TOPEKA — Kansas gubernatorial candidate Laura Kelly on Thursday selected a state Senate colleague and former school board member from Wichita as her running mate in the Democratic Party's contest.
Kelly, a Topeka senator and critic of Republican Gov. Jeff Colyer and former Gov. Sam Brownback, said outside Topeka High School that she was drawn to Sen. Lynn Rogers as a lieutenant governor running mate due to his lengthy tenure on the Wichita school board, private-sector career in agricultural banking and views on tax, education and other key issues.
"His commitment to our schools, students and staff make him the right choice to lead Kansas at this critical time," Kelly said. "He has fought tirelessly to reverse the damage of the Brownback experiment and give all our children the opportunities they deserve."
Rogers was elected to the Senate in 2016 after serving as president or vice president of the Wichita board of education for seven of his 16 years in that role.
"I'm honored to join Laura on this mission to rebuild Kansas," Rogers said. "Laura has said she wants to be the education governor. I couldn't be prouder to join her team to restore Kansas schools."
Kansas' three branches of government have been embroiled in a lengthy dispute regarding constitutionality of laws guiding spending on K-12 public education that were approved by the Legislature and governor. The Kansas Supreme Court ruled last year the state's system violated the Kansas Constitution. The justices are in the process of evaluating a $525 million, five-year school funding plan passed by the 2018 Legislature and signed by Colyer.
Other contending Democrats in the statewide campaign for governor likewise selected running mates with local government or school board experience. Former state Rep. Josh Svaty will be on a ticket with Manhattan school board member Katrina Lewison. Carl Brewer, a former two-term mayor of Wichita, picked Chris Morrow, who served on the Gardner city council and was the city's mayor.
On the Republican side of the gubernatorial ledger, Secretary of State Kris Kobach selected Wichita millionaire Wink Hartman as a running mate. Colyer appointed businessman Tracey Mann as lieutenant governor. Kansas insurance commissioner Ken Selzer's partner in the race is Jenifer Sanderson, a Goodland business owner. GOP candidate Jim Barnett hasn't revealed a running mate.
Independent candidate Greg Orman, a wealthy Johnson County businessman, is running for governor on a ticket with Garden City Sen. John Doll, a former Republican who changed his affiliation to independent.
"The Democrats are really going to the wall in terms of grass roots elective offices," said Bob Beatty, a professor of political science at Washburn University in Topeka. "They probably need to. They need to get voters from every inch of Kansas."
Beatty said the Democratic candidates were drawn to people who gained experience in local government, while the GOP favored individuals who had only aspired to serve in Congress. Hartman and Mann previously ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. House.