TOPEKA — Republican Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback launched his re-election bid Thursday, proclaiming that under his watch the conservative state has become the example for others to emulate.
"Kansas is a lighthouse in a nation that's lost its way," said Brownback, who signed the paperwork with Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer and paid the $1,920 filing fee during a Statehouse ceremony.
The governor, speaking to room full of staffers and GOP supporters, touted cuts made to the income tax rates in 2012 aimed at creating job growth as an example of his first-term leadership. He noted that the state's jobless rate had fallen to 4.8 percent in April.
"We are on a highway for the future and hitting the accelerator. It's a good time to be us," Brownback said.
They were joined at the Statehouse event by former U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole and Mary Jean Eisenhower, a granddaughter of President Dwight Eisenhower. Dole and Mary Jean Eisenhower are the honorary leaders of Brownback's re-election campaign.
"I'm not as good looking as Mary is, but we'll try to pull you through," quipped Dole, who is on the second leg of a statewide tour.
Brownback faces a primary challenge from Wichita landscaping business owner Jennifer Winn, who has already filed for the race. Kansas House Minority Leader Paul Davis of Lawrence is the only announced Democratic candidate but has yet to file for office ahead of the June 1 deadline.
Democrats have criticized Brownback's tax policy, saying that the cuts reduced the amount of revenue available to provide public education and other essential state services over the next five years. Chris Pumpelly, campaign spokesman for Davis, said in a statement that Brownback's "experiment has failed for the average Kansans."
"Kansas is falling behind with Sam Brownback as governor," Pumpelly said. "We need a governor who will bring Kansans from all political parties together to focus on bipartisan solutions that strengthen Kansas businesses, schools and families."
Moody's Investor Services recently downgraded the Kansas credit rating over concerns about the state's long-term financial health, including the shortfall in the Kansas public employee pension system. Brownback shook off the news, saying Thursday that other states were seeing similar concerns raised.
"We have to grow and we have to get the state moving forward with more jobs and more opportunities here," Brownback said.