Opinion Columns & Blogs

September 25, 2013

Steve Kraske: Paul Davis needs lots of moola

Let’s stipulate that there is a path to victory for Democrat Paul Davis in his upstart run for Kansas governor.

Let’s stipulate that there is a path to victory for Democrat Paul Davis in his upstart run for Kansas governor.

A long, daunting path with lions and saber-toothed tigers lurking nearby, but a path nonetheless.

Davis, the House minority leader from Lawrence, kicked off his campaign last week against Republican Gov. Sam Brownback the 2013 way, via Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

“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.

He launches with some tangible assets in his hip pocket.

No less than former Gov. Kathleen Sebelius attended a kickoff reception for Davis. Sebelius, now U.S. health and human services secretary, could aid Davis in substantial ways by connecting him to East Coast Democrats eager for an America without Brownback as a governor.

Also at the reception was Jill Docking, the woman rumored to be Davis’ running mate in waiting, who also totes a contact list of well-heeled Eastern Democrats.

The formula: Add Kansas Democrats to the state’s disaffected set of moderate Republicans, and Davis will be in the hunt.

Brownback has been either a huge success or a knockout failure, depending on your viewpoint. Without question, he is now a seminal political figure who ushered in a conservative wave that has proved more enduring than almost anybody anticipated.

The effects of his income-tax cuts have yet to be fully felt. He remains stuck in middlin’-to-lousy polling territory.

So Davis begins with a campaign that can give Democrats hope.

But if you want to really understand what kind of shot he has, check Davis’ bank account. Sebelius spent nearly $6 million to win re-election in 2006 and nearly $2.5 million in 2002. Brownback in 2010 outspent Democrat Tom Holland 4-to-1 with a $2.5 million campaign.

Davis will need every bit of $2 million to be competitive. To win, he must show he is an acceptable alternative to a controversial Republican governor in a bright-red state. Races like this can be won. Case in point: Paul Morrison defeated Phill Kline for attorney general in 2006 – but only after spending big on TV.

Morrison trailed Kline in the polls in mid-September 51 to 48 percent. By mid-October, after a sizable TV buy, Morrison led 56 to 43 percent. Brownback is no Kline, but that’s the route for Davis.

Lots and lots of moola.

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