Topeka Lawrence Democrat Paul Davis officially kicked off his campaign for the 2nd District congressional seat in Kansas, using a familiar theme in national politics by saying he wants to change the political culture in Washington.
"Our political system is fundamentally broken," Davis told a crowd of about 100 supporters who turned out for a rally in Topeka Tuesday morning. "It wasn't broken by Republicans. Nor was it broken by Democrats. It was broken by money — unprecedented, unchecked, obscene amounts of money in our government and in our elections."
Davis, 45, served six terms in the Kansas House from 2003 through 2015, including his last two terms as House Minority Leader. He ran unsuccessfully for governor in 2014, losing narrowly to incumbent Republican Sam Brownback.
Although he carried the 2nd District by a narrow margin in that race, 51-45 percent, he faces an uphill battle in the congressional race. According to University of Kansas political science professor Patrick Miller, the eastern Kansas district has tilted Republican in each of the last three presidential elections and each of the last two U.S. Senate elections.
The seat is currently held by Republican Rep. Lynn Jenkins, of Topeka, who announced in January that she would not seek another term.
Davis made his announcement just less than a year away from the Aug. 7, 2018, Democratic primary where he will likely face Neosho County resident Kelly Standley, who is a newcomer to Kansas politics but was active in Colorado politics before moving back to his home state about seven years ago.
On the Republican side, state Sen. Steve Fitzgerald of Leavenworth appears to be the most formidable candidate to announce so far. Basehor City Councilman Vernon J. Fields has also filed for the Republican primary.
During his own announcement rally in Topeka last month, Fitzgerald said he fully supports the agenda of President Donald Trump, including Trump's call for tax reform and his efforts to back out of international agreements on climate change.
Davis, however, did not mention Trump by name, either in his speech or during a question-and-answer session with reporters afterward, even though many observers are viewing the 2018 midterm elections as a referendum on the president.
"There are some voters out there who are going to see that and they're going to cast their votes based upon that. We know that historically," Davis said. "But I hope that people will take a look at the candidates and they will look at who is best going to represent them in Congress, who is going to really change the political system, going to change the culture of Washington."
Davis said that if elected he would support a constitutional amendment to ban so-called "dark money" in elections. That generally refers to money spent by independent groups that can raise and spend money freely on political advertising without disclosing the sources of their contributions.
"I think we need to get rid of dark money," Davis said. "I think people are disgusted by all of the nice-sounding groups that are coming in and trying to influence the outcome of elections, and people have no idea who is funding them."
Davis also said he blames the leadership of both major political parties in Congress for the current gridlock and lack of bipartisan cooperation, and he said that if he's elected, he would not support Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California for another term as the Democratic leader.