Let the gubernatorial games begin.
Soon after Kansas Democratic leaders announced their intentions to name a gubernatorial nominee, Gov. Sam Brownback allied with two names nearly synonymous with Sunflower State politics.
Brownback’s campaign announced this week that it had appointed former U.S. Sen. Bob Dole, R-Kan., and humanitarian Mary Jean Eisenhower to serve as the “national co-chairs” of his 2014 re-election bid.
“Bob Dole has been helping the state party — he’s always been there, lending support,” Clay Barker, executive director of the Kansas GOP, said. “[Dole and Brownback] really have been working together for quite a while. They’re part of the same effort.”
Asked of why Brownback’s campaign incorporates “national co-chairs” for a state office, Barker said it refers to Dole’s and Eisenhower’s reach throughout the country and is not an indication of Brownback seeking a federal office.
Local Democratic leaders, however, believe the names will do little to instill a more moderate image for the conservative Brownback.
“I don’t think [Dole’s endorsement] is going to be enough help him,” Caren Rugg, vice-chair of the Franklin County Democratic Party, said. “The time to reach across to moderates with name recognition has long since passed. And that’s all this is. [Brownback] doesn’t want any help from Bob Dole. He just wants the benefits of what the name might bring.”
Conversely, name recognition for Democratic nominees in the 2014 gubernatorial election might prove to be an obstacle in toppling Brownback, Barker said.
“We just don’t sense that [Brownback] is vulnerable,” Barker said, according to media reports. “The Democrats have no natural leader whose name is well-known and who has a lot of money.”
On Monday, prominent Kansas Democrats said the party is expected to reveal its challenger to Brownback before Labor Day. Potential Democratic nominees include Kansas House Minority Leader Paul Davis, an attorney from Lawrence; Jill Docking, a former Board of Regents member and Wichita business owner; and Joshua Svaty, former state agriculture secretary.
Though lacking recognition similar to Brownback, Rugg said she’d like to see Davis run for governor.
“Paul Davis has been very effective in communicating what’s going on in the legislature and with the governor so that people know,” Rugg said. “People like Paul Davis are really good at getting the word out about what’s going on in [Brownback’s] administration.”