Kansas governor hopeful collects $1.53 million

TOPEKA, Kan. | U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback’s campaign for governor raised more than $1.53 million in cash contributions last year, the campaign reported Friday.

The fundraising gives Brownback, the presumed Republican nominee, a big head start over any major Democratic challenger. But prominent Democrats said they weren’t impressed, suggesting a U.S. senator from a Republican state should have collected more money.

Brownback’s campaign confirmed the figure of $1,533,420 and said a full campaign finance report for 2009 will be available Monday. That’s the deadline for candidates for state offices to file finance reports with the Kansas secretary of state’s office.

“We are grateful for the financial support of literally thousands of Kansans during these challenging economic times and will work every day to grow our economy and create new jobs,” Brownback campaign manager David Kensinger said.

Brownback organized his campaign a year ago and faces only token opposition in the GOP primary in August.

Democrats are still looking for a major challenger because Gov. Mark Parkinson has said repeatedly he’s not running. Party leaders were supporting Tom Wiggans, a former pharmaceutical company executive, but he dropped out in December.

Still, they’ve argued Brownback is vulnerable because of his conservative views on issues such as abortion and suggested GOP moderates will flock to a viable Democrat once that candidate emerges.

They questioned whether Brownback’s fundraising last year was impressive, given his nearly 16 years in Congress. Kansas Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, a Democrat from Topeka, called it paltry.

And Kansas Democratic Party spokesman Tyler Longpine said: “It does show that Kansans have really deep concerns about the direction he’d take our state.”

Democratic Gov. Kathleen Sebelius raised nearly $2 million in 2005, the year before she won a second term. She resigned in April to become U.S. health and human services secretary, elevating Parkinson from lieutenant governor to governor.

Hensley said of Brownback: “In his first fundraising efforts to be the next governor, you would have thought he probably would be able to outmatch her.”

In 2001, the year before she ran her first term, Sebelius raised about $629,000 in cash contributions. And in 1997, the year before Republican Gov. Bill Graves won a second term, he raised about $750,000.

State Republican Chairwoman Amanda Adkins said Brownback’s total shows that Kansans support him enthusiastically because of his pro-growth message on economic issues and, “The Democrats’ lack of a systemic approach and message that resonates is starting to show.”