Capital Journal: Kansas Democrats look to November with high spirits

Spirits ran high at the Shawnee County Democrats’ annual picnic, and that was before congressional candidate Paul Davis and gubernatorial candidate Laura Kelly spoke.

The candidates’ enthusiasm could be found in the crowd where Kansas Democrats were looking to energize the party ahead of the general election in November.

Stuart Yoho, who came to hear the candidates and look for volunteer opportunities, said he was optimistic about the election.

“I think we have a pretty good chance,” Yoho said. “I think a lot of people lose track of the fact that we’ve had a lot of Democratic governors — at least in my brief stroll on earth”

Mark Pringle, party chairman in Woodson County in southeast Kansas, said speeches weren’t the only thing that buoyed his hopes. Pringle has been surprised at the number of lawn signs he’s given out to folks in Woodson County.

“It’s a very heavily Republican county,” Pringle said. “I think there are Republicans who are scared of Kobach, and I think that’s going to be good for Kelly’s candidacy.”

Debbie Snow, chairwoman of the Shawnee County Democratic Action Committee, came away enthusiastic but acknowledged the party has been down this road before.

“We always want to have that positive thought. But today, the ingredients are there,” Snow said. “I’ve known Laura ever since she started working as a senator, and she has such an open mind about issues.”

For Pringle, the existence of a Democratic Party organization in Woodson County is an indication that the Democrats are moving the needle.

“There hadn’t been a party there in years,” he said. “Now we do have one. That’s a hopeful sign, right there.”

On stage, Davis, who is facing Republican Steve Watkins in the U.S. 2nd District, railed against tax cuts passed by Republican administrations he said unfairly supported the wealthy and hurt lower income Kansans.

“Look at this tax cut bill,” Davis said. “Eighty-three percent of the benefits of that tax cut go to people who make over $900,000 a year. Do you know anybody who makes $900,000 a year? I’m not sure I know anybody who makes $900,000 a year — and there sure aren’t a lot of ’em who live right here in eastern Kansas.”

Davis also addressed attack ads from House Speaker Paul Ryan’s super PAC, the Congressional Leadership Fund. Davis said he expected the PAC to spend more than $1 million on ads against him in August.

“You know what? I was outspent three-to-one on television in 2014, and we won this district by seven points,” he said. “We know that we can do this.”

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