Democratic gubernatorial candidate Josh Svaty selected Wednesday as his lieutenant governor running mate a former U.S. Army helicopter pilot who earned a Purple Heart in Iraq and now serves on the Manhattan-Ogden school board.
West Point graduate Katrina Lewison, an executive with a Manhattan software company, joined Svaty on a statewide campaign tour that began at the Capitol in Topeka.
"Kansans want change that makes their lives and their families' lives better," said Svaty, a former state legislator and agriculture secretary. "They want leaders who will go out of their way to wok with other leaders at all levels of government, regardless of political philosophy."
He said Lewison was a "natural-born leader who has been a true public servant throughout her life."
Lewison grew up in Hutchinson, graduated from West Point in 2000 and was assigned to the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, Ky. She flew UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters and was deployed to Iraq and South Korea with her husband, also a West Point graduate. In Iraq, both were riding in a Humvee in Mosul when attacked with a grenade. She suffered shrapnel wounds and received the Purple Heart in a ceremony presided by U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., who was visiting Iraq in 2003.
Lewison left military service after 15 years and now works as director of consulting and training at CivicPlus, a company that focuses on software needs of municipal governments. She's been on the local school board since January.
"I was raised with those good Kansas values and knowing that parents chose to raise their kids here," she said in an interview Tuesday. "My parents raised us with a sense of community and service, and I took that to the extreme. When it was time for my husband and I to put down roots, we chose to come back to my home state to raise our three daughters."
The relatively young Svaty and Lewison families have seven children between them, Lewison said, which fills their days with realities of working Kansans raising school-age kids. The campaign is personal because their children will live with consequences of budget and policy decisions made by state government during the next four to eight years, she said.
"When I think of Josh, I see someone who is a change candidate. I see someone who has a vision for a better and different future in Kansas. I don't want to trust my state to the folks who have taken us down this path," she said.
Other contenders in the Democratic Party's primary are Topeka Sen. Laura Kelly and former Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer. Neither have revealed a running mate, but are required to do so by the June 1 candidate filing deadline.
The front-running Republicans in the governor's race, Secretary of State Kris Kobach and Gov. Jeff Colyer, selected men to serve as their lieutenant governor sidekicks. Kobach chose Wink Hartman, a Wichita businessman who quit the GOP race to campaign with the secretary of state. After taking over as governor in January, Colyer chose Salina resident Tracey Mann to be his lieutenant governor.
Svaty, who had a consistently pro-life voting record while representing a central-Kansas district in the House, paired himself with a pro-choice running mate.
“I am pro-choice, but I’d like to shift the conversation to women’s access to quality health care across the state," Lewison said.
The announcement afforded Svaty an opportunity to relaunch campaign themes that included criticism of the state's privatized Medicaid system as well as priorities for Kansas tax and education policy.
"We will fix the KanCare mess and expand Medicaid," said Svaty, who resides in Ellsworth and Topeka. "We will find a way to remove sales tax from food. We will fairly pay our teachers, and we will properly fund education at all levels in Kansas. We will make sure promised highway projects are completed."