Kansas gubernatorial candidate Winn, running mate have bankruptcies in their pasts

07/29/2014 5:50 PM

08/08/2014 10:25 AM

Jennifer Winn, the grassroots candidate challenging Gov. Sam Brownback in the Republican primary, and her running mate both have filed for bankruptcy protection in the past.

Winn, who owns a landscaping business in Wichita, filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in 2004, facing more than $79,000 in debts.

“I went through a divorce. Didn’t receive any child support and was left with every debt we accrued together,” Winn said in a phone interview. She said her ex-husband moved out of state, making it more difficult to collect support payments she was owed. “I was not able to keep up, so I filed bankruptcy when I could no longer keep my home.”

Winn lost her home and a truck. She said she had no other choice but to file for bankruptcy.

“It was very difficult for me, but I’m not ashamed of it, because that’s obviously why we have it in place – for people who get in situations that they can’t get out of,” she said.

Winn said the experience gives her a perspective that Brownback and Democrat Paul Davis lack. “I found myself in a situation where I had no other alternative, and thousands of people find themselves in that situation,” she said.

Her running mate, Robin Lais, has filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy twice, first in 1997 and again in 2002.

Lais, a single mother, said that the first bankruptcy was caused by medical bills for her daughter, Ciara, who has epilepsy.

“The hospital visits, the ambulance, the emergency room will certainly take a toll,” Lais said.

The second bankruptcy came when clients of her advertising business, which is named after her daughter, went out of business and she was not paid, she said.

“As a business owner, it’s not always a piece of cake. We do have hardships, and I think the best thing is to keep going forward,” Lais said. “Will life throw things at you? Yes, it will.”

Lais said she was motivated to get into politics because of her concerns about Common Core, a set of national education standards that Kansas adopted in 2010, and Agenda 21, a voluntary action plan for sustainable development crafted by the United Nations.

Both have been criticized by conservatives, who say that Common Core disrupts local control of education and that Agenda 21 threatens U.S. sovereignty.

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