Politics & Government

Carl Brewer names another former mayor as running mate

Former Wichita mayor and governor candidate Carl Brewer, right, introduces former Gardner Mayor Chris Morrow as his running mate in front of the Brown v. Board of Education mural at the state Capitol.
Former Wichita mayor and governor candidate Carl Brewer, right, introduces former Gardner Mayor Chris Morrow as his running mate in front of the Brown v. Board of Education mural at the state Capitol. Wichita Eagle

Former Wichita mayor Carl Brewer has named another former mayor as his running mate in his Democratic campaign for governor.

Chris Morrow, former mayor of Gardner in Johnson County, will join the ticket, the campaign announced Tuesday.

Morrow is the vice-chair of the Johnson County Democratic Party executive board and has lived in Gardner for 12 years. He is a Navy veteran who has worked for more than 25 years in the employment agency industry.

He ran unsuccessfully against Olathe Republican Sen. Julia Lynn in 2016.

Morrow said he thinks the ticket is electable, even in a Republican-dominated state.

"When I ran for City Council, people told me that I couldn't get elected because I was a Democrat; when I ran for mayor, people told me I couldn't get elected because I was a Democrat," Morrow said. "I managed to get elected both times and once elected, we went about making a compelling case for why we needed to change some things in Gardner to get the city moving forward."

Standing in front of the Capitol mural dedicated to the Brown v. Board of Education ruling that desegregated schools, Brewer alluded to another high-profile court case being argued across the street at the Kansas Supreme Court. There, the Legislature and school districts are fighting over whether education funding is constitutionally adequate.

"When you think back to the challenges they had back then, and the challenges we're having today, certainly we should not be repeating history, but we are," Brewer said.

He said Kansans "need to start holding legislators accountable and then the individuals who aren't doing their jobs, to make those changes."

Brewer said serving as a city mayor is better preparation for the governorship than serving in the Legislature because mayors are closer to the people and everyday concerns. Both his major primary rivals, Josh Svaty and Laura Kelly, come from legislative backgrounds.

"As state legislators, they see a 30- or 60,000-foot view," he said. "But we (mayors) have been there in the trenches . . . even to the point if we lose a child or we lose a senior citizen to abuse or domestic violence, or we see discrimination, we know about it immediately because we have to answer to it as to what's going on.

"If we lose a life, we lose a member of our community, we're the ones that shed the tears. Here at the state Legislature, it's just another name in the media that is something that happened and oh, well, we move on."

While Brewer and Morrow were both mayors, the team does balance the ticket somewhat in terms of the state's urban/small town and geographic divisions, said Bob Beatty, a Washburn University professor of political science.

Turnout is usually dismal in Democratic primaries and having mayors on the ticket might lead to more voters casting ballots, he said.

"As a mayor, they know how to go to these small towns and roust up some votes," Beatty said. "Electorally maybe it's not a bad pick."

The Kansas governor’s race has seen a flurry of running mate announcements in recent days as the June 1 deadline to formally file as a candidate approaches. Svaty, a former legislator and agriculture secretary, and Republican Ken Selzer, the state insurance commissioner, both named their lieutenant governor picks within the past week.

Kelly, a state senator, is expected to announce her selection later this week.

Jonathan Shorman: 785-296-3006, @jonshorman
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