Friday night’s rally of the Ellis County Democratic Party at the Hays VFW was billed as an event for gubernatorial candidate Sen. Laura Kelly, but the presence of other political women could not be ignored, either.
After acknowledging Stockton Mayor Kim Thomas, who is running for the 110th District in the Kansas House of Representatives, Henry Schwaller introduced former Sen. Janis Lee.
“Allegedly I’m the chair of the Ellis County Democratic Party, but the real power is here,” Schwaller said of the local party’s vice chair.
Lee, a former state senator from Kensington, represented the 36th District from 1989 to 2010 and served on committees for agriculture, utilities, ways and means, natural resources and joint committees on security, energy and environmental policy, correction and juvenile justice, and rules and regulations.
Lee, in introducing Kelly, said she shared an office suite with Kelly in the capital in 2004, and said Kelly was dedicated to serving.
“She knows the issues. She has been the ranking minority members of the Ways and Means Committee. There’s no one that knows the budget better than Laura knows the budget. She understands the issues of our state,” Lee said.
Kelly returned the compliment after taking the mic.
“You truly did have the best and brightest and the hardest working human being I have ever known in my life,” Kelly said about Lee.
Kelly also acknowledged another woman in the crowd, Katrina Lewison, who in the primary was rival Joshua Svaty’s running mate.
Lewison is chair of Lead Kansas, a group within Kelly’s campaign advocating for women running for office and to get women to vote.
“We have seen through the primary season this year so many women stepping out to run for office, not just in Kansas but nationally,” Lewison said.
“Lead Kansas is about invoking that spirit and making sure we create a space for women to continue to step up here in Kansas,” she said.
Lewison is an Iraq war veteran and former Black Hawk pilot who graduated from West Point. She grew up in Hutchinson, and now lives in Manhattan with her family, where she is director of consulting and training at CivicPlus.
“When the primary was over, I called Katrina and, aside from other things we talked about, I said ‘Katrina, I am so glad that you were not at the top of that ticket. That could have been a problem,’ ” Kelly said.
“But I’m so glad she’s on our team now and I have every intention of using her and abusing her all the way through the administration. We need to keep talent like that invested in our state, and we will do just that,” Kelly said.
Lewison said it was important for her as lieutenant governor candidate to set a good example for her three young daughters as well as other women.
“The opportunity to continue to support Laura Kelly was a natural choice for me because she is a strong woman who has demonstrated that she has the best intentions to serve and to lead here in Kansas,” she said.