Nancy Boyda considered herself a candidate for U.S. Senate the moment she donned an embroidered shirt.
The former Kansas congresswoman quietly filed a campaign committee with the Federal Election Commission on Friday to run as a Democrat in 2020 for the seat being vacated by Republican Sen. Pat Roberts.
Boyda said she isn’t actively fundraising and wasn’t ready to announce her candidacy. But she said she was required to file with the FEC after embroidering a shirt to promote her nascent campaign.
“Once I put that shirt on and wore it outside I had a legal requirement,” she said.
“That embroidered shirt says the ‘Solutions are in the center,’” Boyda said. “Kansas is the center of the lower 48. We’re not so broken yet in Kansas that we can’t come together.”
A spokesman for the FEC said that a person must register after either raising or spending more than $5,000 in support of a campaign.
Boyda, a farmer from Baldwin City, served one term in the U.S. House after ousting incumbent Republican Rep. Jim Ryun in Kansas’ 2nd congressional district amid a national Democratic wave in 2006.
Boyda previously pointed to her desire work across the aisle with Sen. Jerry Moran, a Kansas Republican she served with in the House, as one of her key motivations for seeking the open Senate seat.
But Boyda said Monday she wants to teach the right and left how to talk together.
“I have one message and that is that Kansans will show the entire country that we can break this gridlock,” she said.
“This is not about photo ops. It’s not about group hugs. I will show the people of Kansas about what this collaborative process looks like.”
Multiple Democrats are lining up to run for Senate in a state that hasn’t elected one to that office in 87 years.
Former U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom officially kicked off his campaign Monday with an interview in The Kansas City Star and events around the state.
Boyda did not announce her official decision to media before filing for the race, but she predicted that the race in Kansas will generate national media attention as multiple candidates in both parties vie for the seat.
“We’re going to have a competitive but not contentious race. The Republicans are going to have a food fight,” she said.
Robert Tillman, a retired court services officer from Wichita who has mounted multiple unsuccessful runs for Congress, has also filed for the seat with the Kansas Secretary of State’s office. Tillman has yet to file a committee with the FEC.
In addition to these candidates, State Sen. Barbara Bollier, a Mission Hills Democrat, met last week with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee chair Catherine Cortez-Masto to discuss a possible run for the seat.
Boyda said she has no plans to meet with Schumer.
“I don’t need Chuck Schumer’s permission to do this. I’ll spend my time talking to the good people of Kansas, but I don’t need his permission. He’s a good guy, but what do they expect when they call?” Boyda said.
This is not the first time Boyda has rejected the party’s campaign apparatus. She refused support from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in 2008 when she lost her seat to Republican Lynn Jenkins.
On the Republican side, state Treasurer Jake LaTurner and former Johnson County Commissioner Dave Lindstrom have launched campaigns for the seat, which has been in GOP hands for more than eight decades.
Rep. Roger Marshall, Kansas Senate President Susan Wagle, Kansas Chamber of Commerce President Alan Cobb and other prominent Republicans have also taken steps toward entering the race. Meanwhile, national Republicans have sought to lure Secretary of State Mike Pompeo away from his cabinet post.
Boyda’s campaign will focus on the well-being of children, a broad set of issues which ranges from bolstering support for early education and nutrition programs to tackling the threat of gun violence in schools.
“The mental and emotional health of our children is being significantly harmed by all the gun violence,” Boyda said.
Boyda said she’s less naïve than when she first showed up to Washington 12 years ago, but her goal of achieving bipartisan consensus remains the same.
“I live in a piece of paradise, a little farm, and the only reason that I would leave that paradise is to have real change,” she said.