Topeka One year before the 2010 election, a Democrat has emerged to challenge Republican U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback in the race for governor.
Tom Wiggans, a pharmaceutical executive, who until recently lived in California and has never voted in Kansas, formed a campaign committee for the contest.
If he wins the Democratic Party primary, Wiggans, 57, of Olathe, will probably face Brownback, R-Kan., who is leaving the Senate to run for governor.
Wiggans, a political newcomer who has never run for office, issued a prepared statement saying that he could better deal with the state’s fiscal problems because of his background in business. And he criticized Brownback as a career politician and opportunist.
“I have enjoyed a rewarding career starting and leading various bioscience and pharmaceutical companies, creating hundreds of jobs while developing new treatments for infertility, heart disease, Lou Gehrig's disease, and kidney, liver and skin cancers,” Wiggans said.
Kansas Republican Party Chair Amanda Adkins issued a one sentence statement. “It is hard to imagine Kansas Democrats would actually nominate for governor someone who has never voted in a Kansas election."
Wiggans also announced that Wint Winter Jr., a former Republican state senator from Lawrence, will serve as his campaign treasurer.
Wiggans was raised in southeast Kansas, but until recently was chief executive officer of Peplin Inc., an Emeryville, Calif., company developing a product for skin cancer. He moved to Olathe in January, his spokesman Amy Jordan Wooden said.
He is a native of Fredonia and graduate of Kansas University with a degree in pharmacy. He is a member of the board of trustees of the KU Endowment Association.
Wiggans steps into a void created when Gov. Mark Parkinson, a Democrat, said he would not seek election. Parkinson had been lieutenant governor and was promoted when Gov. Kathleen Sebelius was appointed by President Obama to head the federal health and human services agency.
Since then, Kansas Democratic Party Chairman Larry Gates was considered a possible candidate, but he, too, decided against running. Democrat Herb West has announced his intention to seek the party’s nod. Meanwhile, Brownback, considered a conservative Republican, is unopposed in the GOP primary.
Wiggans criticized Brownback, saying, “Our state needs a governor who can speak the language of business, jobs and prosperity -- not a career politician like Senator Brownback who's spent nearly 15 years in Washington, D.C., as Congress added over $7 trillion to our national debt.”