On Tuesday, United States Senator Sam Brownback formally filed to become a candidate for the Republican party nomination to be governor of Kansas. He also introduced his running mate.
On Friday, it was speculated that Kansas Senator Jeff Colyer was Brownback’s selection to run on the ticket for lieutenant governor. Suspense was largely eliminated when a reader of Hawver’s Capital Report noted that the location scheduled in Hays for a campaign stop was Colyer’s high school.
On Tuesday morning in Overland Park, it was made official: Colyer is the nominee for lieutenant governor.
In a late Tuesday afternoon campaign stop in Wichita, Wichita City Council Member Sue Schlapp introduced Brownback to the audience. Schlapp is one of four leaders of Brownback’s statewide committee and state co-chair of the campaign.
Schlapp said that Brownback coming back to Kansas is “good news.” She said that Brownback is business-friendly, saying that she agreed with him that “you can’t tax yourself into prosperity.” She told the audience that “Sam listens” and follows through, getting things done.
She noted that Brownback is fulfilling his pledge to serve no more than two terms as United States Senator.
In his remarks, Brownback said that Kansas is home. For the last 15 years, he said he’s commuted to Washington as he represented Kansas in both the United States House and the Senate, but “Kansas has always been home, and it’s still home.”
Brownback said that in his time in public service, the most effective campaign and governing document he’s seen was the “Contract With America.” This was a set of proposals that were laid out in a campaign, and then used to govern, he said. Brownback said the he will soon present a “Roadmap for Kansas.” This, he said, will be a series of detailed policy proposals which will be used in the campaign and then used to govern from.
The thee challenges that he wants to focus on are growing the economy, improving education, and protecting families.
On the economy, Brownback said that the state has lost tens of thousands of public sector jobs, personal income has dropped, but government bureaucracy and taxes went up. “Government is too big, and taxes are too high,” he added. While some have said that government needs to do more with less, Brownback said that government needs to focus on core functions and do those better at less cost. Controlling state spending, pro-growth tax policies, and sensible regulation will be goals of his administration. Success will be measured by private sector jobs and personal income.
Brownback said that education is a core function of government. The school finance formula, he said is “confusing, illogical, unfair, not flexible, doesn’t support innovation, fails to prioritize classroom learning, and discourages excellence.” The formula should not force consolidation. He said that his administration would see that education dollars go to the classroom instead of administration or the courtroom, a reference to school funding lawsuits.
On family issues, Brownback said that “strong families make a strong state.” Tax, budget, and welfare policies would be evaluated on how they affect families, and they should do no harm to families.
In his remarks, Colyer said he is a fifth-generation Kansan. He grew up in Hays, and learned there that “we’re here to serve other people.”
As a White House fellow for President Reagan, he said he learned that the key to solving difficult problems is that when “individuals in America work and prosper, America works and prospers.”
His experience volunteering as a physician in Africa, Iraq, and Afghanistan taught him that “ordinary people can do extraordinary things in the most horrific of times.” He added that in Kansas, our best days are ahead of us, but these days are not just around the corner. Even though Kansas just passed its biggest tax increase, the budget is under water and getting worse, he said. Problems have been “papered over,” and will explode in the near future.
He told the audience that the Kansas state pension plan (KPERS) ranked next-to-last in solvency, after California and New York.
The Kansas economy has not been growing as it should due to years of high taxes and unnecessary regulation, he said.
In questioning after the event, Brownback said he considered candidates from the Wichita area for his running mate. He said that he and Colyer have known each other for 20 years and work well together.
If elected, Colyer said he would be required to resign from the Kansas Senate. I asked since the lieutenant governor has so few prescribed duties, what would Colyer do with his time, should he be elected? He said that Brownback said he should be prepared to work “double time.” He said he would keep his medical practice. Brownback said he expected much from Colyer, and that he would be working full time on problems in the state.
I asked whether a Brownback administration would repeal the increase in the statewide sales tax due to take effect on July 1. Brownback said that he wants to look at fundamental tax policy and develop a pro-growth tax policy.
In response to my question as to what he would do to increase school choice, particularly charter schools in Kansas, Brownback said that the school funding formula be the centerpiece of education reform in Kansas. Within that, the state could review the charter school law.
Neither candidate would express a preference in the United States Senate Republican primary.
Many conservatives look forward to Brownback as Kansas governor, as they feel Kansas has not had a conservative governor for many years, even through there have been Republicans in the governor’s office. While delivering a conservative message at this event, Brownback’s record in the U.S. Senate, according to National Journal vote ratings for 2009, places him near the middle of Senate Republicans in terms of voting for conservative positions.
Generally, Colyer is described as conservative. He has, however, cast some votes that some conservatives might not agree with. In particular, he voted for the statewide smoking ban during the 2009 session. That bill carried over to this year and was passed in the House and signed into law by Governor Parkinson.
In the Kansas Economic Freedom Index, Colyer cast four votes that were not in favor of economic freedom, earning a score of 69% and ranking 13th in the Senate. The votes not in favor of economic freedom were voting for an expansion of the historic preservation tax credit program, voting for a primary seat belt law and texting ban, voting for regulation of sexually oriented businesses, and voting against an amendment that would have required the state to sell assets to raise revenue. The last measure was promoted by conservatives as a way the state could raise enough revenue to avoid having to raise taxes.
In the Republican primary, the Brownback/Colyer ticket will square off against a ticket headed by Joan Heffington, a Derby businesswoman who has many political views that might be considered out of the mainstream.
If Brownback and Colyer prevail in the primary, they will likely face Kansas Senator Tom Holland and his unnamed running mate. Holland has not yet filed but has been campaigning, and no other Democrats are expected to file by the June 10 deadline.
Other coverage: Brownback ticket gains surgeon as lieutenant, Brownback announces, picks Colyer, Brownback Names Colyer as Lt. Governor in Race for Governor, Holland Responds, Brownback picks Jeff Colyer as running mate in governor’s race, and Brownback chooses physician as running mate.