When a candidate for president or governor chooses a running mate, he or she often looks for someone who brings different expertise or points of view to the ticket.
That wasn’t the route Sen. Sam Brownback chose when he selected state Sen. Jeff Colyer as his lieutenant governor running mate. By all accounts, Colyer is Brownback’s philosophical and political twin. The only additional experience he brings to the ticket is two years in the Kansas House and a year and a half in the Kansas Senate. Colyer’s limited legislative experience was the only thing Kansas Senate President Steve Morris could think of to praise after Tuesday’s announcement of Colyer’s choice.
Brownback’s choice seems to indicate that he sees no need to reach out to Kansas Democrats or even the more moderate members of his own party. It’s an interesting contrast to former Gov. Kathleen Sebelius who went outside her own party twice when choosing her running mates. It’s probably more important for a Democrat to make such a gesture in mostly Republican Kansas, but Brownback’s choice nonetheless seems to send a message to Kansas voters.
It suggests that he thinks Kansans like the political philosophy and agenda he brings to the table and his best strategy is to solidify that support by picking a running mate who is firmly on the same ideological page.
The choice of a running mate may not seem critical, but when a governor leaves office in the middle of a term, as Sebelius did, it reminds us that the election of a lieutenant governor can be an important decision for the state.