The Cowley Courier Traveler: Selzer touts business experience

Republican candidate for governor Ken Selzer has spent some time in Cowley County lately. He spoke at the Arkansas City Rotary Club last week and was in rural Winfield on Monday for the Cowley County Cattleman’s Association annual banquet.

Before the banquet, he stopped by the CourierTraveler’s Ark City office for an interview.

Selzer, a CPA currently serving as Kansas Insurance Commissioner, touted his business and agriculture background and repeated a mantra of better government management — something he says is sorely lacking at Cedar Crest.

His top opponents in the GOP primary Aug. 7 are Sec. of State Kris Kobach and Gov. Jeff Colyer. A lawyer and a doctor, respectively, both naturally lack business-minded thinking, he argued.

“We don’t have somebody who’s running the government who thinks like a business,” Selzer said. Politicians “think about ideology, and we need to management the ideology once it’s put in place. We just haven’t had that.”

Many early GOP candidates for governor have dropped out the campaign, leaving Kobach and Colyer as the big names in the race.

But Selzer said his polling shows that support for both of them is soft and there is a large number of undecided voters.

“More and more people are coalescing around the fact that we need calm, thoughtful, strong leadership with somebody from a financial background,” he said. 

Taxes, education, transparency

Selzer says his three years as elected Insurance Commissioner prove that he can manage government better.

He said he was able to reduce staff in the agency by 20 percent but still improve customers service, citing national recognition for the agency from NerdWallet, and the addition of an online chat service as a major example.

The self-described conservative says he is “rock solid” on pro-life issues and the Second Amendment. 

The focus of his campaign message, though, is a more efficient, productive Kansas government  and making a lagging Kansas economy grow faster by focusing primarily on agriculture.

“We’re going to champion ag,” he said. “We’re going to champion trade. Were going to champion new markets.”

He opposes new taxes, he said, and probably would have voted against repeal of the 2012 income tax cuts approved by the Legislature last year.

Selzer said that 2012 tax policy was an example of bad management: Lawmakers failed to make smart spending cuts to account for the $800 million in lower taxes.

“We ended up with a huge whole that couldn’t be filled by growth,” Selzer said.

On education spending, Selzer said he is not sure whether he would have supported the $525 million in extra funding passed by lawmakers this year, but added that he does know that he would have demanded more accountability for how that money is spent, such as threats of reduced funding if test scores or graduation rates failed to improve.

“We don’t have any of that kind of thinking in the governor’s office right now,” Selzer said.

He opposes Medicaid expansion. It would help Kanas hospitals, he acknowledged, but argued that it would not solve their bigger problem of uncompensated care.

Accepting more Medicaid funds from the federal government would be costly, he added, and would only reduce the state’s uninsured rate by about 2.4 percent.

Transparency is a hallmark issue, Selzer said, adding that he recently released his tax returns and would led by example.

Asked whether her supports recording of committee votes and ending so-called gut-and-go bills that can push legislation through without a hearing, Selzer said “I think so. I think so. There might be some limited exceptions.”

“And all kinds of things (should) be given the light of day,” he added, “and quite frankly I don’t know why not.”

Selzer grew up on farm near Goessel, Kan., and earned an accounting degree from K-State. He worked as a CPA in the Kansas City area and then earned an MBA from the University of Southern California.

He has been married for 37 years to his wife, Deb, from rural Miami County, according to his website, which also states that that he “worked in the reinsurance industry for more than 30 years, most recently as an Executive Managing Director for a worldwide brokerage and insurance services firm.”

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