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Ex-GOP lawmakers back Democrat in Kansas governor race

Updated: 2014-01-07T00:48:32Z

By JOHN HANNA

The Associated Press

— A former Kansas House speaker and two other ex-legislators will lead a new group for Republicans supporting Democrat Paul Davis as he tries to unseat GOP Gov. Sam Brownback, Davis’ campaign announced Monday.

The chairmen of Republicans for Davis include Wendell Lady of Overland Park, who was House speaker from 1979 through 1982. The others are former state Reps. Fred Gatlin of Atwood, who served in the House in 1987-96; and Charles Roth of Salina, who held a House seat in 2005-12.

Davis, from Lawrence, is the House minority leader but promised “bipartisan cooperation” as governor.

“I want Republicans and Independents to be an active part of my campaign and an active part of my administration should I be elected,” Davis said in a statement.

Davis needs votes from Republicans and unaffiliated voters to prevent Brownback from winning a second term. Fewer than 25 percent of the GOP-leaning state’s 1.7 million voters are registered as Democrats, and Republicans outnumber them by more than 341,000.

Davis’ campaign said about 400 people have joined Republicans for Davis through his website, but David Kensinger, a close Brownback ally who managed his 2010 campaign, said that figure is only one-twentieth of 1 percent of all registered Republicans.

There’s also a Democrats for Brownback group, led by James Echols, president of the nonprofit, anti-poverty Economic Opportunity Foundation Inc. in Kansas City, Kan.

“Sam Brownback has shown the right mix of courage and vision to lead our state,” Echols said in a statement.

The announcement about the leaders of the pro-Davis group came only days after Davis received endorsements from the Kansas National Education Association, the state’s largest teachers’ union, and another advocacy group, Kansas Families for Education.

Davis has tried to make school funding a major issue and link it to massive personal income tax cuts enacted at Brownback’s urging.

The Republican governor and his supporters expect the reductions to stimulate the economy, but Lady said in a statement that the cuts “threaten to bankrupt the treasury” and “devastate” school funding.

Davis campaign: http://www.davisforkansas.com/

Brownback re-election campaign: http://www.brownback.com/

Follow John Hanna on Twitter at www.twitter.com/apjdhanna.

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