Congratulations to Kansas Sen. Tom Holland of Baldwin City for taking on the challenge of seeking the Democratic nomination for governor.
Holland, whose district includes a large section of Douglas County, is not the only Democrat who has announced a run for governor, but as a current state senator, he’s a clear notch above the other contenders.
Many of his fellow Democrats, as well as some Republicans, have chosen to take a pass in what appears to be an uphill battle to defeat U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback for the governor’s seat. Gov. Mark Parkinson was in the strongest position to challenge Brownback but has said he wants to return to the business world. State Democratic Chairman Larry Gates also passed on the race, and Tom Wiggans, a retired businessman who had recently moved to Kansas, jumped into the race and, almost as quickly, jumped back out when faced with some adverse publicity.
Brownback has a big head start on his campaign and especially his fundraising efforts, but it would be a mistake to overlook a candidate like Holland who knocked out incumbent Republican legislators to claim a seat in the Kansas House and then the Senate. He had said if he got into the governor’s race, “it will definitely be to win.” He has a reputation as a tough campaigner and a hard-working legislator.
Last year, he gained some attention by raising important questions about the operation and funding of the Kansas Technology Enterprise Corp., a move that probably contributed to the exit of KTEC’s CEO and other changes in the agency.
Nonetheless, Holland isn’t exactly well known around the state. He’s a Democrat running in a Republican state and a legislator from arguably the state’s most Democratic county, which may not play well across Kansas. On the other hand, it will be interesting to see how much support he attracts from Republicans who find Brownback too conservative for their tastes.
The battle lines were drawn immediately when Holland officially announced his candidacy on Wednesday. Holland referred to Brownback’s 16 years in Congress, saying “We won’t solve today’s challenges by bringing Washington’s problems to Kansas.” Within the hour, Kansas Republican Chairwoman Amanda Adkins fired back with, “It makes no sense to run an Obama-Pelosi liberal candidate statewide in Kansas in 2010.”
It’s typical campaign rhetoric, but if Holland and Brownback end up carrying their parties’ banners into the governor’s race, we hope they can rise above such soundbites and discuss the serious issues that really matter to Kansans.