TOPEKA — Former Wichita mayor Carl Brewer says he felt compelled to enter the governor's race because so much was at stake as a result of damage by former Gov. Sam Brownback.
When he looked at the field of candidates, he didn't see another Democrat who could defeat either of the leading Republicans — Gov. Jeff Colyer or Secretary of State Kris Kobach.
"So many people were being left out, not being a part of the solution to the problems," Brewer said.
In a conversation for Capitol Insider, the podcast by The Topeka Capital-Journal about people and ideas in state politics, Brewer outlined his thoughts on taxes, health care, marijuana, education, abortion, gun rights and the state-run foster care system with which he has become tragically familiar.
Under Brownback's administration, the Kansas Department for Children and Families became a lightning rod for scrutiny as services were privatized, warning signs were ignored and children were left sleeping in offices. Last year, Brewer's grandson was killed after family members tried to get officials to intervene.
Brewer said those issues should bother everybody in Kansas.
"We must have transparency so when someone misses a gate, there's someone that's able to look and to see where it's at and what happened," Brewer said, "and you have to hold people accountable for that."
As a military officer, Brewer said, he trained infantry soldiers heading to the Gulf War. But he said there is no place for civilians to have an AR-15 assault rifle.
He emphasized the need to balance Second Amendment rights with training and expertise. When it comes to arming teachers, he is adamantly opposed.
"I would do everything in my power to make sure that we don't have guns in schools," Brewer said. "Teachers are there because they love to teach and they love children. So I want them there focusing on teaching and taking care of our children."
Brewer is in favor of legalizing marijuana and expanding Medicaid in Kansas. The new plan to phase in a funding boost for public schools represents money already owed to the system, he said. On taxes, he wants everyone to pay their fair share.
Women should have the right to choose an abortion, Brewer said, calling it a decision between them and their god.
"It's simple," he said. "I'm not a female, and I have no business telling a female what she should or should not do with her body."
After spending a year on the road campaigning for governor, Brewer said he has seen many of the state's small towns. The people there believe they have been forgotten, he said, and they want somebody who will represent them.
"They talk to you about economic development," Brewer said. "They talk to you about health care. They talk about good schools and they talk about the young people, the next generation, moving away from their particular town and going someplace else, other cities, because they don't see that there's an opportunity that's there for them.
"They talk about streets and roads and the tariffs that were put in place and how do they sell their goods. So they're talking about the exact same things that the urban communities are talking about."