What was memorable about Democratic gubernatorial candidate Paul Davis’ 30-minute appearance in Overland Park Wednesday night wasn’t what he said, but to how many people he said it to.
On a sleety mid-week night fully eight months before the November election — and with the Kansas Jayhawks playing on TV — Davis spoke to an enthusiastic crowd of nearly 200 gathered for a meeting of True Blue Women.
By 7 p.m., when the meeting began, every seat in the Matt Ross Community Center auditorium was filled, forcing a few to stand.
Davis, the House minority leader who remains unchallenged for the Democratic nomination, said the crowd’s size was nothing out of the ordinary as he and his lieutenant governor running mate, Jill Docking, make their way around the state.
In his speech, Davis hit Brownback, the Republican and former U.S. senator, hard for his stewardship of state finances and education. Under Brownback, Davis asserted, property taxes and sales taxes have increased. So have utilities and college tuition.
“Up, up and up,” Davis said. “The cost of merely being a Kansan is getting out of control.”
He said another four years of Brownback would undermine the fortunes of an entire generation of young Kansans.
Davis was especially critical of the governor’s approach to public education, saying Kansans believe they have a “moral obligation” to provide our children with the “very best education possible.”
“It runs in our blood as Kansans,” he said.
But even after Brownback compared education to defense spending in his first State of the State speech — a comparison Davis agreed with — the governor submitted a budget the next day with what the Democrat called the largest cut in school spending in state history.
The result: thousands of teacher layoffs and a myriad of school fees that parents must pay.
“This is foolishness,” said Davis, adding that it’s “not who we are as a people. It’s time for us to get things right.”
Davis described himself as a moderate willing to work with even the most conservative Republicans.
In questions from the audience, Davis pointedly refused to take a stand on the controversial Keystone pipeline, drawing muffled grumbling from the audience. He said he favored all-day kindergarten, an initiative the governor is pushing aggressively. Davis said the governor’s interest in the issue is to make himself appear more moderate for his re-election drive.
He also didn’t say whether he would reverse some of the tax cuts Brownback enacted.
Davis drew big applause when he criticized Republican Secretary of State Kris Kobach for making voter registration more difficult, adding, “The biggest thing we could do is elect a new secretary of state.”
Davis said he opposed the 2005 constitutional amendment in Kansas that banned same-sex marriage. That amendment was approved with about 70 percent support.