Rep. Jim Slattery and former Gov. John Carlin had a healthy, constructive discussion Friday night, according to a Lawrence man who joined about 20 other top Democrats at the meeting in Topeka.
Dan Watkins, an attorney who has been active in Democratic politics for 15 years, said the mood at the meeting was light, despite Slattery's announcement that he might challenge Carlin for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination. Slattery said he would decide by next month.
"All the people in the room were friends," Watkins said. "A lot of them were in an awkward position, but that'll happen in politics."
Watkins, who made an unsuccessful bid for Congress in 1980, said the awkwardness stemmed from Carlin's previous encouragement of Slattery to challenge Republican Gov. Mike Hayden. When Slattery announced in August that he seek re-election to Congress, Carlin decided to run for governor.
"When Jim decided not to run, people told Carlin they would back him," Watkins said. If Slattery joins the race, some Democrats may switch their support.
Despite the potential for conflict, Watkins said, "I think people came to the meeting with good feelings and left with good feelings."
"There was a good exchange of viewpoints and ideas that clarified things to a certain extent," he said. "(Carlin) reiterated that he had looked at it and he's going to (run). Slattery reiterated that he had reconsidered and was thinking about going for it."
Watkins added that the meeting did not resolve anything, but could strengthen the Democratic party in its quest to win back the governor's office.
"I think the party will be fine regardless of the outcome," Watkins said. "The main fact is that Democrats want a new governor."