The lieutenant governor isn’t a particularly high profile position in Kansas, but Thursday’s selection of former Lawrence legislator Troy Findley to fill that slot has some interesting ramifications.
Findley wasted no time in making it clear that, like Gov. Mark Parkinson, he has no plans to run for the governor’s office in 2010. That question had been much on the minds of Kansas Democrats who still are searching for a strong candidate to challenge for the governor’s seat that already has attracted two Republican candidates: U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback and Secretary of State Ron Thornburgh.
Findley isn’t that person, but he and Parkinson could make a strong team for the next 18 months. Exactly because they already have served notice that they won’t run for office next year, they will be able — and probably willing — to tackle state issues that would pose political peril for someone whose name would be on the 2010 ballot.
Parkinson already leaped into the energy debate and bartered a compromise that many people might have found politically risky. The deal to allow the construction of a coal-fired electric plant in exchange for legislation to move the state’s renewable energy efforts forward essentially sets a new course for the state’s energy future.
What else would Parkinson like to tackle? He and Findley both have legislative backgrounds and seem to have a good rapport with legislative leaders. A pragmatic approach may move the state forward in a number of areas.
The selection of Findley, however, doesn’t move Kansas Democrats any closer to a winning candidate for the governor’s seat. It’s debatable whether using the lieutenant governor’s appointment to anoint such a candidate would have worked anyway, but there seem to be no obvious choices to assume the Sebelius/Parkinson mantle in the governor’s office. Democrats will have to continue their search.
In the meantime, it will be interesting to see what issues Parkinson and Findley take on. Eighteen months isn’t a long time, but the relative absence of political agendas may nonetheless make it a productive term.