Paul Davis officially files to run for 2nd District congressional seat, discusses highways and trade

photo by: Peter Hancock

Former state Rep. Paul Davis, of Lawrence, stands with his wife, Stephanie, and speaks with reporters Thursday, May 31, 2018, after filing by petition to run as a Democrat for the 2nd District congressional seat in Kansas.

TOPEKA — Former state Rep. Paul Davis, of Lawrence, officially filed for the 2nd District congressional race on Thursday, submitting petitions with 4,481 signatures, which he said included Democrats from all 25 counties in the district.

Davis, who narrowly lost the 2014 race for governor against Republican Sam Brownback, said he expects to receive support from Republicans and independent voters, as well as from Democrats.

“What I hear out there is, they’re not looking for a Republican; they’re not looking for a Democrat. They’re looking for somebody who can relate to them, can understand what their issues are and take those concerns to Washington and stay connected with them,” he told reporters during a brief news conference.

The 2nd District is an open race this year because incumbent Rep. Lynn Jenkins, a Topeka Republican, is stepping down after five terms. The district covers most of eastern Kansas outside the Kansas City metropolitan area. It includes the cities of Lawrence, Topeka, Leavenworth and Pittsburg.

The district is also seen by some national analysts as one that Democrats could win this year, largely because Davis has already raised more than $1 million for his campaign, and there is currently no clear front-runner in the crowded field of Republicans in the race.

In his 2014 race for governor, Davis noted, he carried the 2nd District by seven percentage points over Brownback. But two years later, Republican Donald Trump carried the district, 56-37 percent over Democrat Hillary Clinton.

Davis said he would not be campaigning as the “anti-Trump” candidate.

“That’s not the reason I’m running,” he said. “I’m running to represent the people of the 2nd District. I don’t look at people as Democrats, Republicans, Trump voters or Clinton voters. I look at them as Kansans.”

Davis did, however, say he differs with Trump in two key areas: transportation policy and foreign trade.

In February, Trump proposed a $1.5 trillion infrastructure plan that would be funded largely with state and local taxes as well as with private investment, which some have interpreted to mean a large increase in the number of toll roads and bridges in the United States.

“I’m encouraged by the president’s rhetoric about the need to repair our aging infrastructure. I strongly believe in that,” Davis said. “But I really don’t think that the proposal he has put on the table is a proposal that’s going to be able to get through Congress.”

He also said that he has heard from many farmers in the 2nd District who are concerned about Trump’s rhetoric about tariffs, which could result in a trade war and retaliatory tariffs on U.S. agricultural exports.

“We have to be able to give our farmers a sustainable environment where they have markets that they can sell their products to, whether it be in China or Mexico,” Davis said. “And when there’s talk about retaliating in a way that it’s going to put a big tariff on soybeans, which is the leading crop we grow right here in eastern Kansas, that can have a devastating effect, especially at a time when farm incomes are at a 12-year low.”

Davis is the only Democrat to file in the 2nd District race, and he said he did not believe any others planned to file before the deadline at noon on Friday.

Seven Republicans have filed to run in the GOP primary. They include state Sens. Steve Fitzgerald, of Leavenworth, Caryn Tyson, of Parker, and Dennis Pyle, of Hiawatha; Rep. Kevin Jones, of Wellsville; former Kansas House Speaker Doug Mays, of Topeka; U.S. Army veteran Steve Watkins, of Topeka, and Basehor City Council member Vernon J. Fields.


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