Ken Selzer promises to champion growth of the agriculture industry in Kansas as his “first and foremost” priority if elected to the governor’s office in November, and he says there is a “clear path” for him to win the nomination in August.
The comments were given during an interview at The Telegram offices that was part of a larger statewide rollout tour. The tour was launched on the heels of Selzer’s announcement that Jenifer Sanderson of Goodland would be his lieutenant governor if his gubernatorial bid is successful.
The visit to Garden City followed the tour’s kickoff at Goodland’s Northwest Kansas Technical College and continued Wednesday with stops in Sublette and Liberal. Selzer will resume the tour Thursday with additional stops in Manhattan, Salina, McPherson and Wichita. Future stops are slated to include Pittsburg, Atchison and Overland Park on Monday.
Selzer said Kansas does not currently have a champion for agriculture, a not-so-subtle dig at sitting Gov. Jeff Colyer, who enjoys the highest recent polling success with Secretary of State Kris Kobach.
A poll conducted earlier this month by GOP polling firm Remington Research Group put Colyer slightly ahead of Kobach in the race at 29 percent to Kobach’s 27 percent. Meanwhile, Selzer, the current state insurance commissioner, and former senator Jim Barnett polled at 5 and 9 percent, respectively.
But Selzer isn’t deterred by his poor polling results. The same poll indicated that nearly a third of Republican voters — 30 percent — remain undecided, and Selzer said that will play to his advantage.
“We’re the only ones gaining ground,” he said. “The others are not. There’s a huge undecided vote that we will get more than our share from.”
Selzer said his own campaign team’s polling efforts have shown that support for “the other two” candidates, an allusion to frontrunners Kobach and Colyer, are “very, very soft.”
With Sanderson’s ties to western Kansas, Selzer showed a renewed confidence in his gubernatorial run. Sanderson says she has no doubt that Selzer will pull ahead.
“He works harder than anyone else,” she said.
Sanderson lauded Selzer’s ability to cut costs in the state’s insurance department while increasing productivity. Selzer noted that his department has been evaluated approvingly by a third-party agency.
But rather than evaluating the department’s financial efficiency, the personal finance website Nerdwallet examined the convenience of the website’s features as they related to helping consumers navigate the tricky realm of insurance. The 2016 report showed that the Kansas Insurance Department ranks second in the country, preceded only by Texas. Selzer said Texas has four times the staff and four times the budget of the Kansas insurance department
Selzer attributes his licensing as a certified public accountant to the success of the state’s insurance department.
“We have the right tools for the right time here that Kansas needs,” he said. “We’ve got a proven track record in the insurance department. So many people recognize that we have managed that so much better than it has been, lower cost, far higher productivity. People see that and want that for the state of Kansas.”
As for Sanderson’s place on the ticket, she describes herself as “rural by choice.” Selzer’s campaign notes that she spent much of her career working in community banking and financial management.
She was also the recent chairwoman of the Leadership Kansas board of trustees, served on the board of the Sherman County Convention and Visitors Bureau and currently serves as the president of Northwest Kansas Area Technical College’s endowment foundation.
“I want to leave Kansas in such a position that my children would like to stay, and hopefully they’ll stay rural,” Sanderson said. “I couldn’t think of a better teammate than Ken Selzer for governor. He’s going to do things for Kansas that haven’t been done, should be done, should be done already.”
Selzer owns a farm in Miami County and trumpets himself as the only candidate on the Republican front with a background in both agriculture and business.
Earlier this month, he appointed three co-chairs to an agricultural advisory committee that comprises nine members from all over the state.
“If ag doesn’t grow, Kansas won’t grow,” Selzer said. “We will be a champion for ag. We will be looking for new markets in ag. We will be a salesperson for ag. We will be focused on making ag grow.”