2nd District candidate Paul Davis has a ‘new endeavor’ for Kansas Democrats

photo by: Associated Press

In this Aug. 24, 2018, file photo, Paul Davis, the Democratic candidate in the 2nd Congressional District in Kansas, answers questions during a news conference in Topeka, Kan. (AP Photo/John Hanna, File)

TOPEKA — Whenever a story is written about Paul Davis and virtually any time he meets voters on the campaign trail, one subject almost always comes up: his narrow loss to Gov. Sam Brownback in the 2014 governor’s race.

“Just a constant reminder,” Davis said with a laugh during a recent interview.

“I mean, it’s obviously disappointing when you lose a race, especially a statewide race where the stakes were pretty high and you invested a lot of sweat equity,” he said. “But I am content in really looking forward. A lot of people come up to me and say, ‘This is the guy that should have been governor,’ and, ‘Isn’t it too bad, and look what happened.’ And I usually try to move them on. I’ve got a new endeavor.”

Four years later, the Lawrence native and former Kansas House Minority Leader, is running for the 2nd District congressional seat.

Davis, 46, grew up in Lawrence, graduated from Lawrence High School, the University of Kansas and Washburn University’s School of Law. He served in the Kansas House representing the 46th District from 2003 to 2015, including the last four years as minority leader. He currently practices law in Lawrence.

A look at the 2nd District

The 2nd District covers the eastern one-third of Kansas, outside the Kansas City metropolitan area. It includes Lawrence, Topeka, Leavenworth and Pittsburg.

In recent years, the district has leaned heavily toward Republicans, who have held the seat for all but two years since the 1994 elections. But with incumbent Rep. Lynn Jenkins, a Republican, stepping down after five terms in office, Democrats see an opportunity there in their quest to regain control of the U.S. House.

Davis faces Republican candidate Steve Watkins, 42, of Topeka, in the general election. Watkins is a West Point graduate and engineer who has never sought public office before but who received a high-profile endorsement from President Donald Trump at a campaign rally Saturday in Topeka.

Although Davis carried the 2nd District in his 2014 run for governor, Trump carried it by an even wider margin in 2016. As a result, Davis has tried hard not to be seen as the “anti-Trump” candidate.

“I have concerns about some of the policies, the tariffs and the tax plan and where he wants to go on health care,” he said. “But I’ve always tried to work with people from all political stripes and find common ground with them. He’s interested in infrastructure; I’m interested in infrastructure. He’s interested in lowering prescription drug costs; that’s something I’m very interested in.”

On the issues

Health care: Davis is a supporter of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, but he thinks parts of that federal law need to be fixed, starting with enticing more insurance companies to participate in the individual market exchanges.

“One way that we can do that is looking at a reinsurance pool,” he said, referring to a system in which one insurance company insures another against the risk of excessive losses. “The state of Minnesota did this. It was actually a Republican initiative in Minnesota. I think that looking at this from a federal standpoint makes some sense so that we can make the individual and small-group market something that’s going to be more attractive and vibrant.”

Abortion: Davis has long been a supporter of reproductive rights for women, but many legal analysts say the recent confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court could put those rights in jeopardy at the federal level.

In that event, Davis thinks it’s unlikely that Congress will be able to do much about it.

“I think at that point in time it’s going to be a state issue,” he said. “The Congress would have to pass a constitutional amendment. We’d have to go through a constitutional amendment process, which I think would be highly unlikely for that to occur. So states are going to be left to decide what the law of the land is going to be, and we will probably have a patchwork of different laws regulating abortion.”

International trade: Davis said he saw a number of positive things for Kansas coming out of the recently negotiated U.S.-Canada-Mexico Agreement, which the next Congress will be asked to approve. But he also said he thinks the Trump administration made a mistake when it pulled out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership talks.

“I think that we should have continued in the discussion about TPP because I think opening markets in the Asian sector is something that is going to be helpful to Kansas agriculture and other industries that are here,” he said.

Immigration and border security: Davis has said he favors granting a pathway to citizenship to certain undocumented immigrants who are working in the United States and who have not committed any crimes. And while he favors increasing border security, he does not favor building a wall along the entire 2,000-mile U.S. border with Mexico.

“There may be some places along the border where more walling makes sense,” he said. “There may be other places where we can use technology to accomplish what we want to accomplish.”

Military intervention: Davis said the United States should only use military force overseas when the nation’s strategic interests are being directly threatened. But he believes international human rights are part of the nation’s strategic interests and that the use of force is justified to protect wholesale violation of those rights.

“If you look at Bosnia and some of the places we have involved ourselves in, yes, human rights have clearly been an interest we have recognized as Americans,” Davis said. “If you look at Syria, I do think the Obama administration didn’t do a very good job of trying to bring the world together in a situation where we had a civil war and we had lots of people being killed, being killed by the government. I think we as the leading country in the world have a role to play in trying to rally the world community to deal with those situations.”

Legalizing marijuana: Davis said he has been a longtime supporter of legalizing marijuana for medical purposes, but he is not convinced that it’s time to legalize recreational marijuana.

“I am supportive of decriminalization efforts. I’m not ready to fully embrace legalization. I want to see how that shapes up in some of the states that have gone in that direction. I just don’t think we’ve had enough time for that to transpire, and it’s not something I see the state of Kansas moving forward on any time soon,” he said.

Related story

Steve Watkins, political newcomer, carries GOP hopes in 2nd District


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