Topeka Kansas Gov. Mark Parkinson tossed his political support Thursday behind the Democratic candidate to succeed him, calling Tom Holland a centrist who can keep the state moving forward.
Parkinson said Holland, a state senator from Baldwin City, and his running mate, state Sen. Kelly Kultala of Kansas City, have the business experience and temperament to seek political compromise in the statehouse.
"We can't afford the partisan bickering or political rhetoric that we see in Washington," said Parkinson, who has chosen not to run for a full term as governor. "They worked with Republicans and Democrats to create jobs, support our schools and protect our communities."
Holland and Kultala are unopposed in the Democratic primary. They will face the winner of the Aug. 3 Republican primary between U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback and Joan Heffington of Derby.
Parkinson said Brownback is too far to the right ideologically and has been in Washington too long to effectively govern Kansas. By contrast, the governor touted Holland and Kultala as centrists who would continue the tradition of moderate Kansas governors.
Republicans responded to Parkinson's endorsement by saying the governor was wrong to echo President Barack Obama's call for more federal spending to revive the economy. Parkinson joined a group of governors in Washington on Wednesday calling on Congress to pass an extension of federal Medicaid benefits to shore up state budgets. Kansas is counting on $131 million in federal funds to make the 2011 budget balance.
"That won't work and it shows how out of touch Democrats are with the people of Kansas," said state GOP Chairwoman Amanda Adkins.
Parkinson himself is a former chairman of the state GOP. He said he had contributed to Brownback's Senate races, as he supported other Republicans he didn't agree with politically.
He switched parties to become Gov. Kathleen Sebelius' running mate in 2006, and became governor when she was appointed by Obama to head the federal health and human services agency.
Parkinson said he would spend the campaign season working for Holland and other Democrats. But he didn't plan on speaking out for moderate Republicans who face conservative challengers in August.
"The best way I can help moderate Republicans is to not say anything about them," Parkinson said.