Archive for Monday, July 20, 2009

Some Kansas Democrats still hoping Parkinson will change his mind

July 20, 2009, 8:36 a.m. Updated July 20, 2009, 12:48 p.m.


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— Some Kansas Democrats want Gov. Mark Parkinson to change his mind about running for a full term next year, despite his repeated statements that he’ll leave politics.

Parkinson was elevated from lieutenant governor to governor in April, when term-limited Democratic Gov. Kathleen Sebelius resigned to become U.S. secretary of health and human services. Her departure put him in a stronger position for a 2010 campaign, but he previously had declared that he wouldn’t run for any office.

His continued insistence that he won’t run leaves Democrats without a candidate to face Sen. Sam Brownback, who became the presumed Republican nominee when Secretary of State Ron Thornburgh dropped out of the GOP race last month. Meanwhile, Parkinson has won some praise from even Republican legislative leaders for his handling of energy and budget issues.

“Among Democrats, there’s a belief that he has a golden opportunity, and he’s not using it, and maybe that’s a little source of frustration,” said State Treasurer Dennis McKinney, a fellow Democrat.

Sebelius’ decision to name Parkinson as her running mate for her campaign for a second and final term in 2006 caused grumbling in both parties.

Parkinson, a former legislator, served as Kansas GOP chairman as late as January 2003. Some Republicans accused him of switching parties to run with Sebelius out of ambition for the governor’s job, after he’d been critical of her during her first campaign for governor in 2002.

Parkinson has said he switched after the GOP became less moderate and after watching Sebelius do an effective job as governor. But at least a few Democrats resented the idea of him being Sebelius’ heir so quickly after joining their party.

In January, Parkinson surprised leaders of both parties by saying he wouldn’t run in 2010 and would instead return to private business. He’d left the Legislature in 1996 to start a successful nursing home business.

Later, when President Barack Obama nominated Sebelius for the HHS job and after her confirmation, some Democrats speculated Parkinson would change his mind once he had the governor’s office. But he repeated his pledge to serve only the remaining one year and almost nine months of Sebelius’ term.

“I’m absolutely not changing my mind,” Parkinson said after a public appearance last week. “I don’t why people keep the idea out there.”

McKinney speculated that Democrats want Parkinson to run because they view him as effective.

In his first week in office, Parkinson brokered a deal with Sunflower Electric Power Corp. to allow it to build a coal-fired power plant in southwest Kansas, clearing the way for passage of legislation designed to promote renewable energy. Sunflower had wanted to build two plants, but Sebelius’ administration rejected the plan, and the resulting dispute with legislators who’d supported the plan held up “green” proposals.

Environmentalists and some Sebelius supporters are still upset, seeing the compromise as one-sided toward Sunflower. But Republicans generally were pleased.

GOP legislative leaders also backed Parkinson earlier this month when he imposed $160 million in adjustments, including a new round of cuts in aid to public schools, to keep the budget balanced through June 2010.

“I would be one of those that would certainly hope that he would change his mind, but I don’t believe that he will,” said Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, a Topeka Democrat.

Burdett Loomis, a University of Kansas political scientist who once worked on Sebelius’s staff, said Parkinson still has strong appeal to Democrats because they don’t have any other candidate at the moment. Also, Loomis said, Parkinson appears to be comfortable with the governor’s duties.

“He has the demeanor of someone who’s having a good time, but he also knows that he’s a short-timer,” Loomis said.

Brownback remains the only declared GOP candidate in the race, and some Republicans doubt he’ll face a serious challenge with Thornburgh out. Among Democrats, state Sen. Chris Steineger, of Kansas City, has expressed interest in running but hasn’t declared.


lounger 8 years, 10 months ago

My Grandmother would be a better candidate than Brownback and maybe even a better candidate than Parkinson. Geez dont we have ANYBODY better than these two clowns?? Miss you Kathleen!!

Paul R Getto 8 years, 10 months ago

Good idea; I hope Mr. Parkinson listens and decides to run.

preebo 8 years, 10 months ago

Any Democrat, even Parkinson is going to have a hard time combating Brownback for the Governorship. Remember this is Kansas after all (Voted for McCain in '08 - 51%). Additionally, Brownback has a national campaign effort, raising money in Washington and in Kansas. Parkinson, unfortunately, doesn't have the same resources, and typically when one party has been in office for two or more terms, the opposition usually carries an advantage in the next election - simply based on voters disdain for politicians - especially those in power. I say this, even as a devout Democrat, barring any huge unforeseen incident, the Rs will have the mansion in '10.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 8 years, 10 months ago

Brownback will likely be elected, but that could come as the final blow to the Kansas Republican party as moderate Republicans continue to flee while he and religious right legislators continue to establish an American Taliban.

63BC 8 years, 10 months ago

Preebo is even more right than he knows.

McCain got 56.6% in Kansas to Obama's 41.6%---and that was when Obama was at his peak.

preebo 8 years, 10 months ago

Thank you for the correction, 63BC. I think I may have mixed my numbers - I was trying to go off memory of that evening. Your point is well taken, however. Kansans, historically are populists (distrustful of government) and Brownback, as has many Republicans from his class picked up the populist mantle, while championing some of the most invasive American policies since the passage of the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878. To be honest, many Dems also supported these moves, but not nearly to the degree that the Republicans did. Having said that, if Brownback wins, this will certainly be his swan song. He does not carry enough political clout to run for President, as evidenced by his failed run in '08. He is itching for some Executive experience, but this will not be a stepping stone.

BigDog 8 years, 10 months ago

Politically I like a lot about Mark Parkinson .... he also seems to have a lot of business sense ..... but I don't know that he want to go through the rigors of a campaign at this point.

The only chance he will have against Brownback is to go negative and I don't believe he want to head that direction .... I believe there is still worry about him being Paul Morrison's attorney in his first sexual harrassment case ... and there is still rumors that they interfered with an adoption by the woman who accused Morrison of sexual harassment.

I personally do not know what role Parkinson played in Morrison's first case or anything since then.... but Morrison may be the political albatross that Parkinson worries about.

preebo 8 years, 10 months ago addition, the current incarnation of the Democratic party (local and national), for good or bad, goes as President Obama goes. Given that, there is very little hope for a Democratic hold on Governor's house next year.

overthemoon 8 years, 10 months ago

my comment was scrubbed? For complaining about Brownback banning Mermaids???

Sean Livingstone 8 years, 10 months ago

I'd like to have a moderate Republican to be our governor, just like a moderate Democrat to be our governor. Moderate is the key, no one too left, no one too right. We need someone who will listen to both sides of the story. Some left ideas are good, just like some right ideas are great. I don't like anyone who never bother to listen to either sides. Brownback is exactly one who don't bother listen to the left. He doesn't need to in Kansas.

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