104 Republicans endorse Davis for governor

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Paul Davis of Lawrence announces the endorsement of 104 current and former Republican officeholders. Davis is challenging incumbent Republican Gov. Sam Brownback.

? More than 100 current and former Republican officeholders on Tuesday announced their endorsement of Democrat Paul Davis for governor, charging that Republican Gov. Sam Brownback has gone too far to the right in cutting taxes and spending for education.

“Today, we announce our opposition to Sam Brownback’s re-election,” former Rep. Wint Winter, Jr., of Lawrence said during the announcement in Topeka.

The list includes former U.S. Rep. Jan Meyers of Overland Park, current Kansas Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger of Lawrence, along with two former lieutenant governors, three former Senate Presidents, three former Speakers of the Kansas House, numerous other former legislators and several current local school board members.

“We do not make this decision lightly,” said former Senate President Dick Bond of Overland Park, who retired in 2001 after 14 years in the Senate.

“If we continue with Sam Brownback’s extreme political agenda, and his real-life experiment with Kansas, our schools and our families, we can do that or we can return to historic Kansas values and tradition of moderation, caring, and carrying common sense values,” Bond said.

Also on the list were former state Sen. Mark Buhler of Lawrence and former Rep. Ralph Tanner of Baldwin City.

By reaching out to moderate Republicans, the Davis campaign is building on the same strategy that former Democratic Gov. Kathleen Sebelius used successfully in her two gubernatorial races.

That’s because any Democrat running for statewide office in Kansas has to pull support from Republicans and independents to win. According to the most recent voter registration figures, Republicans make up 44.6 percent of the Kansas electorate. Unaffiliated voters account for 29 percent, followed by Democrats with just 25 percent.

It remains to be seen how much influence those moderates still have on Republican voters statewide. Many on the stage at the Davis announcement are moderates who were ultimately defeated by more conservative Republicans, including some who were ousted in 2012 by Brownback-supported candidates.

Davis, however, said he thinks the results will be different in a general election.

“All of those people ran very strong elections and a lot of people voted for them, and I expect a lot of those people are going to come vote for the Davis-Docking ticket this time,” he said.

Carol Rupe Linnens, a former State Board of Education member from Wichita, said Brownback’s track record on education spending was the most important issue for her.

“In his very first legislative session, he made the largest cut to our schools in state history, and then had the nerve to call it a victory for our state,” Linnens said.

But Brownback has firmly disputed that charge. He claims that total spending on K-12 education — including state contributions for teacher retirements — has gone up every year since he’s been in office, and that the cuts to base per-pupil funding was the result of phasing out federal stimulus money at the end of the Great Recession.

“Governor Brownback is focused on leading Kansas by growing the economy, investing in education for future generations, and preserving the bedrock values of hard work, faith and family,” said Brownback campaign spokesman John Milburn.