Yael T. Abouhalkah

Surprise: Davis vs. Brownback could be a real thriller in Kansas

Updated: 2013-09-18T06:03:42Z

By Yael T. Abouhalkah

The Kansas City Star

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback gained a legitimate challenger Tuesday when Democrat Paul Davis officially entered the 2014 race.

Davis’ lengthy YouTube video starts to make his case (and doesn’t mention Brownback).

Conventional wisdom: Brownback will crush Davis, unknown throughout much of the state despite the fact he is the Kansas House minority leader (with the emphasis on “minority,” as in Republicans crush Democrats whenever they want in that legislative body).

But the counterpoints:

•  Brownback may not be all that popular with the public.

• His slash-and-burn tax policies aren’t battle-tested. They may, as opponents have warned for months, lead to a decline in state government revenue and a reduction of state services, including in the key field of education.

• His claims of balancing the budget don’t exactly ring true and could be exposed in a tough campaign.

And later Tuesday came this from The Star’s Steve Kraske: Jill Docking might be Davis’ running mate.

Davis will face the challenge any Democrat would in 2014: Republicans like Brownback hold clear majorities in almost all elected offices in Kansas, from Congress to the Legislature to various counties.

Even in Johnson County, where a Democrat prevailed in congressional races for many years, Republican Kevin Yoder is now entrenched.

Davis, of course, will have to aim for not only Democratic votes but also disaffected Republicans and independents who are concerned about the future of the state under Brownback and the ultra-conservative Legislature.

To get through to them, however, Davis is going to have to be very effective in showing how Brownback’s policies are endangering something Kansans take a lot of pride in: public education. And nowhere will that be more true than in Johnson County.

As The Star story noted, Davis already has some significant support from the Democratic establishment, such as it is.

That’s led by former Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, now secretary of Health and Human Services, who is scheduled to appear at a Mission Hills reception (not fundraiser, as I wrote earlier) for Davis on Thursday.

So the battle is on, and — while it could be wishful thinking at this point for Democrats — the race for governor could have some surprising twists and turns before Election Day in November of 2014.

To reach Yael T. Abouhalkah, call 816-234-4887 or send email to abouhalkah@kcstar.com. Follow him at Twitter.com/YaelTAbouhalkah.

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