduce two remarkable men to you. Perhaps you’ve heard their names in Johnson County politics. In 2021, they ran against each other for Mayor of Overland Park.

The first person I wish to present is Dr. Faris Farassati, a cancer research scientist who also served for six years as an Overland Park City Council Member serving Ward 5. NPR reported that Farassati was “a fierce critic of the city’s use of development tax incentives, frequently clashing with the council majority.” A practicing Muslim and immigrant from Iran, Dr. Farassati was registered as a Democrat for years. The point of this two-part series is that he no longer is. This is the BIG SWITCH, so to speak.

Mike Czinege, a retired executive from Ernst & Young, AMC, and Applebee’s, is the second person I’d like to introduce. Per NPR, Czinege’s concerns were that “Overland Park’s quality of life is eroding because of too much density and congestion, too many new high-rise apartments, and an increase in crime.” Mike is a Republican, a practicing Catholic, and born and raised in the United States. His political priorities included single-family residential neighborhoods, limiting tax incentives, avoiding highway toll lanes, and strong law enforcement”(1).

Their story began during the Overland Park mayor’s race in 2021. I became focused on Faris Farassati when he was running against my favorite candidate, Mike Czinege. Mike was new to the political “board room.” He was the “new kid.”  Even so, anyone who has seen, read about, or encountered Mike Czinege knows that a new notch was added to his resumé belt when he entered politics. During the debates between Faris Farassati, Mike Czinege, Clay Norkey, and Curt Skoog (the eventual winner), Faris reached across the aisle to meet his opponents after one of the debates.

Before I finally got to meet Dr. Farassati two months ago, I had formed some normal biases due to political Party differences. But NPR’s aforementioned comment about Dr. Farassati being “a fierce critic of the city’s use of development tax incentives” began to change my bias. Mike Czinege furthered my confusion with his speaking tour about a growing friendship with Dr. Farassati, his former opponent. My attention was now drawn to this part of the story as it unfolded.

In February, the Johnson County Republican Party welcomed Dr. Farassati as its keynote speaker at that month’s Elephant Club luncheon. Mike Czinege, who sat in the audience, warmly introduced Dr. Farassati and gave a brief history of the past year. When Dr. Farassati got up to speak, he announced, “I am now registered as a Republican,” and with a mischievous grin, he added, “this was the only way to silence Mike.” We all laughed, and for the first time, I got to hear the other side.

There has been a shift in the political climate, and it appears to be polarization on every front. As “progress” sped along at an alarming rate in Johnson County’s bedroom community, it awoke from its slumber. The local news, and even our Republican Secretary of State, told us the county was turning “blue” or looking “purple.” As with the opening scene in Mary Poppins, the winds were changing, and a new “nanny” [state] had arrived. Johnson County Republicans and Conservatives began to realize that the medicine being shoved down their throats was anything but a “spoonful of sugar.”

Two weeks after the Elephant Club luncheon, I sat down with Faris Farassati and Mike Czinege for an interview that reminded me of the title of a book, “Leaders Who Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together And Others Don’t.”

Vicki: Who reached across the aisle first, and why?

Mike: We finished the debate; it went reasonably well. Faris came over and he was very direct, and he looked me straight in the eye and he put out his hand and he said, ‘You and I need to talk’. I was somewhat puzzled. We shook hands, we all shook hands. Yet Faris’s message was very different. Faris was sincere. “We need to talk,” and I said, “About what?” And he said, “You and I have the same political views. And we need to gather our thoughts, to move those thoughts forward. So, let’s try to spend some time together,” and I agreed. We continued through the political campaign; we did not interact with each other during the primary much while we were competitors. But we were cordial, and I felt more cordial [with Faris] than with Curt Skoog and Clay Norkey because I felt that the more we debated, their true character came out. And their anger began to come out when Faris and I both confronted them with the times they voted against the residents of Overland Park and in favor of the attorneys, civil engineers, and the developers.

Mike took a depth breath. It was obvious he did not approve of those leaders’ views against the general populace.

Mike: Well, if you watch some of the later debates, after the Primary, we had to disclose who our donors were. After the campaign was over, Curt and I both raised about $105,000. The difference is, and you can see it in the last three or four debates, in the General – four in the primary and five in the general, nine total – I would point out that it was up to the voters who wanted to represent them. Someone who had their best interests at heart. If you look at my donors, it looks like the white pages of the Overland Park residents. There are no companies that I would do business with for the city. If you look at Curt’s, it looks like the yellow pages from the development community. I told the listeners, “So, you need to decide who you need to vote for.”

