Looking at the political demographics of state House District 82, Lee Kinch realizes he has the wrong letter next to his name.
He's a Democrat, and the seat has been in Republican control for 27 years. Nearly 49 percent of voters are registered Republicans, compared with 21 percent Democrats. The rest are unaffiliated or registered with third parties.
"Obviously, I'm an underdog," said Kinch, 71.
The lawyer says he just wants a fair hearing from the constituents in the Derby district.
Kinch is running against Jim Howell for the seat vacated by long-term Republican state Rep. Don Myers, who was first elected in 1992.
Kinch has been active in Democratic politics. He is a Democratic national committeeman and served as chair for the Sedgwick County Democratic Party for 12 years. He said he isn't averse to working with legislators of other political backgrounds.
His wife, Elizabeth Baker Kinch, held the District 82 seat as a Republican for nine years. (She has since become a registered Democrat.)
Kinch said political compromise is a foundation of legislation.
"All I can say is in order to get things done, you have to work across party lines," Kinch said. "I'd like to believe I'm a moderate pragmatic."
Republicans hold sweeping majorities in both chambers of the Kansas Legislature.
Democrats in Topeka traditionally need to work with legislators who sit across the aisle politically, said Sedgwick County Democratic Party chairman Kelly Johnston.
Kinch will do that, Johnston said.
"Lee's been a lawyer for his professional life for years and lawyers have to be willing to entertain compromises all the time," Johnston said. "This will... be an ingrained part of his mindset in Topeka. I think he's well prepared for that."
Although Kinch calls himself an underdog, he had raised more money — $11,725 through July 22, and another $9,600 from July 23-July 28, the most recent filing period, putting his total at $21,325.
Howell had raised $8,005 through July 22.
Politically, Kinch sees education funding as a clear way to stabilize the economy for future generations.
He would support increasing school funding from the current level of $4,012 per pupil to $4,433 per pupil, or the level paid during the 2008-09 school year.
"I believe education is the key to economic opportunity and economic security," he said.
He also would have supported the sales tax increase approved by legislators last spring.
In addition to providing needed services, Kinch said four-tenths of the tax increase will be used to fund $1.5 billion of a 10-year, $8 billion transportation plan.
If the Legislature hadn't done that, Kinch said, jobs created by the transportation program would not have materialized. And the state's budget shortages would have been passed on to local county officials and school boards.
That would have resulted in more budget cuts or higher property taxes, he said
Kinch disputes the claim that Kansas doesn't deliver an attractive business climate. He pointed to the 2010 rankings report in Business Facilities magazine, which ranked Kansas in the top 10 in eight of 20 categories related to economic development.
Kansas also was ranked the nation's No. 7 most business-friendly state in the Pollina Corporate Top 10 Pro-Business States report, he said.
Kinch said tax incentives for job creation and public-private partnerships like the Siemens Energy plant in Hutchinson are a positive way for government to attract businesses.
"That helps stabilize and grow our local economy," he said.