Topeka Gov. Mark Parkinson on Thursday picked his chief of staff, Troy Findley, a former Lawrence legislator, to be lieutenant governor. Findley immediately put the Kansas political world on notice that he won’t run for office in 2010.
The decision may put Democrats further in the hole for the next election cycle. Parkinson, who became governor a little more than two weeks ago when former Gov. Kathleen Sebelius was confirmed as secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, also has rejected calls to run for governor in 2010.
But state Rep. Paul Davis, D-Lawrence, said strong Democratic contenders for governor will emerge and one of the main Republican candidates -- U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback -- would have trouble winning a general election because his politics are too far to the right.
“This state has never elected somebody of the political ilk of Sam Brownback. All the Republican governors that we’ve had have been moderates, ” Davis said.
Focus on economy
In a news conference introducing Findley as lieutenant governor, Parkinson said the fact that neither he nor Findley would seek elective office would give them more time to focus on the state’s economic problems, which many have said are the worst since the Great Depression.
“We don’t need somebody that’s out there campaigning,” Parkinson said. “The reality of statewide politics now is that if we were running for re-election we would have to leave this press conference and go out and have to start making fund-raising calls for folks, raising money for the next year and a half, as opposed to the work that we will do, which is to move the state forward,” he said.
Findley, 44, served in the Kansas House from 1995 through 2002 when he was hired by then-newly elected Gov. Kathleen Sebelius to be her legislative liaison.
In July 2005, Findley was promoted to chief of staff after the retirement of Joyce Allegrucci.
Sebelius left office April 28 when she became secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Parkinson, her lieutenant governor, stepped up to the governor’s job.
Findley has been viewed as a low-key negotiator who gets along well with Republicans and Democrats.
“It takes everyone from every part of the state and every political background to get the work in this building done,” he said.
Born and raised in Lawrence, Findley is a 1990 graduate of Kansas University and graduated from Lawrence High School in 1982. Prior to entering public service, Findley worked in the grocery and retail industry and for UMB Bank in Lawrence. He and his wife, Jennifer, have a 2-year-old son, Zachary, and now live in Topeka.
“He is a very well-known quantity,” said Davis, who replaced Findley in the House.
“I think people will regard it as a solid selection. He is someone who can clearly step right into the job, who knows the players, knows the agencies,” Davis said.
Findley said he decided not to seek election when the current term ends in January 2011 because he didn’t believe it would be good for his family to engage in a statewide campaign.
Selection a “home run”
Parkinson said he selected Findley because he knew he could work with him and he could take over as governor if needed.
“The decision made itself,” Parkinson said, describing Findley as “an absolute home run. He has been involved in every key decision of this administration for the last seven years.”
Findley will continue as chief of staff, maintain a seat on partner advisory board of the Midwest Cancer Alliance, which is working on National Cancer Institute designation for Kansas University, and take over the role that Parkinson had in leading the state effort in drawing down federal stimulus dollars. A swearing-in ceremony is scheduled for Friday.
Findley earns $100,000 annually as chief of staff and will decline the $31,313 additional salary for lieutenant governor. Parkinson said Findley is leading by example through tough budget times since many state employees are being forced to work harder for the same pay.
House Republican leaders issued a statement congratulating Findley, saying they looked forward to working with him “as we take further steps next legislative session in dealing with the budgetary shortfalls and government growth.”