The 2014 Kansas governor’s race began to take shape Tuesday with the announcement by state Representative Paul Davis, a Lawrence Democrat, that he would run for governor and that it is “time to set things right.”
Republicans wasted no time criticizing Rep. Davis, who is House Minority Leader. Said Republican Party Chairman Kelly Arnold: “He is a partisan leader of a minority caucus. He’s been out of touch with the voters of Kansas. It’s a statewide campaign and I don’t know that Paul Davis knows that Kansas goes west of Topeka.”
Touché, and welcome to the race, Rep. Davis.
Rep. Davis’s announcement that he is running isn’t the only campaign news. Former Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, now a member of President Barack Obama’s Cabinet, will appear at a reception for Rep. Davis in Mission Hills, and Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, the Republican vice presidential nominee in 2012 and one of the House’s conservative leaders, will appear at two fundraisers for Gov. Sam Brownback next week.
Rep. Davis enters the race as a decided underdog whose party holds barely one-fourth of the seats in the Kansas Legislature. To have any hope of overcoming Gov. Brownback, who is certain to have considerably more money, he will have to attract large numbers of unaffiliated voters as well as moderate Republicans who have become disenchanted with the direction Gov. Brownback and his conservative bloc have taken the state. Such coalitions vaulted Mrs. Sebelius to Cedar Crest and constitute the formula for any Democrat who hopes to win a statewide race.
Rep. Davis will need more than the comments he made during his announcement, when he said, “As Kansans, we believe we have a moral obligation to educate our children, reward hard work, build a strong middle class and cooperate with one another. These values are what make us Kansans.”
He’s right, of course, but those remarks could have come from Gov. Brownback, or any politician, for that matter. We doubt there’s a candidate anywhere — conservative, liberal or in between —who wouldn’t support caring for and educating children, rewarding hard work, advocating a strong middle class and cooperation.
There just might be enough Republicans and independents in this state looking for an alternative to Gov. Brownback to oust the incumbent. Rep. Davis might be that individual. But to do so, he’ll have to prove he’s much more than “a partisan leader of a minority caucus.”