Fundraising, geography key issues in picking Kansas governor running mates
photo by: Nick Krug
TOPEKA — Major party candidates for Kansas governor are using their running-mate picks to bolster key campaign themes, help with potential political trouble spots and ensure that their ticket represents different regions of the state.
Seven of the eight major candidates have named their candidates for lieutenant governor. Republican former state Sen. Jim Barnett plans to announce his choice Thursday, a day before the state’s candidate filing deadline.
Here is a look at issues involved in candidates’ picks and what they say.
Six major candidates picked a partner from a different region, following an age-old tradition.
The three major Republicans who have picked running mates all have strong ties to Johnson County: Gov. Jeff Colyer, Secretary of State Kris Kobach and Insurance Commissioner Ken Selzer.
Colyer appointed Tracey Mann, a Salina farmer and commercial real estate broker, lieutenant governor in February. Kobach’s running mate is Wichita businessman Wink Hartman. Selzer is running with Jenifer Sanderson, of Goodland, the co-owner of a fast food restaurant who spent much of her career in community banking.
OUTSIDE THE GOP
Independent candidate Greg Orman, a Johnson County businessman, is running with state Sen. John Doll of Garden City.
Among the major Democrats, state Sen. Laura Kelly, of Topeka, picked fellow state Sen. Lynn Rogers, of Wichita, and ex-Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer is running with ex-Gardner Mayor Chris Morrow.
The exception to the push for geographic balance so far is Democratic former state Agriculture Secretary Joshua Svaty, from Ellsworth. His running mate, ex-Army helicopter pilot Katrina Lewison, is from Manhattan.
University of Kansas political scientist Patrick Miller said that when candidates pick a running mate, the potential help with fundraising matters.
Hartman could be the best example. Kobach trailed Colyer and Selzer in fundraising last year. Before Hartman abandoned his own bid for the GOP nomination, three companies with ties to him loaned his campaign nearly $1.7 million.
If running mates can’t write big checks themselves, they could tap networks of friends and business associates and other contacts.
Kelly noted in introducing Rogers that he is a retired farm-credit banker who traveled the state extensively. Colyer announced Mann as lieutenant governor at a Kansas Livestock Association dinner.
MAKING A STATEMENT
Candidates also use their choices to emphasize a key message or make a statement.
Svaty’s choice of Lewison was notable because she’s a veteran and software-company director, but also because of her age. He is 38, the youngest major candidate, and she is 40.
In contrast, Kelly is 68, and Rogers is 59.
After Kelly announced Rogers’ selection, Mike Swenson, Svaty’s chief strategist, texted, “Change and future vs. Status quo and the past.”
Asked about the contrast, Kelly touted her ticket’s government experience.
“We need someone who can get in that governor’s office and go to work on Day One to fix this state,” she told reporters.
In picking Hartman, Kobach emphasized his desire to shrink government by declaring that his running mate would use his business acumen and audit state agencies.
Candidates also have used their choices to potentially broaden their appeal to skeptical voters.
Svaty is taking heat from liberal Democrats for his anti-abortion record as a Kansas House member from 2003 through 2008, and Lewison supports abortion rights.
Svaty also has played up his rural roots and argues that the Democratic Party needs to rebuild there to be viable in the future. But after choosing Lewison, he said her experiences as a working mother are “straight out of Johnson and Sedgwick county.”
In picking Morrow as his running mate, Brewer tapped someone active in Democratic politics in a key region where Brewer is less known.
Bob Beatty, a Washburn University political scientist, said it’s also notable that several potential lieutenant governors have experience with local politics, where candidates scrap for relatively small numbers of votes door-to-door.
Rogers served on the Wichita school board for 16 years, and Lewison is a member of Manhattan’s. And, of course, Brewer and Morrow are an all ex-mayor ticket.
Morrow said local officials understand how to lure businesses and work in a nonpartisan environment.
“You get good at building consensus,” he said.