O’Malley enters governor’s race as “consensus builder” with leadership experience


Matt Crow

Kansas Gubernatorial candidate Ed O’Malley gives his official announcement speech in front of Union Station in downtown Wichita. (Oct. 10, 2017)

The Founding President and CEO of the Kansas Leadership Center, Ed O’Malley, officially joined the crowded Republican field of gubernatorial hopefuls on Tuesday.

O’Malley, a former state representative, has spent the last 11 years at the helm of KLC, working with local leaders from government officials and non-profit executives to grassroots activists and pastors.

KLC has teamed up with Wichita State in the past, and a number of O’Malley’s books are required reading for WSU classes.

“I’ve worked with so many phenomenal local leaders,” O’Malley said. “I know the great things happening in the communities across the state, and I think it’s time to have a similar type of effective leadership at the state level.”

O’Malley said he has an ambitious goal of revitalizing the Kansas education system by bringing the high school graduation rate from 85 percent to 95 percent and the post-secondary credential rate from 40 percent to 70 percent.

“We have to have a vision of excellence,” O’Malley said. “I believe we have to have a vision of being the best in the world.”

O’Malley said that, as governor, he would ensure schools were funded to a constitutional level while reminding citizens of the value of investing in education.

“Be the greatest cheerleader you can find and help people understand that we’re doing this — we’re creating the best education system literally in the world — because we care about the students, yes, but frankly, we’re doing it because it’s an economic argument,” O’Malley said.

“It’s the best thing we can do to make our economy thrive for generations to come.”

O’Malley said he hopes to create a culture in Topeka of innovation, creativity, and excellence.

“I believe in our state employees,” O’Malley said. “I believe they have creativity in them and I believe, right now, we’re not asking enough of them, nor are we rewarding them and incentivizing them in ways that’ll help serve the taxpayer.”

As a young man, O’Malley worked for Kansas Gov. Bill Graves. He said he learned a number of valuable lessons from the former leader.

“I saw him bring people around the table together who think differently, and I also saw him take accountability for things when things didn’t go well,” O’Malley said. “Those two things are powerful to witness when you’re a young person starting your career.”

O’Malley said that, during his time in the state legislature and with KLC, he has been a consensus builder.

“We can be loyal to our values — I’m a Republican — I have pragmatic, traditional Republican values,” O’Malley said. “I can be loyal to those values and still sit down with those who hold other values and find common ground.”

“It starts with understanding that no one perspective has all the right answers.”

In an effort to engage college-aged voters, O’Malley created a college advisory board. He said he plans to send out group texts to the board, gathering students’ opinions on important policy issues.

“Some people told me I was crazy,” O’Malley said. “They said, ‘Look Ed, college students won’t vote. They just simply won’t vote in any election that’s not a presidential election.’”

O’Malley encourages students to join the advisory board, and said they could contact his campaign assistant to sign up to receive texts.

“We don’t need all these people to be Ed O’Malley supporters,” O’Malley said. “Frankly, I’d rather them be from all different perspectives and all different political persuasions. The idea is to help me learn, not just to help me campaign.”

“Leadership is always about listening and engaging the people.”