A raft of Kansas Republicans announce their endorsement of Democrat Paul Davis for governor

Lawrence Democrat Paul Davis last month told The Pitch to look out for a wave of what he called unprecedented Republican support for his bid to replace Sam Brownback as Kansas governor. 

That prediction came true on Tuesday when more than 100 Republican officeholders, past and present, were part of a press conference in Topeka to announce their support for Davis and their opposition to another Brownback term.

The Kansas GOPers who lent their name to Davis’ campaign endorsements run the gamut from school-board members to former U.S. attorneys to small-town mayors. Mostly, they’re former Kansas House and Senate members, some of whom were driven from office by Brownback’s political support groups.

One of the bigger names on the list was Kansas Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger. The Lawrence Republican is on her way out of office after three terms.

One name of Kansas City-area import was Dick Bond, a former Kansas Senate president who is considered by many as a still-influential voice in Johnson County political affairs. Jan Meyers, once a member of Congress from Overland Park, also lent her support for Davis.

Few current Republican officeholders came out against Brownback; most of the Davis-supporting crowd in Topeka were former politicians. And many on the list represented traditional moderate Republican sensibilities, a rarer political stance in an increasingly conservative Kansas Statehouse since Brownback took office.

Current officeholders who may be skeptical of Brownback might also be mindful of what happened to the political careers of Republicans who stood in Brownback’s way. John Vratil, for instance, was a longtime Kansas senator from Leawood who was a pragmatic conservative. As a Republican, he was no big fan of taxes. But during the recession, he looked at the state budget math and concluded that Kansas needed to increase its sales-tax rate to keep from cutting state services and education even further. That tax increase passed against the wishes of conservative Republicans, and Vratil later found himself facing well-funded conservative challengers in his party’s primary. 

Vratil also advocated for a state rainy-day fund, something of a savings account of unencumbered cash to keep on hand in case of fiscal emergencies or economic downturns. 

Incidentally, that sales-tax increase from 2010 to 6.3 percent passed with the understanding that it would drop back to 5.7 percent in 2013. But Brownback signed legislation that dropped the rate to only 6.15 percent, a move that many, including Davis, say amounts to a tax increase under Brownback’s watch.

And the rainy-day fund that Vratil spoke in favor of is forecasted to vanish in the coming years as state coffers have eroded in the wake of Brownback’s income-tax cuts.

Brownback, who campaigned in Olathe on Monday with former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, said on Tuesday that Kansas remains on the right path.

“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,” Brownback’s campaign said in response to the Davis endorsements. “Under Governor Brownback’s leadership Kansas has created 53,400 new private sector jobs, Kansas kids have 676 more certified teachers in the classroom, and recently provided $84 million in property tax relief for hard working families.”

Vratil was one of a few local Republicans who want Brownback’s current term to be his last.

Other local Republican-minded Davis supporters include:

• Barbara Allen, former Kansas House and Senate member from Overland Park.
• Bud Burke, former Kansas House and Senate member from Overland Park.
• David Huff, former Kansas House member from Lenexa.
• Terrie Huntington, former Kansas senator from Fairway.
• Donna Owens, former Johnson County commissioner and Overland Park City Council member.
• Jim Randall, Olathe councilmember.
• Gary Sherrer, former Kansas lieutenant governor.
• Sheryl Spalding, former Kansas House member.
• David Wysong, former Kansas senator and Johnson County commissioner from Mission Hills.
• Jim Yonnaly, former Kansas House member from Overland Park.

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