Another potential Democratic candidate for Kansas governor bows out

State Democratic Party Chairman Larry Gates is not running for Kansas governor.

But the Johnson County businessman said Friday he was still confident the party could field a quality candidate to face Republican U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback next year.

“There are tremendously qualified candidates who are considering this race and allowed me the opportunity to fully consider my own candidacy,” Gates wrote in an e-mail Friday to Democratic supporters. “From among those individuals a great nominee will emerge to challenge the Washington insider whose campaign advisers would have you believe this race is over. The reality is the campaign has yet to begin.”

Gates said the demands of his business during the recession would not permit him to run for governor. He is a partner in the Overland Park law firm of Gates, Shields and Ferguson.

His announcement also came as a surprise after Gov. Mark Parkinson said two weeks ago that he was urging Gates to run. Parkinson, who was elevated to the office after Gov. Kathleen Sebelius became President Obama’s health and human services secretary, has vowed not to seek the office in 2010.

State Sen. Chris Steineger, D-Kansas City, Kan., has said he was considering a run for the office. Friday evening, Steineger acknowledged he was still pondering his choices.

“It’s way early. I haven’t made any kind of decision on what I’m going to do next year,” he said.

In his e-mail, Gates said he had told friends he intended to run as a businessman qualified to lead the state out of economic turmoil. But he also said his commitment to his business would not allow him to run an aggressive, full-time campaign.

House Minority Leader Paul Davis, D-Lawrence, said it was understandable that Gates decided he had too many business obligations to devote time to a statewide campaign.

“I think Larry would have been a strong candidate, but I remain very confident that the Democrats will have a candidate who can go toe-to-toe with Sam Brownback,” Davis said.

Brownback appears to have a clear path at least to the GOP nomination after Secretary of State Ron Thornburgh dropped out of the race months ago. Due to the state’s Republican leanings, Brownback would likely have an initial advantage in a general election.

Davis said some Democratic candidates would likely announce they will run before the end of the year. He said Gates’ decision not to seek the nomination might make some possible candidates reconsider.

“Larry is a very well-respected person in the Democratic Party, and I think that people felt that if he wanted to run that they ought to defer to him,” Davis said. “I think you will see a number of people maybe take another look at that race now.”