Kansas Insurance Commissioner Ken Selzer said there is “zero” chance he will drop his campaign for governor before the filing deadline.
Selzer is running in a crowded Republican primary and two GOP contenders - Ed O’Malley and Wink Hartman - have put the brakes on their campaigns.
The filing deadline is June 1, and Selzer expects there will be a further “consolidation” in the field as candidates withdraw before June 1 and throw their support to another candidate. But he won’t be one of them. Gubernatorial candidates who want to appear on the Aug. 7 ballot must have a lieutenant governor chosen when they file. Selzer indicated he will announce a running mate by early May.
The News interviewed Selzer Thursday morning during his stop in Hutchinson. It was part of a campaign swing that included stops in McPherson and Harvey counties Thursday, before traveling to southwest Kansas for visits this week in Dodge City, Garden City, and Ulysses.
Ag, business roots
Selzer - and other candidates for governor - are emphasizing their roots in agriculture. Agriculture is more than 40 percent of the gross domestic product for Kansas, he noted, and an economic recovery must start there, in his opinion. “We’re going to be a champion for ag,” he said, and that includes developing markets for farm products.
He grew up on a family farm near Goessel, that had crops and livestock, and now owns a small farm near Louisburg. “We have range cattle and soybeans and timber,” he said.
His career was spent in business, as a certified public accountant and then in the insurance industry, before he was elected Insurance Commissioner in 2014.
“I am in this to bring more business sense to the state of Kansas,” he said. Poor management has contributed to wait lists for Medicaid and lost youths in the foster care system, he said.
The income tax cut in 2012 under Gov. Sam Brownback’s Administration “just was not thought out very well,” he said because the revenue loss was not offset by spending cuts. “Since then, the state has been scrambling,” he said. The state is facing another budget crunch in 2020 because of deferred spending obligations, he noted.
“We do not need more property tax,” he said. “We need to lean in on costs across the board,” he said, but that does not mean a flat percentage reduction applied to across all agencies.
“We will have a different attitude about spending in the state of Kansas,” he said, that will include striving for greater efficiencies from state agencies and seeking accountability on school spending. He pledges a more “thoughtful” approach toward awarding economic development incentives.
The Insurance Department trimmed its personnel rolls under Selzer, and he cites that example and the department’s customer service record - “We’re doing more with 20 percent fewer employees,” he said - in his campaign.
Make it run smoother, make it run leaner is how he described his budget approach.
Selzer recommends plugging holes in the background check process for gun purchases and improving communications between agencies to lessen the risk of mass shootings. He opposes paying teachers bonuses if they are armed.
“It doesn’t make any sense to me,” he said. That money would be better spent improving school security - including school resource officers - and enhancing mental health services, he said.
Campaign war chest
Colyer raised the most in contributions last year among candidates still running for the Republican nomination for governor. Selzer loaned $285,700 to his campaign and received over $427,780 in donations, many of them coming from CPAs, insurance agents, and businesses. Selzer ended 2017 with more cash in his campaign treasury than Colyer, Secretary of State Kris Kobach, former legislator and business executive Mark Hutton, and former legislator and physician Jim Barnett.
“We very much like our position,” Selzer said.
[via The Hutchinson News]