TOPEKA — Gov. Sam Brownback and Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer officially filed for re-election at a ceremony at the Capitol on Thursday morning.
They were joined by their wives, and by their campaign’s honorary co-chairs, former Sen. Bob Dole and Mary Eisenhower, the granddaughter of President Dwight Eisenhower.
Brownback made a point of evoking another luminary of the Republican Party, President Ronald Reagan, and argued that Kansans prefer the Reagan model to the Obama model.
He said that Kansas was serving as a lighthouse to the nation with its tax cuts, which he contended were growing jobs and helping small business thrive.
Dole quipped that it was “nice to be in a state that’s cut taxes.”
“In D.C., all the talk is about raising taxes,” he said.
Both Brownback and Colyer touted KanCare as one of their major policy accomplishments.
“We’ve made government smaller,” Colyer said. “We’re going to save about a billion dollars in Medicaid expenditures over the next five years. But we’re also taking care of those waiting lists.”
The governor shrugged off the state’s recent credit downgrade by Moody’s Investor Services, which cited concern that the tax cuts would drain the state’s revenue and necessitate spending cuts.
Brownback pointed to KPERS, the pension system for state employees, as the cause of the downgrade.
“Well, they’ve been downgrading every state that’s come up recently. I think what you’re seeing is the long-term impact of not fixing KPERS,” he said.
Moody’s has downgraded two other states in the past year, Illinois in June 2013 and New Jersey this week, according to spokesman David Jacobson.
The governor said he is confident that tax cuts are leading to growth. He said the unemployment rate continues to be below 5 percent.
“Thank goodness we’ve done this because we’d be in a much worse position today if we didn’t have the growth of small businesses taking place in this state,” he added.
The governor accused his likely Democratic opponent, House Minority Leader Paul Davis, of wanting to grow the size of government and raise taxes.
“I want to keep our Kansas renaissance going. Now my opponent wants to follow the current federal government model: raise taxes, implement Obamacare and put us on the same downward spiral,” Brownback said. “I say no, the Kansas way is better.”
The Davis campaign responded to Brownback’s claims with an e-mail.
“Instead of commonsense leadership, Sam Brownback conducted an experiment on Kansas. The evidence continues to show that the experiment has failed for average Kansans,” Chris Pumpelly, the campaign’s spokesman, said.
“We’re lagging behind our neighbors in job growth, state revenue has plummeted and the state’s credit rating has been downgraded twice,” he said. “Gov. Brownback will use his campaign as an opportunity to rewrite his record as governor, but Kansans know political spin when they hear it.”
In a phone call later, Pumpelly said that Davis was listening to business leaders and citizens around the state, and later in the summer would announce a tax plan “that works for all Kansans, not just the well-connected.”
Brownback also praised the “culture of life” in the state since he took office.
Mary Kay Culp, executive director of Kansans for Life, was present at the ceremony and voiced strong support for another four years of Brownback and Colyer.
“I know where I don’t want it to go, and that’s with Paul Davis. Because he’s so liberal and he’s so far left. He does not represent the values of Kansas on my issue or any other issue,” Culp said. “And Gov. Brownback has told us he’ll sign the bills we put on his desk … and you can’t ask for better than that.”
The Davis campaign did not respond about this issue in its statement.
Leaders from the Kansas Chamber of Commerce and the Kansas State Rifle Association were also present at the event. But the star of the show was unquestionably Dole, who received massive applause upon entering the room.
“It’s not just the party, it’s the history of Kansas,” Kelly Arnold, the state Republican chair, said about Dole and Mary Eisenhower’s support for the campaign. “I mean Sen. Dole, and of course Eisenhower himself, are great Kansans … they’ve done so much for this state, and they see Gov. Sam Brownback doing the same thing.”
Dole joked in Wichita on Wednesday that some Republicans in Congress are so far to the right they are in danger of falling out of the Capitol. But on Thursday he said that conservatives in the Kansas Statehouse were different, because they had achieved results.
“In Kansas, as Sam has said and Jeff has said, they get things done,” Dole said, contrasting Topeka with Washington’s gridlock.
“I consider myself Eisenhower-Reagan Republican, conservative Republican, but there are some who are way out there and can hardly be reached in space. … We have big majorities in the state. But in Congress the majority’s not that large, and there are times when you need to reach across the aisle and curry some friends on the other side to help you get things done,” he said.
The Davis campaign said that more bipartisanship was needed in Topeka, too, not just Washington.
“We need a governor who will bring Kansans from all political parties together to focus on bipartisan solutions that strengthen Kansas businesses, schools and families,” Pumpelly said.