I was at the debate, and Curt Skoog was highly annoyed by that statement. His wife was even more irritated by it.  

Mike: Who donates is who gets represented. Essentially, 60% of his [Skoog’s] donations are developers. My donations are from citizens, and I will represent the citizens. Most of his donations are from developers, and he will represent the developers.

The race was tight: Mike 49.16% to Curt’s 50.57%. For a new contender on the block up against 16 years of experience, the message from the voters should have been heeded better. Conservatives have felt that it was not (2). After the Primary, Faris called Mike and said, “Let’s have those conversations.” And they did.

Mike: We had several conversations about the inner workings of the Overland Park Council. We talked about how several of the city council members voted. Faris was clear he wanted to see Scott Mosher and Jeff Cox elected.

Indeed, they both did win. Scott Mosher in Ward 4 against Stacie Gram won with 52% of the votes, and in Ward 6, Jeff Cox defeated incumbent Chris Newlin with 51%. The races were close except in Ward 1: Logan Heley won with 63% against newcomer Ryan Spencer 37%. With similar numbers in Ward 2, Melissa Cheatham won with 62% of the votes to Roger Tarbutton’s 38%.

Mike: To the degree he could share some of the inner workings of the council, he [Faris] did share that he had such a strong constituency, he could not publicly break ranks and endorse me. I get that. Then, he brought me to his mosque.

Vicki: Was this a special time or a normal religious gathering?

Faris said it was a Friday night, and it was not during Ramadan. Mike remembered it was in October and continued with his experience.

Mike: I had never been inside of a mosque, and you always have preconceived ideas of things.  The message was one I would have heard in my church or in any church. It was about life, morals, ethics and whatever. There were a few hundred people there and about half stayed and I got about 10 minutes to talk. I was shocked after I was done. This is 2021, we are wearing masks, separating, and socially distancing. I don’t know how many – there were a lot – there was a line of people that wanted to come talk to me. They wanted to shake hands, and some wanted to hug.

Faris gave a small chuckle.

Mike: The conversations were [trying to find the words] … Some were thanking me for being there, but some were in-depth. There are situations in zoning and other things about integrity. I was in a state of shock. Then Faris took me back to the office of the Imam. I said I was not sure what just happened. I don’t understand why they were so receptive to the message and so engaging afterwards. They were empathetic to what I was trying to do and shared their experiences. It was not his Imam [who answered his question], but it was Faris. He explained that many people in the room are immigrants, like Faris, yet different than he was. They escaped tyrannical regimes. Where they can’t trust the government, the government is completely corrupt. 

It was hard for Mike to express how Faris explained the people from his mosque. I offered up the word ‘discernment’.

Faris: He speaks from the heart.

Mike: I could have gone into my own church and not gotten that sort of receptivity. We talked about a lot of things, and the Imam asked me a very interesting question. Why are American women so adamant about wanting to have the right to kill their own children inside of their womb? I have no explanation for this. Faris and I continued to meet often.

In fact, when wanting to do this interview, I had asked Mike, “How often do you speak with Faris?” and he replied, “Every day.”

Ironically, the Democrats know the topic of abortion should be central to their campaign. It is an emotionally charged button that now can be hit often to make votes. I pressed the issue on the abortion question. (3)

It’s an odd revelation about our society at present. The Imam, in a sense, asked a fundamental question, that even Republicans get called names or are said to have motives that are not true.  (4) (5)

Vicki: Why are American women not connected to the child in their womb the way they used to?

Mike: I don’t know. I think they are thinking this is not a separate life. They have disassociated from the baby as though they are taking out an appendix or something. And, I think they have mostly been brainwashed into thinking it is about them and not the child. I think the concept of nurturing has been lost by an entire generation. (6) (7) (8) (9)

Well, these are not opinions that get people into elected office. Which is why the Muslim community feels Mike is more honest about things.

Vicki: I asked if they heard about the mother who left her 16-month-old child in the playpen for ten days while she went on vacation to Puerto Rico. She came back, of course, to a dead child. (10)

Faris: They could not establish a medical or mental health issue? Clearly, she does have this issue.

(Yes, it was mentioned, but not part of her plea deal.)

