By John Celock
The former mayor of Kansas’ largest city announced Monday that he would be the first Democrat to officially enter the race to be the state’s next governor.
Former Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer (D) used an announcement video and speech in Wichita to stress his life story and background in local government, saying that he could bring a different kind of leadership to the state. Brewer stressed his bipartisan credentials and desire to work across party lines in a state capital dominated by Republicans.
“I learned early on that the key to effective leadership is communication. Good leaders are good listeners,” Brewer said during a rally in downtown Wichita, posted on Facebook Live by the Wichita State University College Democrats. “Good policy making requires honest dialogue and making sure that all parties are part of the dialogue.”
Brewer planned to hold rallies later Monday in Topeka and Kansas City as part of his announcement tour.
Brewer pointed towards his record in the mayor’s office, city the work that he and others did to build up the Old Town section of downtown Wichita. Old Town has become an entertainment and residential hub of the downtown. He pointed to the hotel where he was holding his announcement as part of the redevelopment of Old Town.
Brewer was critical of term limited Gov. Sam Brownback (R) and conservative Republicans in the state Legislature, saying that decisions made since Brownback took office six years ago have left the state lagging behind others.
“The state’s financial future and economic forecast is very dark and cloudy,” Brewer said in the Wichita rally. “Poor decisions over the past six years have left Kansans very weary about the state.”
Brewer noted in the speech that he wanted to focus on the state’s fiscal situation, including putting more money into education and transportation.
Brewer enters the race dominated by the state’s fiscal climate, with lawmakers struggling to fill budget holes that dominated the state since the 2012 tax cuts. Last week, the state Legislature – now dominated by moderate Republicans and Democrats – passed legislation that would raise taxes in the state. The tax bill is now pending on Brownback’s desk.
Brewer, who worked in the aviation industry prior to serving as mayor, comes to the race with 14 years experience in local government. Prior to his eight years as mayor – which ended in 2015 – Brewer had served as a city councilman for six years.
Brewer is the first Democrat to enter what could be a three-man field for the Democratic nomination. Former state House Minority Leader Paul Davis, who was the party’s unsuccessful nominee in 2014, is considered a potential contender, along with former state Agriculture Secretary Josh Svaty.
On the GOP side, Wichita businessman Wink Hartman officially entered the race last week, while former state Rep. Ed O’Malley announced an exploratory committee earlier this year. Attorney General Derek Schmidt, Secretary of State Kris Kobach, Senate President Susan Wagle and Insurance Commissioner Ken Selzer are all considered potential candidates. U.S. Rep. Lynn Jenkins, who was considered the GOP frontrunner, has announced that she will not run for office in 2018.
Brewer is seeking to be Kansas’ first African-American governor and the third African-American elected to a state governorship in U.S. history. Former Virginia Gov. Doug Wilder (D), in 1989, and former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick (D), are the only African Americans to win state governorships in American history. Patrick left office in 2015.
Former Louisiana Gov. P.B.S. Pinchback (R) became the first African-American governor in American history, when he succeeded to the office for a six-week term in December 1872. Former New York Gov. David Paterson (D) succeeded to the governorship in 2008, leading the Empire State for just under three years as the nation’s fourth African-American governor.
Brewer pledged to visit the entire state during the course of the campaign, touching in the video in his work in the Army National Guard on natural disasters in various parts of the state. He said that he wanted to talk to Kansans about what their priorities and share his vision.
He used the video to stress that he could work across party lines.
“As mayor of Wichita and a lifelong Democrat, I worked with both sides of the political divide,” Brewer said. “Together we helped the city to prosper despite one of the worst recessions since the Great Depression.”