Paul Davis came within a few percentage points in 2014 of becoming Kansas governor.
With the outgoing Sam Brownback prohibited from seeking a third term in 2018 — he won’t even finish his second term, due to his appointment by President Trump as ambassador at-large for international religious freedom — a crowded field already has formed to become his replacement.
One of the names conspicuously absent is of Davis, who instead has set his sights on Congress.
Thus far, Davis is the only Democrat to toss his hat in the ring for Kansas’ Second Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Davis is seeking to replace Lynn Jenkins, who is not seeking re-election.
He was in Iola Tuesday, during a visit to Thrive Allen County’s open house celebration, which coincided with Allen County’s designation as a “Culture of Health” prize winner from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
“A lot of people encouraged me to run for governor again,” Davis told a Register reporter. “But this is the right race for me right now. I feel very strongly Congress needs people who can unite Republicans and Democrats more than ever.”
AS WITH his gubernatorial run, Davis, who lives in Lawrence, has vowed a campaign to appeal to both Republicans and Democrats.
“A lot of people have become disenchanted with what’s going on in Washington, D.C., to the point they want to just throw up their hands,” he said. “But there’s too much at stake. We need to be engaged and need to find solutions that are going to help people who are struggling.”
Davis has recently capped a four-month “listening tour,” visiting each of the 26 counties within the Second District. (Allen is one.)
“The economy and health care are the two major topics people want to talk about,” he said. “The economy in southeast Kansas is struggling, and I think we have a national economic policy that really isn’t working for the people of southeast Kansas.”
He also touched on — without getting specific — the ongoing healthcare debate.
“Right now, in Washington, D.C., there is a fundamental disconnect in both political parties from where the vast majority of Americans are in terms of healthcare,” he said. “Some Republicans say we need to get rid of Obamacare, and don’t really have much of a plan to replace it. And there are Democrats who say it’s working great and doesn’t need to be changed.
“In reality, people want to see something else,” he continued. “They want us to fix what needs to be fixed, to get to the core problem, rising healthcare costs.”
DAVIS spoke highly of Thrive Allen County, and its efforts for better health care coverage to local residents.
“It’s wonderful to see Thrive taking this to new heights,” he said. “I’ve been aware of the great work Thrive has done for the past several years.
Davis, 45, served in the Kansas House of Representatives from 2003 to 2015. He declined to run for re-election in 2014 in order to mount his bid for governor.
Five Republicans have filed, or announced their intentions to do so, including State Sen. Caryn Tyson, who represents Allen County in the Kansas Legislature. Others running are State Sen. Steve Fitzgerald, State Rep. Kevin Jones, Vernon Fields, a Basehor city councilman, and Antonio Soave, a former secretary of commerce under Brownback.