Faris: She received jail for life? It’s not even believable that someone is not coo-coo. I mean you would not even leave a dog or cat or even a plant. People make sure their plants are watered.

I explained that the reason I brought up the horrible story is because I believe Mike was right. The nurturing quality of women is diminishing (albeit this is a medical issue).

Faris: Not all women are like that.

Vicki: All women? No, I am not talking about all women. Yet, I wonder if the Muslim community feels strongly about this issue. Why are they not more verbal to the Democrat Party about it?

Faris: The name of the Imam is Dr. Aljizawi. This is who Mike meet with. He has a PhD in comparative studies between Islam and Christianity. He was the religious affairs director of Islamic center of Johnson County and a faculty member at William Jewell when Mike met him. Now he heads an Islamic center in Michigan.

He was asking Mike a good question. He is not an average person; he is a scholar out of William Jewel. He could see the proximity between the Muslim community and the Republican Party. Why doesn’t the Republican Party approach this or capitalize on it? [I believe this was Dr. Aljizawi’s question. Faris continues to answer by question} The Democrat Party has successfully only opened conversations in the areas they agree with the Muslim community. Abortion is one they do not open with our community. Immigrant communities come to the United States for an average way of life. We want a family, bread on the table, kids going to school, good values being taught and quality education in chemistry, physics, and math. We do not want indoctrination, [for example], not making them more confused about their identity.

Mike: Stop the grooming.

Faris: I do not see the Republican Party addressing this and I do not want to come into the Party and criticize. I mean, people must put their sweat and blood into this. I am not that arrogant. We have proximity of areas we can pursue.

I could see why the Muslim community was frustrated with what they and other conservatives see as an attack on the traditional nuclear family or re-establishing their terminology against the standard we all understand.

Vicki: Speaking of Party issues, what do you think of Climate Change?

Faris: This is a scientific matter. The Left has taken this to areas Science does not support. In my view, we are all environmentalists. Each one of us – do you not like clean water and clean air?

Vicki:  Well, of course. This was President Trump’s basic question.

Faris: To what degree are you making a political agenda out of it?  And to what degree do you let Science take the lead in fixing the issues? And, right now, I think we have extremism on the side of what you can refer to as the Left to magnify certain agendas and just make it political.

Vicki: They are using it to grab land.

Faris: Leave it in the hands of the people who have education for it. They have expertise in it. Don’t try to abduct it, and everyone basically agrees with that.

Vicki: When you say ‘everybody’, do others in the Democratic [my word, explained later] Party think this way?

Faris: I think people are tired of thinking the world will come to an end next year. Constantly being told that there is a drought or something. The environment goes through cycles. I am not saying, do not take care of the environment. You have the Democratic Party making it an Armageddon scenario, so they can collect votes.

Vicki: I recall a man my husband and I listened to while driving to California for a wedding [in 2017]. He was a geoscientist out of Australia and was finally roped into a four-hour discussion. Two things stood out: The scientist felt that people with doctorates in everything but the science they were espousing were the cheerleaders for the cause and that people spoke about climate as though it was their religion.

Seventy-five scientists from Australia published a paper titled “The European Climate Declaration,” stating that there was no climate crisis. Two years passed before December of 2019, when the continent caught fire due to a climate crisis. It was rumored that some of the fires were started by arsonists. The timing lends itself to collusion theories.  (11) (12)

Faris: It’s a political show. They have these mouthpieces, and I agree it is now spoken about like a religion. Let me summarize this. I would much rather listen to a scientist on this issue than a crusader or politician. I do not need a crusader to come and take up the banner on human rights or gender identity. We have well-established scientific criteria for these things.

Vicki: Then why are they saying we [the Republicans] are not following the science on these issues?

Faris: Because these people are just like the guy you are talking about. Senators from New York City have no background in these things whatsoever. When I say, ‘Bring me the data,” and it does not exist. Did you know we now in Overland Park have tree equity?

Vicki: What is that?

Mike: Tree equity?

Faris: The plantation of trees.

We repeat the word making sure his Iranian accent is not the cause of our misunderstanding.  Nope, we heard correctly.

Faris: The planting of trees has somehow not been equitable.

Vicki: It’s not equal?

Faris: It’s not. And our highways are racist now. Because of how they go to minority neighborhoods, and they split them up intentionally. Now we need three billion dollars from the Federal Government to restructure highways. This is an issue for this country? Where people cannot afford insulin? Or may not be able to afford food?

