Democratic gubernatorial candidate Josh Svaty and his running mate, Katrina Lewison, on Thursday arrived at Garden City’s Hampton Inn on their second of the day’s five stops across Kansas.

After an introduction from Garden City Community College graduate and Svaty supporter Nhicolas Aponte, the governor and lieutenant governor candidates met with about 20 local supporters, speaking about the new perspective and ardent work the team hopes to bring to Kansas’ highest office.

Svaty and Lewison talked about their shared experience as professional parents, a lifestyle Svaty said connects them to “the modern 21st century family experience,” which he said was built on balance. Both candidates said they were committed to investing in Kansas’ future by promoting policies and building environments that would foster and attract individuals, families and businesses to call the state home.

Both Svaty and Lewison’s roots lie in small central Kansas towns, and both said they love calling the state home. Svaty, a fifth-generation Kansan from Ellsworth, has served as a Kansas state representative and the state’s secretary of agriculture. His running mate, Lewison, who he announced Wednesday, is a West Point graduate who flew Black Hawk helicopters in Iraq. Raised in Hutchinson and Buhler, Lewison currently works and serves on the school board in Manhattan.

Svaty said Garden City needs a candidate that understands the economy and culture of western Kansas. His experience as secretary of agriculture, he said, made him more qualified to serve the region’s economy and the people who keep it growing.

“Part of the explosive growth in Garden City is that industry driving and fueling a lot of that. I think you’d be hard-pressed to find any other gubernatorial candidate that has as strong an understanding of what the economic impact is for communities across the state, but particularly communities like Garden City...,” Svaty said. “Garden City needs someone who understands what’s going on, and I think I bring that.”

Both Svaty and Lewison spoke of embracing immigrants, a subject tangible and largely accepted in Garden City’s diverse population.

“I think (accepting immigrants) is something that’s very important for this community. And when I look at other campaigns, there’s a message of fear and blocking people out, and that’s just not realistic because we need immigrants, especially in this community,” Lewison said.

Svaty ran through he and Lewison’s positions, supporting lower class sizes at schools and adequate pay for teachers, the expansion of Medicaid, limits or the termination of sales tax on food and an open state to immigrants. Their ticket is also pro-choice, places priority in maintaining natural resources and developing alternative energy, plans to invest in statewide infrastructure and wants to allow access to marijuana for medical reasons.

Svaty said the current political environment, one of an unpopular Kansas Republican administration and a polarizing Republican president, is one in which a Democrat can win. One of Kansas Democrats’ biggest mistakes, he said, is neglecting western Kansas in their campaigns. With extended family throughout the state, including western rural areas, and an understanding of the area’s economy, Svaty said he thinks he’s the only Democratic candidate that can earn enough western support to win.

Several attendees stood in support of Svaty and Lewison. Community member Denise Pass said Kansas needs an alternative to the current administration, and another attendee, Christi Graber, said said the running mates were invested in and interested in southwest Kansas.

Lori Lennen, mayor of Coolidge, said she was impressed with the candidates’ dedication to leadership.

“What they’re providing is a pathway that we can see perhaps future generations can get very excited about what this state has to offer. And we haven’t had anyone that really connected … with our present governor or (candidates) in the races. I’ve just been so impressed with how they have a pulse on what leadership means for Kansas,” Lennen said.

 

Contact Amber Friend at afriend@gctelegram.com.