Democrat Paul Davis officially entered the 2014 Kansas governor’s race on Tuesday, declaring it was “time to set things right” in seeking to defeat incumbent Republican Gov. Sam Brownback.
Davis, the House minority leader and Lawrence attorney, announced his plans through Facebook and Twitter, as well as a YouTube video. It is the 41-year-old Davis’ first attempt at a statewide office. No other Democrats have joined the race.
“As Kansans, we believe we have a moral obligation to educate our children, reward hard work, build a strong middle class and cooperate with one another,” Davis said in a statement. “These values are what make us Kansans.”
In an online video announcing his candidacy, Davis said he wants to focus on education, protecting the middle class and rewarding hard work. He has been critical of cuts to Kansas’ income tax rates that were enacted by the GOP-controlled Legislature and Brownback in 2012 and 2013, arguing the lost revenue would harm education, social services and other essential state services.
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Kansas Republican Party Chairman Kelly Arnold said the announcement was expected.
“He is a partisan leader of a minority caucus. He’s been out of touch with the voters of Kansas,” Arnold said, suggesting Davis is too liberal. “It’s a statewide campaign and I don’t know that Paul Davis knows that Kansas goes west of Topeka.”
But Democratic leaders quickly lined up behind Davis, calling him a voice who would appeal to Democrats, independents and moderate Republicans who feel alienated by the Kansas GOP’s conservative stance.
Those crossover GOP votes will be critical in Kansas where Republicans outnumber Democrats in voter registration by more than 344,000 among nearly 1.8 million registered voters.
“This race is about the steep cost of being a Kansan” said Jason Perkey, executive director of the Kansas Democratic Party. “These costs have skyrocketed because of Sam Brownback’s bad policies. Paul Davis will fight for our kids, our families and get our state back on track.”
Added Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, a Topeka Democrat, “We need a governor whose actions will speak louder than words.”
Republicans outnumber Democrats in the Kansas House by a 92-33 margin. Davis has been in the Kansas House since 2003 and leader of the Democratic caucus since 2008.
Former Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius is scheduled to appear at a Thursday reception for Davis in Mission Hills. Sebelius was the last Democrat elected as Kansas governor, winning in 2002 and 2006 before resigning in 2009 to become secretary of Health and Human Services.
Arnold said having Sebelius campaign for Davis “won’t play in Kansas,” adding the implementation of Obama’s health care law has been unpopular in the state.