By John Celock
Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback’s (R) campaign manager told a radio show Thursday that last year’s victory was based on talking to voters, the campaign’s field program and data.
Mark Dugan said on “The Joseph Ashby Show” on KQAM radio in Wichita that communicating Brownback’s record directly to voters was one of the keys to obtaining a four point victory over Democrat Paul Davis in the competitive race. Dugan also credited the campaign’s statewide field staff and data program, along with the state Republican Party for their work on the campaign.
“I think it was a conversation between the interest groups and the folks invested in the status quo,” Dugan said. “He had to take it to the people because the filters like the Wichita Eagle and the Kansas City Star were not reporting. He had to take his case to the people.”
Dugan told Ashby that Brownback had to face down various interest groups in the state in order to secure reelection. He noted that these groups had long been opposed to Brownback’s changes to various policy areas, including his tax cuts and for signing a bill allowing local school districts to end teacher tenure.
Dugan defended Brownback’s record, noting that the governor could have taken another route in his first term to assure an easy reelection.
“If you’re a governor and you do not do a lot of reforms. If all you do is ribbon cuttings and give out proclamations and awards to folks you will be in a good place politically,” he said.
Dugan, who was Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer’s (R) chief of staff when he was tapped to run the campaign, praised the work of the staffers surrounding him in the Wichita headquarters, along with field staffers around the state. He noted these staffers were able to help the campaign secure a victory in Johnson County, which had been a battleground in the campaign.
Dugan noted that the campaign worked closely with the Kansas Republican Party in building a field program statewide, including with county party organizations.
Citing the Brownback camp as having an “unprecedented effort,” Dugan noted that GOP officials had built up a strong data operation in order to identify voters around the state for last year’s race.
“We worked to assure that we had a good robust field operations and a robust data program,” he said. “We have been investing in that for a number of years. We worked to get our message out that way.”
Dugan told Ashby that the campaign decided to go ahead with a commercial citing the state Supreme Court’s decision to end the death penalty for the Carr Brothers in a 2000 massacre in Wichita because it was part of overall record of the court. He noted that the court has overturned other death penalty sentences and had made other rulings that were “outside the main stream.”
Brownback has made state Supreme Court reform a top issue, including calling for a change in the way justices are appointed.
Dugan, a Wichita native, said that the campaign did not run the commercial – which was criticized by Democrats – by the families of the Carr Brothers victims in advance. The families of the victims had formed a group called Kansans for Justice in an effort to defeat two Supreme Court justices who were facing statewide retention votes.
“If they wanted us to take it down they could ask,” Dugan said. “That’s the decision we made if they ask us to take it down we would. They never did.”
Dugan said the decision of the husband of state Supreme Court Justice Carol Beier to host a Davis fundraiser in the backyard of the couple’s Topeka home swayed him in the decision to air the ad. Beier was not at the residence during the event, which was described as a backyard barbecue.
A Davis spokesman said last year that the event was not a fundraiser buy rather an “informational meeting” for teachers. The event invitation included a suggested donation of $20 to Davis’ campaign.
Dugan told Ashby that he sees Brownback remaining consistent in his beliefs headed into his second term. He said one of the goals was reminding voters of the governor’s personality.
“Sam Brownback s truly the most consistent warm caring kind individual that I have ever met,” he said. “He’s that way every single day. “