Kansas Sen. Laura Kelly touted her ability to leverage relationships across party lines, revealed her feminist roots and promised the state pension system will remain viable while fielding questions from seniors Friday in Topeka.
The Democrat was a guest speaker at the Shepherd Center — a community ministry for people age 55 and older — where she told the flock she needs their support to defeat her Republican rival, Secretary of State Kris Kobach, in November.
“I’m asking for your help,” Kelly said. “I’m going to need it. I’m the only thing standing between Kris Kobach and the governor’s office.”
She outlined an agenda that includes expanding Medicaid and fully funding schools. If Kobach wins, she said, state services will fall apart like they did under former Gov. Sam Brownback.
As an alternative, she would enlist economic experts who could craft a long-term strategy based on the three-legged stool of income, property and sales taxes.
“I’m not planning to do anything about taxes right off the bat,” Kelly said, warning that any knee-jerk movement could send the state into a tailspin.
Kobach has signed a pledge to avoid any tax increase. He said Brownback’s supply-side cuts failed because the revenue loss wasn’t offset by spending cuts.
“We face a liberal, progressive senator who is the protege of (former Gov.) Kathleen Sebelius, whose views on many subjects are socialist, and who has a left-wing vision of Kansas that we will not allow to become reality,” Kobach said.
He also said he won’t let Greg Orman, the independent candidate, deceive voters by pretending he isn’t “the Democrat he’s always been.”
Orman’s spokesman, Sam Edelen, described Kelly and Kobach as career politicians.
“Orman is a pro-business, pro-economic growth candidate who will work to create jobs and opportunities for all Kansans,” Edelen said.
Kelly drew upon her upbringing in a military family, telling the crowd about living on three different continents by the time she was 6 years old. She said her first language was Japanese, but being the outspoken youngest child, the only word she recalls is one that translates to “shut up.”
She said she became a feminist at a young age when she learned she couldn’t replace Mickey Mantle in center field for the Yankees because she was a girl, “and that really ticked me off.” She grew up confronting gender-based expectations in an era before Roe v. Wade or Title IX, which protects women from discrimination in education programs.
“I have absolutely no interest in going back there,” Kelly said. “I have only interest in moving forward and representing women, but also LGBT folks, people of color. Everybody’s going to have a place at the table in a Kelly administration.
“I think it is more important now, though, than perhaps ever before that we ensure that we have a strong advocate for women’s rights in the governor’s office.”