For nearly half a century, starting in the mid-1960s, a woman held at least one statewide political office in Kansas.
Some of the names are familiar to most Kansans: Sen. Nancy Kassebaum. Gov. Kathleen Sebelius.
… Sadly, the women-in-office streak came to an end in 2015. In January of that year, all eight statewide elected positions — two U.S. senators, the governor and lieutentant governor, attorney general, treasurer, secretary of state, and insurance commissioner — were once again held exclusively by men.
… No woman is running for governor from either major party. No women have declared for attorney general, or treasurer, or insurance commissioner. No woman has yet been mentioned as a potential lieutenant governor candidate.
… There is no shortage of highly-qualified women candidates in Kansas. The state Legislature is sprinkled with skilled politicians: state Reps. Melissa Rooker, Cindy Holscher, Nancy Lusk and Susan Humphries come to mind.
On the Senate side, president Susan Wagle is qualified for statewide office. Sens. Molly Baumgardner, Laura Kelly, Barbara Bollier, and Vicki Schmidt might have statewide appeal. Other women candidates from city halls and county courthouses would be on the list.
Yet no one has stepped forward. …
There are different reasons for this disappointing picture. Some think the high cost of statewide campaigns, and the need for campaigning across a big state, have deterred women from running.
Others blame a toxic political culture. Politics is nastier, they say, than it has ever been.
Yet those explanations sound slightly hollow when you consider the state’s history. In 1996, five women — Kassebaum, Sebelius, Sen. Shelia Frahm, Attorney General Carla Stovall and Treasurer Sally Thompson — served at the same time.
The state was better for it.
We urge both major parties to work harder to find qualified statewide candidates who are women. …
Women candidates should step forward, too. That’s true at all levels of government — today’s mayor is tomorrow’s governor. Political colleagues should urge women office seekers to file statewide.
And voters should demand that women find a place on the ballot. There are more women than men in Kansas. Women have helped Kansas prosper for generations.
They can do so again, in 2018.
— The Kansas City Star