Topeka The leading Democratic candidate for Kansas governor dropped out of the race Wednesday, leaving his party with no strong challenger to the expected Republican nominee, U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback.
Tom Wiggans, a former pharmaceutical executive making his first run for public office, had the backing of state Democratic leaders, who touted his business experience and contrasted it with Brownback’s 15 years in Congress.
But Wiggans’ campaign acknowledged Wednesday that he would have difficulty defeating Brownback, who is expected to run an aggressive and well-funded campaign. “Tom was relatively unknown to many voters and many donors, and what we saw was that resources it would take counter that, to talk about issues, is insurmountable,” spokeswoman Amy Jordan Wooden said.
Wiggans had little name recognition after living outside the state for many years and returning early this year.
Brownback’s campaign also had raised as an issue a securities fraud lawsuit in California in which Wiggans was a defendant. Wiggans and others settled the case in October for nearly $12.8 million, plus interest, and weren’t required to acknowledge any wrongdoing. But the lawsuit had led Brownback’s campaign manager to publicly label Wiggans “a fraud.”
On Wednesday, though, Brownback said he appreciated Wiggans being willing to run for public office. “I wish him and his family all the best,” the senator said in a statement. “I will remain focused on growing the Kansas economy and creating good jobs.”
So far, Brownback faces only token opposition in the GOP primary set for August. Democrats had searched for a viable challenger to Brownback because Gov. Mark Parkinson said repeatedly that he won’t run. The only declared Democrat is now Herbert West III, of Paola, who ran unsuccessfully for Miami County sheriff in 2008.
Parkinson spokeswoman Beth Martino said that Wiggans’ decision isn’t causing the governor to reconsider.
With the exit of Wiggans, the Lawrence Journal-World asked Parkinson if he was reconsidering whether to run.
His spokesman Beth Martino said he wasn't. "No. The Governor remains focused on the state budget, ensuring the Kansas economy gets back on track and getting Kansans back to work."
Letter from Tom Wiggans to campaign adviser Amy Jordan-Wooden
For the past month I have been exploring my potential candidacy for Governor of Kansas. During that period I have had the honor of meeting and speaking with Kansans across our state, and have studied the opportunity to enter public service and help lead the state to a bright future.
What I have learned from my discussions, and from public opinion polling, is that Kansans are hardly in sync with Sam Brownback and they are deeply concerned with the performance of Congress. What I have also learned, is that for a candidate who has recently returned to his home state and who has never run for political office, it will take more time and resources than I can assemble to mount a winning campaign. While I have remained involved in many activities in the state over the past years, I have spent much of my business career away from home and thus am unknown to many voters and donors.
Therefore I believe it is in the best interest of the voters for me to end my exploration of running for Governor and entering public service at this time, and instead offer my ideas and experience to state leaders, institutions, and companies and focus my energies on creating new jobs and a strong economy for the future. I am committed to continuing my dialog with the voters of Kansas and becoming fully engaged in the many issues facing our state.
For now, I am deeply grateful to the many Kansans who offered me encouragement and I look forward to working with them toward a bright future for the state I am proud to call home.