Wichita businessman Mark Hutton running for governor

Mark Hutton
Mark Hutton

Mark Hutton, a Wichita businessman and former state representative, is joining a growing Republican field in the race for governor.

Hutton said late Monday he is running and named a campaign treasurer.

Hutton made his mark in the Kansas House as a conservative Republican who nevertheless broke with Gov. Sam Brownback to oppose a tax exemption for certain kinds of business income. He had previously said he was considering running as someone who could bridge the divide between party’s moderate and conservative wings.

“I have spent my life and career building all across Kansas, from schools to hospitals, churches and office buildings, keeping my word and getting the job done,” Hutton said in a statement. “I’ll lead the state the same way.”

Hutton said in a brief phone interview that a formal announcement of his candidacy would come later.

Hutton, a construction executive, chose not to seek re-election to the Legislature last fall. This spring, lawmakers voted to eliminate the tax exemption that Hutton opposed.

The family-owned Hutton Construction, based in Wichita, employed more than 200 as of fall 2016.

Hutton is the seventh Republican to join the race. They include Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer, Secretary of State Kris Kobach, former state senator Jim Barnett, Wichita businessman Wink Hartman, entrepreneur Ed O’Malley and Kansas Insurance Commissioner Ken Selzer.

On the Democratic side, House Minority Leader Jim Ward, former Wichita mayor Carl Brewer and former state representative Josh Svaty are running.

Michael Smith, a political scientist at Emporia State University, said there are a number of dark horse candidates in the race. But candidates will have to figure out how to overcome Kobach, who is perceived as the frontrunner and has the greatest name recognition in the field.

Smith said the field reminds him of the 2016 Republican presidential primary field, where a slew of candidates tried unsuccessfully to overcome Donald Trump.

“The way I see it right now, it’s not a dynamic of moderates and conservatives and ‘I can unite the party.’ What I see is a dynamic of Kris Kobach and everyone else,” Smith said.

Asked about joining an already-crowded field of candidates, Hutton said “my job is to tell my story and to be open, honest and transparent” and if people choose him “I’d be honored.”

Jonathan Shorman: 785-296-3006, @jonshorman