Carl Brewer wants the people of Kansas to know that, among the candidates vying for the Democratic nomination for governor, he is the only one who brings the needed experience.
“I’m really the only one that has the real leadership and executive experience,” he said, citing his background as a military officer, corporate executive, community activist and city councilman and mayor of Wichita.
Brewer was in Hays on Tuesday to meet with voters, and sat down with The Hays Daily News for an interview.
He is one of seven running for the nomination, competing against Sen. Laura Kelly of the 18th District; Josh Svaty, former Kansas Secretary of Agriculture and former state representative; House Minority Leader Rep. Jim Ward of the 86th District; Arden Andersen, a Lansing physician and member of the U.S. Air Force Reserves; Robert Klingenberg, a salesman from Salina; and Jack Bergeson, a high school student from Wichita.
“We have to have a different form of governor. We have to have somebody that we identify as true leadership and lead by example. Because I know how to do that, I’ve been taught to do that and I’ve had to do that, then it allows me to be different than the rest of them,” Brewer said of the field of Democratic hopefuls.
Having been mayor gives him a greater sense of working for and being held accountable to the public, he said.
“In local government, they’re making decisions that affect you each and every day, and they’re going to see you the day after they make that decision. They’re going to answer any of your concerns, your pleasure, your displeasure. They’re the ones who are going to be able to answer to you,” he said.
“I’m the only one who has had to lay out a vision as to what direction my particular city is going to go, and what we accomplished this year and where we’re going to be next year, and what are our goals and objectives, and then also to identify whether we failed or not and explain that to citizens each and every year,” he said.
Brewer said he can carry that local level of work and accountability to Topeka by listening to what local leaders and residents say they need and be the resource to helping their communities grow.
That kind of action will help rebuild the public’s trust in government, something he said will be the next governor’s biggest task. He said former Gov. Sam Brownback’s inability to stop and fix his budget and lack of government transparency contributed to that.
Brewer’s family tragically experienced the effects of the breakdown of government last year. It was his 3-year-old grandson, Evan Brewer, whose body was found encase in concrete in a Wichita home in September.
Brewer’s son Carlo had been in a custody battle with the boy’s mother and had raised concerns with police, the courts and the Department for Children and Families about Evan’s safety.
Brewer temporarily suspended his campaign after the discovery of Evan’s remains, and when he returned to the campaign trail, he began to hear more and more about people having problems with DCF.
“People started coming out of the woodwork,” he said. “It was just amazing the number of people that had problems, which made me put it in the perspective of you’re not alone,” he said.
In November, an investigation by the Kansas City Star revealed DCF used privacy laws and internal procedures to avoid revealing the department’s involvement in cases where children in state care have died, been abused or even disappeared.
The problem goes deeper than just DCF, however, Brewer said.
“Our entire system is broken, and we need to fix the entire system,” he said.
“DCF is just one portion of it. There’s the courts, there’s law enforcement, there’s a whole host of different things,” he said.
“If you just fix DCF, or if you just fix one portion of it, you did nothing more than put a Band-Aid on it, but the problem’s still there,” he said.
He does think fixing that problem could be done in one term as governor, he said.
“We have to come up with a strategy and plan and find out exactly what happened, and then how do we lay it out where we can stop this,” he said.
“But we also have to put dates in where we’re measuring and making sure we’re successful, that we’re reducing the number of children that we’re losing, we’re saving children’s lives. There are ways of doing that, and we can report to the citizens the success,” he said.
“As governor it’s your responsibility to look citizens in the eye and say, ‘We did these things.’ Don’t put the blame on somebody else. The buck stops with you at the very top,” he said.