Politics & Government

Maize computer programmer announces bid for state Senate seat held by Les Donovan

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A 52-year-old computer programmer from Maize has filed to run for state Senate in District 27 in west Wichita and Sedgwick County.

Lori Graham, a Republican, announced this week that she would run. The seat is held by Sen. Les Donovan, R-Wichita, the Senate Tax Committee chairman.

“Last year, I observed how things went during the session and as far as on organization, how they voted on the most important issue – the budget – as the last thing to vote on,” Graham said. “Common sense tells you to do the hard stuff first. I felt like we, the taxpayers, ended up footing the bill for their poor management.”

Donovan said he has not yet decided whether he will run for re-election. He has served in the Senate since 1997 and in the House for several years before that.

“I haven’t decided completely,” Donovan said. “This year will be my 24th year, and a lot of people think that’s probably 20 too many. But lots of people have encouraged me to keep going. This next May 5th, I will be 80 years old. I was in my 50s when I ran my first time.”

Donovan said he has had five heart attacks and his cardiologist has warned him to stay out of situations that are stressful.

“I know better than to walk my 76,000-people district,” he said. “But if I decide to step down, it won’t be until the session is over for the simple reason a lame duck is not a good position to be in. If people know you are giving up your seat, your support and votes needed weaken dramatically.”

The 2016 legislative session starts next week and is slated to run until May.

Graham and her husband, Mike, have lived in the Wichita area for 19 years. She has a bachelor’s degree in business administration with an emphasis on management information systems. She has worked as a computer programmer for defense contractors, long-term care services and aviation applications.

She served as IT support for the Maize school district and has been a small business owner for more than 12 years.

Graham said one of her top priorities is looking at the state’s education spending. She supports education savings accounts, a saving mechanism that can help parents pay for a child’s education from kindergarten through college.

“It is a merry-go-round with how education is funded and how the Wichita school district is spending millions of dollars on lawyers to sue the state for money when that money should be used for schools and classrooms,” Graham said.

“I’ve researched on what other states are doing and I really think that the education savings accounts will solve issues for schools’ budget woes, classroom sizes and provide parents with alternatives.”

Her website says education savings accounts would allow parents to get the education that fits their child and encourage schools to be more competitive and accountable.

Donovan said he didn’t know Graham but that she “seems like a nice lady.”

“At least she is a Republican,” he said. “They usually recruit Democrats. … I’ll have a news conference when I decide what I am going to do. And, if I decide to run, I’ll just put money in the pot and go for it. And if I don’t, I will have somebody lined up – some good prospects that are qualified and the right kind of person to take my seat.”

Beccy Tanner: 316-268-6336, @beccytanner