After growing up moving wherever her military father’s career demanded, Laura Kelly said she wanted stability for her own family. Kansas is where she found it.
“We chose Kansas because of the opportunities,” said Kelly, a Democratic candidate for governor who visited Salina Tuesday. “We knew that we could send our kids to public schools here — that the quality of those was such that we were sure that our kids would get a good education. There were great job opportunities at the time, and Kansas more than anyplace else really provided that sense of community that I was very interested in establishing.”
At first, Kelly and her husband, Ted Daughety, moved to Salina with their young daughter in the mid-1980s. She said during the 18 months they lived here they were regulars at The Scheme, but Kelly was working as executive director of the Kansas Recreation and Park Association, and the family relocated to Topeka. In 2004, she ran for Senate and won. She continues to serve as senator for District 18 and has held leadership positions dealing with budget, public health and welfare and higher education.
“I won’t need any on-the-job training. I know how it works,” Kelly said. “I have really good relationships with my colleagues, regardless of what party they are, and that’s really important. The administration and the Legislature have to work together as a team if we’re going to get things moving in the right direction. We’d move away from this adversarial relationship to one that’s much more collegial, collaborative and positive.”
Kelly, 68, who spoke to Salina Democrats at Martinelli’s Tuesday evening, said she’s spent her entire time in the Senate focused on the things that first brought her to Kansas — public education and the economy. She said damage has been done to both because of the “Brownback/Colyer experiment,” but she thinks she has the right combination of experience, skills and relationships to get the state moving in a positive direction.
“I’m running for governor because I’ve lived through the last seven years in Topeka under the Brownback and the Colyer administration,” she said. “I’ve seen the devastation and the destruction that has occurred all across our state deep into our agencies so that they are no longer capable of providing the services that they’re expected to provide.”
After the state budget was cut nine times over the past seven years, and the state’s credit rating was downgraded three times, Kelly said infrastructure from transportation to social service safety nets has been dismantled. She said the tax cuts did massive damage, but so did the “ideology brought into Kansas that the only good government is really small government — so let’s shrink it.”
“We have got to get our fiscal shop in order. We’ve really created a mess,” she said. “We’ve wiped out every reserve fund that we had. We have no fall-back money.”