Paul Davis swept through Edgerton on June 21, walking through town during the Frontier Days parade.
The gubernatorial candidate hoped to win the votes of southwest Johnson County voters and parade into the Governor’s mansion come 2015. Davis will likely face incumbent Governor, Republican Sam Brownback, in the November general election.
Polls show a close race, despite a large advantage in the number of Kansans who are registered as Republicans. Forty-five percent of registered Kansas voters identify as Republicans, 25 percent are registered as Democrats and 30 percent of Kansas voters are unaffiliated.
“We’ve got a coalition of Democrats and unaffiliated voters and moderate Republicans,” Davis said. “It’s growing every day.”
Davis, of Lawrence, currently serves as the minority leader in the Kansas House of Representatives.
“I have a track record of being able to bring Democrats and Republicans together,” he said in an interview with The Gardner News. “… My style of leadership is a very inclusive one that understands we do have to compromise on issues and bring people together.”
He recalls helping pass legislation to get the intermodal project off the ground.
“It’s a great thing, not only for the region, but for the state as a whole,” Davis said.
As the project nears full build-out in the coming years, Davis said the state will need to create and maintain a good transportation structure.
“That’s why it’s important to fund our transportation plan as well,” he said.
The comprehensive transportation plan allows the Kansas Department of Transportation to work with communities to decide what projects are really the most important, Davis explained.
“We keep the legislature out of deciding what projects should go forward, but we’ve got to make sure that plan is funded,” he said.
The smaller communities in southwest Johnson County are somewhat unique in Kansas. The cities are located in the Kansas City metropolitan area and part of the wealthiest county in the state, but part also share a lot of characteristics of some of the more rural parts of Kansas.
“I think the issues in Gardner and Edgerton bare similarities to the rest of Johnson County, but it’s also an area of the county that bares a lot of similarities to some of the rural parts,” Davis said.
Specifically, he said school funding issues in the local school district may be a bit different than they are for the Olathes and Blue Valleys. School funding is one of Davis’ central campaign concerns.
Right now, Davis said, schools aren’t being properly funded. He did not give a specific dollar amount in per pupil spending. However, he state funding should be closer to $4,492 base aid per pupil, an amount the courts ruled in 2005 was suitable funding. Today, base state aid per pupil sits at $3,383 per pupil. That amount does not include other funding sources.
“A couple of years ago, I put a plan on the table that would’ve moved us in the direction to get to that balance that is in statute,” Davis said. “I think it’s about $4,492 per pupil—somewhere in that neighborhood. I think we need to start moving our school funding in that direction.”
Davis is the son of school teachers. He said he first ran for office in 2003, in part, due to what he called “Topeka’s lack of support” for public education. Strong public schools are the foundation of a strong economy, he explained.
“If we are giving children a top quality education, that is going to enhance their opportunities to find the careers and opportunities that they want later in life,” Davis said.
The current state of affairs in Topeka has drawn him into another political race – this time for the Governor’s office.
“I’m not one of those people who necessarily aspired to run for Governor for my entire life,” Davis said. “But for the past three-and-a-half years, I’ve really seen a sharp change in the way state government functions. I’m very concerned in the direction state government is going in respect to a number of things.”
In addition to education funding, Davis said he’s worried that many recent policy changes are negatively affecting middle class families. For example, he said Kansans are witnessing a strong shift in the tax burden that is being put on middle class families.
“(Families) are seeing property tax values go up. They are seeing their sales taxes go up. Utilities rates are going up. College tuition is going up,” he said.
Davis, an attorney, lives in Lawrence with his wife and daughter. His running mate is Jill Docking, the former chair of the Kansas Board of Regents.
For more information about him, visit his website at www.davisforkansas.com.