Wichita Gov. Mark Parkinson on Saturday said Democrats will announce a candidate for governor in the next few weeks, and he hopes it’s Larry Gates, the chairman of the Kansas Democratic Party.
Parkinson’s remarks to reporters came after he and other Democratic leaders spoke at Demofest, trying to boost the party faithful’s confidence in what could be a difficult election for Democrats in 2010.
Parkinson said Democrats are nervous because President Obama is starting to get criticized for the financial failure brought on by the Bush administration, and in Kansas, former Gov. Kathleen Sebelius is no longer here.
Sebelius is working in Obama’s cabinet as secretary of health and human services. Parkinson called Sebelius, who never lost an election, the most successful Democrat in Kansas history.
In addition, Parkinson, who was lieutenant governor and replaced Sebelius, disappointed some Democrats by deciding he would not seek election to the governor’s position.
But Parkinson said Kansas Democrats will have a strong field of candidates who espouse ideas that the majority of Kansans believe in, such as strong public schools and universities.
“Those who are predicting 14 months out that we will have a bad year in 2010, in my opinion, they will be sorely disappointed,” he said.
In the governor’s race, U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., seems to have a clear path to his party’s nomination, and no major Democratic candidate has suited up yet.
State Sen. Chris Steineger, D-Kansas City, has said he is thinking of running. Gates said he is giving the race serious consideration, too.
Both Gates and Steineger said they had no timetable on when they will make a decision. Gates noted that Sebelius didn’t announce her 2002 candidacy for governor until 10 months before the election.
But Parkinson said candidates need to line up this fall to start raising money. He said he has urged Gates to run and hasn’t encouraged any other Democrats to enter that race.
Despite not having a candidate, Democrats took some verbal shots at Brownback, who is considered a conservative.
Lt. Gov. Troy Findley, a former legislator from Lawrence, said, “What we don’t need to happen in Kansas is for an extremist brand of the out-of-touch politics of the Bush years moving into the governor’s office.”
Amanda Adkins, chair of the Kansas Republican Party, said Brownback "understands that there are core factors that attract and keep businesses and families in a state including: tax freedom; a climate of innovation; and healthcare that is centered on people and not government." She said Brownback would release a pro-growth plan in 2010.
Democrats also are trying to recapture the 2nd congressional district, which includes west Lawrence, Topeka, Manhattan and much of southeast Kansas. Democrat Nancy Boyda won the seat in 2006, toppling incumbent Republican Jim Ryun, but in 2008, Boyda was defeated by U.S. Rep. Lynn Jenkins, R-Topeka.
Democrats at Demofest mentioned two possible candidates to take on Jenkins — state Sen. Tom Holland, D-Baldwin City, and state Sen. Laura Kelly, D-Topeka.
Holland said he has been asked by several people to consider running against Jenkins and that he will make an announcement soon. Kelly declined to comment.