Jennifer Winn says her campaign for governor is more than just a symbolic gesture. The Wichita resident wants to pull off the seemingly impossible and knock off an incumbent governor in the Republican primary.
Winn thinks she can do it. The challenge will be getting her name out to voters when the media focus is on Gov. Sam Brownback and Democrat Paul Davis, the House minority leader.
Winn says she has gone door to door in Wichita and met voters at events like Riverfest.
“I am out there meeting people. I’m letting them know that they do have a viable choice. And they’re quite shocked when they learn that they’ve had a viable choice since January and didn’t know about it,” she said.
To call Winn’s campaign a grassroots one is an understatement. Winn made her own campaign decorations by hand at home for Fourth of July parades. She says this is what distinguishes her from Brownback and Davis.
“I think I’m the only one that’s not corporately backed. And that’s because I don’t want it. I don’t want their money. I think the people can do it for the people,” she said.
Winn said she opted to enter the race when she decided she could not vote for either Brownback or Davis. “It’s very clear that we have lost the notion that government officials work for us,” she said.
She was spurred into politics when her 22-year-old son, Kyle Carricker, was charged with first-degree murder in connection with the death of Ronald Betts after a drug deal turned violent.
Winn said her son has been unjustly prosecuted.
“My son never shot anyone, never harmed anyone. He was shot on a premeditated robbery,” Winn said. The state’s felony murder law allows someone to be charged with murder if they participate in a crime that results in a death.
“We have mutated that so much that we have implemented unjust laws,” Winn said.
“I’m ashamed that it took something so drastic to wake me up and get me involved. I had no idea that things were this way,” she said.
Winn has been campaigning on a plan to reform this law, end incarceration for nonviolent drug offenders and legalize marijuana.
She said legalizing and taxing marijuana would lead to huge revenue gains for the state, and ending incarceration for nonviolent drug offenders would save the state’s corrections system millions of dollars.
This new revenue would allow the state to lower other taxes, she said. “And that, to me, is a no-brainer.”
Winn has grown frustrated with people dismissing her candidacy as symbolic.
A recent phone poll by SurveyUSA showed her polling at 37 percent compared with Brownback’s 55 percent among Republican voters.
Analysts have viewed that polling as evidence of frustration with Brownback rather than support for Winn, but she says it’s proof that she can compete in this race.
“I think it says that people are tired. People are ready for people to be in office as our forefathers intended, with common sense, with compassion, with an ear that will listen to the majority,” she said. “People are tired of the politicians. We’re tired. And I say ‘we’ because I am people.”