By John Celock
A moderate Republican who heads the non-profit Kansas Leadership Center has launched an exploratory committee to seek the governorship next year.
Ed O’Malley, the president and CEO of the KLC, released a video Thursday afternoon launching the exploratory committee. O’Malley, a former two-term state representative, said that he would be launching a statewide listening tour and said that he hopes to bring unity to the state.
“I believe we can do better. I believe our problems can be solved faster, more effectively, more efficiently,” O’Malley said. “It will take leadership that brings us together rather than divides us apart.”
O’Malley said that his listening tour would include round table discussion and town hall meetings around the state where he wanted to hear “the type of leadership” residents are looking for from the state’s next governor. He said that the solutions to the issues in the state would need “coordinated leadership from all sorts of Kansans.”
O’Malley said that his approach is similar to how to approached his service in the state Legislature.
“Everyone needed to have a voice and had a voice,” O’Malley said of his previous service.
O’Malley did not discuss any specific policy agenda or address any issues facing the state, including the state’s budget deficit, school funding formula or the 2012 tax cuts, which have contributed to the budget shortfall.
He mainly focused on listening in the video.
“For Kansas to thrive we need people to understand it’s not just about what leadership they get from a governor, it’s the kind of leadership they get from everyone, including the governor,” he said, noting that Kansans need to come together to “engage the hearts and minds of this state.”
O’Malley enters the race months after moderate Republicans increased their presence in the state Legislature, following a primary where many defeated conservative Republicans, in what was seen as a backlash against term-limited Gov. Sam Brownback (R). Several other Republicans including Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer and U.S. Rep. Lynn Jenkins are viewed as likely gubernatorial candidates. On the Democratic side, former state House Minority Leader Paul Davis, the party’s unsuccessful 2014 gubernatorial nominee, is viewed as a potential candidate.
Brownback’s future does hang over the gubernatorial race, with the incumbent mentioned as a potential U.S ambassador to either the Vatican or India in a Trump Administration. If Brownback were to step down early for an ambassadorship, Colyer would succeed him and be able to seek the governorship as the incumbent.
O’Malley has headed the Kansas Leadership Institute for a decade. KLI is a Wichita based group that has offered various leadership training programs, including one for new legislators every two years. The KLI programs have proven popular with moderate Republican lawmakers in the state.
During O’Malley’s legislative service he served on a variety of state House committees including corrections and juvenile justice, economic development, tax, tourism and parks, financial institutions and transportation.
O’Malley said in the video that he wants to give thanks to the people of Kansas.
“Most of all I want to say thank you, thank you for being a Kansan,” he said. “It is a great state and together we can make it better.”