My husband, Steve, who had been listening to this interview, chimed in.

Steve: They want to find ways to launder money.

Faris: What contractor promotes this to get a $600 million contract to reroute the highway? They are figuring out ways to reroute the roads.

Steve: Well, then they can have a contract with a $500 hammer.

Mike, who had been listening intently, entered back into the conversation.

Mike: It is coming from the Democrat Party.  I do not mean this as a lecture. I would say this to Sean Hannity. But it’s not the Democratic Party. The word Democratic is a type of government. It’s the Democrat Party, it’s just a pet peeve of mine.

And Mike is correct again. Although they call themselves the Democratic Party, the word “democratic” is misleading, and it appears to be on purpose. (13) Faris does a wonderful job listening to people speak, and I see his wheels turning. He will not say “Democratic Party” again.

Faris: You have elected officials from the Democrat Party, who, on Overland Park City Council, who have said – and it’s on camera someplace – that their mission is to make it harder for people of Overland Park to drive. That is their mission. I could name names, yet I will not.

(I would’ve had no problem with naming names!)

Faris: I have heard directly that they want to narrow the residential streets in front of your house and that somehow it will make people not want to drive. See how politically brainwashed this crusade attitude is? They want to come in and intervene in your quality of life. The American way of life or lifestyle is all out the door and a political agenda comes over under the umbrella of, “Oh, cars are bad for the environment. Therefore, I am going to make your residential streets narrower.” As a matter of fact, they passed it. Every residential street in this city is now going to be narrower than before.

Over a thousand streets across seven different U.S. cities were studied by Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health to save lives. (14) It is supposed that narrow streets slow people down. However, the death toll is linked more to a lack of infrastructure for pedestrians and cyclists. As an opposing viewpoint, congestion can cause traffic flow problems, making drivers frustrated and aggressive. Construction and road work vehicles for repair and weekly garbage removal could also have a problem, and ambulance vehicles are slowed causing delays in emergency response times. Finally, it may limit parking, causing others to park illegally and obstructing children, pets, and people’s views and creating a safety hazard.

Vicki: Then comes the big question, “How do we fix it?” Do we bring a lawsuit? A Class Action suit against them? We have a running joke among some of us about Peg Trent, our attorney for the Board of Johnson County Commissioners. She is her own self-appointed interpreter for the Johnson County Charter. Everyone but Charlotte O’Hara and Michael Ashcraft (and, on occasion, Becky Fast) acts as if, when she talks, hearts are coming out of her mouth.

Faris: Vote these people out.

Vicki: We do not have fair elections. (15)  Our voter rolls are a joke!

Faris: If the margin is big enough. I am saying this from a person who comes from Iran. You can become the president if you have 20 million votes, and the other guy has 10 million and he can reverse it. If the margin is too big, they cannot reverse it. We need to look at what happened in the Prairie Fire election. They unified around a certain agenda that everyone liked. And they won that election. (16)

Vicki: Yes, they wanted to keep the Parties out of it.

Faris: Yes! Those values and agenda exist in the Republican Party, and, in my opinion, they do not exist in the Johnson County Democrat Party. I am not commenting on EVERY Democrat Party. The way he does (nods toward Mike), I became a politician with this database. This exists in the Johnson County Republican Party, we must unify people around that agenda, move them on. We need to change the Board of County Commissioners and the city councils. Lawsuits need money. Maybe there are some activist lawyers who will help. The roots are right, and Prairie Fire showed us the possibility. They keep saying, ‘It’s getting blue, it’s getting blue.” Yet, the number of registrants is getting higher. We need them energized to come out.

Vicki: I just got word that a man in Wyandotte County, who has always been a Republican, went to vote. His name is Jerald Thompson. They checked him in at the poll pad and when they turned it around to have him sign, he noticed it said Democrat. He asked, who changed his status? They did not know. Now he had to vote with a provisional ballot, which could be removed from the sleeve and another ballot placed in its place. We had our voter rolls examined by Omega4America. You can hear the report on a video. (17)

(Note: Our Secretary of State gives the impression he will not or cannot clean the voter rolls.)

This interview will continue in Part Two later in May. We will discuss election interference, a growing friendship, and how changing to the Republican Party may help to energize the base.

Stay tuned for Part 2.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *