Why? Just why?
As Gov. Sam Brownback gets ready to leave his office to become the ambassador to Antartica (I’m guessing, I know it’s ambassador to something or somewhere) the field of candidates for governor of Kansas is getting crowded.
Actually, it’s getting national attention, but perhaps for the wrong reasons.
There are currently 11 declared campaigns for governor, six Republican and five Democratic. We also have a high school student running, several current or former state office holders and several failed candidates for various offices in the past.
For the record, these are the GOP candidates: Jim Barnett, former state senator and 2006 nominee for governor; Jeff Colyer, current lieutenant governor; Wink Hartman, businessman and former congressional candidate; Mark Hutton, former state representative; Kris Kobach, current secretary of state; and Ken Selzer, current Kansas Insurance Commissioner.
The Democratic candidates are: Arden Andersen, a physician; Jack Bergeson, a Wichita high school student; Carl Brewer, a former mayor of Wichita; Josh Svaty, for Kansas secretary of Agriculture and former state representative; and Jim Ward, Minority Leader of the Kansas House of Representatives.
Got all that?
According to several state officials, there is the potential of more GOP candidates. There is talk of Kevin Yoder, a current Congressman; Derek Schmidt, Kansas attorney general; Ed O’Malley, president of the Kansas Leadership Center; and Patrick Kucera, a businessman, all joining the race.
There are also whispers of former US Senate candidate Greg Orman joining the race as an independent.
So, for those mathematically challenged (like I am) that’s 11 confirmed candidates and possibly five more.
Now comes the not-so-fun part for us media types. As 11 candidates criss-cross the state looking for votes, they also stop by our office to get whatever media attention they can. I don’t mind, but with so many, they can overlap if they’re coming for the same event.
I will talk with any of them. As a newspaper, we’ll try to get candidates every chance we get, because it’s our only chance to let our readers make up their minds about them. So, with each visit, we’ll try to ask candidates their positions on agriculture, taxes, small businesses, education and more.
But the governor’s race has been in the news nationally. The high school candidate has been news throughout the state and was interviewed on Jimmy Kimmel Live. He’s not old enough to vote, he wants to enlighten the younger people in the state, but he was used a comedic content on a late-night talk show.
Our secretary of state is a member of President Donald Trump’s election commission. It’s interesting to note he has been lambasted for his attempts to get voting rolls from all 50 states.
Most states flat out refused because it’s an invasion of privacy for voters, but the commission is still pressuring.
If Kobach already has a negative rating nationally — among other governors and other offices — how is he going to lead Kansas in a positive way? I’m not for or against Kobach, I’m just pointing out negative issues some of the candidates face.
Colyer, it’s been reported by some newspapers, has turned down his ultra-right rhetoric since becoming Brownback’s lieutenant governor. His record in the Kansas House of Representatives might even be right of Brownback’s conservatism. Which version would he be as governor? Would he remain a moderate conservative or will he revert to his ultra-right status? His candidacy has caused the media to start looking at his past and some are concerned.
It’s interesting to note that Colyer and Kobach are two of the more "known" candidates. They have some name recognition in the state. As does Ward on the Democrat side.
But we all know Kansas is a Republican state. Yes, the state has elected Democratic governors in the past, but for the most part, Republicans are the top candidates in most races because that’s the state’s demographic.
So, which direction will we go?
First, we need to get out of the national media attention. We can ask questions we want answers for, but the national media will continue to see a high school student, a questionable secretary of state, a moderate who until the past few years has been ultra-right and a Democrat who leads the state, but is a Democrat.
Hence, part of the problem. I got a phone call Tuesday about an unrelated matter. The caller already made up her mind about what I was going to say before she called. Half of her assertions were generalizations about national media.
Yes, I am in the media. I’ve been a journalist for more than 30 years. I’ve maintained my ethics, my moral compass and I’ve made sure my stories, my employees over the years will stand up to any ethical or legal question.
But, this lady kept arguing she knew what I was going to say, how I was going to defend this company or that company, how all the media didn’t care.
It wasn’t a pleasant conversation. It makes no sense to reach out to the media for help, but trash the media the entire time.
But, I digress. My position is I’m in the media, but my focus has always been local first, then regional, then state and then national. It often takes a terrorist attack for world news to be in our newspaper.
So, while national media may be using our state’s gubernatorial candidates for comedy or negative journalism, we want every candidate who comes through to visit with us. Talk to us. Tell us your plans for the state if you are governor.
Because that’s the best way our readers are going to find out about you, your issues, your stances, your beliefs and whether they match up with theirs.
That’s the role of community journalism. To be there for the community and write about, and for, the community.
Roger Bluhm is the managing editor of the Dodge City Daily Globe. Follow him on Twitter @roger_dcglobe or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.