Topeka Republican Gov. Sam Brownback announced Tuesday that Kansas GOP icon and former U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole will serve as an honorary national co-chairman of his 2014 re-election campaign, along with a granddaughter of President Dwight Eisenhower.
Brownback’s campaign released a joint letter from Dole and Mary Jean Eisenhower, president of a Kansas City, Mo.-based humanitarian group formed by her grandfather. The announcement of their roles comes amid ongoing criticism that the conservative governor’s stances on taxes and social issues put him too far to the right of “traditional” Kansas Republicans embodied by Dole and Dwight Eisenhower.
Also, the announcement occurred a day after Dole’s 90th birthday, marked with a celebration at the Institute of Politics bearing his name at Kansas University.
“It just shows you that the traditional types are with Brownback, too,” said Clay Barker, the Kansas Republican Party’s executive director. “It turns off that argument that Bob Dole doesn’t like what’s going on.”
Dole served in the U.S. Senate from 1969 until he resigned as majority leader in 1996, during his presidential race. Mary Jean Eisenhower is president of the Board of Directors of People to People International, set up by her grandfather in 1956 to foster international understanding through educational, cultural and humanitarian activities.
Kansas Democratic Party spokesman Dakota Loomis dismissed the announcement of their honorary role in Brownback’s campaign as “dog bites man news.”
“What we have right now is circling the wagons by Republicans who are scared because the state’s going in the wrong direction,” Loomis said of Brownback supporters.
Brownback was elected governor in 2010, capturing 63 percent of the vote against Democratic state Sen. Tom Holland, of Baldwin City. Some prominent Democrats expect their leading challenger to Brownback’s re-election to emerge by Labor Day, and in GOP-leaning Kansas, the party’s nominee will have to woo disaffected GOP moderates and independent voters.
Brownback successfully pushed for aggressive personal income tax cuts as a way to stimulate the state’s economy. Critics, including Democrats and out-of-power GOP moderates, contend the tax cuts favor the wealthy and will endanger funding for education and social services.
The governor also is a strong abortion opponent, and the state has enacted new restrictions since he took office. Also, Brownback signed legislation this year saying the federal government has no authority to regulate guns manufactured, sold and kept in Kansas.
Brownback’s policies have inspired organized opposition not only from Democratic-leaning organizations but others such as Traditional Republicans for Common Sense and the Kansas Values Institute.
But in their letter, Dole and Mary Jean Eisenhower called Brownback “a good man with the right ideas and experience.”
“Seeing Kansas grow and prosper is one of the great joys of our lives, and we are honored to stand with Sam Brownback,” they wrote.