Ward: ‘I want to be the boring governor.’



Jim Ward has entered the race for Kansas governor.

For the first time in two decades, there will be a contested Democratic primary for the Kansas governor’s race, but House Minority Leader Jim Ward is already sizing up a potential Republican challenger.

“A lot of smart Democrats talked to me about it seriously — about being the candidate who could beat Kris Kobach,” Ward said. “I took that seriously.”

Ward said voters are ready for a change in leadership after seven years of Republicans controlling state politics.

“A lot of Kansans think we need to return the balance of a two-party system,” Ward said. “By electing a Democrat governor that understands rational, fiscally-responsible policies and talks about running state government more like a business.”

A number of candidates have characterized Topeka’s climate as toxic, saying an outsider needs to win the governor’s mansion to shake up state politics. As a prominent member of the legislature for the last 16 years, Ward is a fixture in Topeka, but he said he brings an outsider’s perspective.

“I have an insider’s experience, but an outsider’s attitude to change the politics of Topeka,” Ward said. “I’ve demonstrated that this year with working with the coalition to change the tax experiment.”

Ward said he has a history of working with coalitions, regardless of party affiliations, to solve problems, citing his bipartisan achievements as a member of the Wichita School Board and the Wichita City Council.

Earlier this year, he was a driving force behind the legislature’s decision to repeal Gov. Brownback’s hallmark tax cuts, which were billed to Kansans as a “red-state experiment.”

“I voted against the tax experiment back in 2012 and I continued to work over the years to put together a coalition . . . that was able to repeal the tax experiment to the benefit of the people of Kansas,” Ward said.

He said he hopes to bring a level of stability to the governorship.

“I want to be the boring governor,” Ward said. “We’ve had too much controversy and radical sways and policy experiments. I think Kansans just want good old-fashioned boring government that takes care of — pays the bills, takes care of essential services like schools and good roads, and public safety.”

Ward said that, as governor, he would create a tight, fiscally-responsible budget.

“Fiscal responsibility is the number one issue,” Ward said. “Kansans are very fiscally responsible, and it really angers them — there’s a real anger out there — that their state government doesn’t pay their bills.”

Ward said he does not expect any of the four teenage candidates who have entered the race to become the next governor, but that they serve an important role in shaping conversations about key issues.

“I think that the fact that they’re willing to put their voice into the mix is very good for Kansas,” Ward said. “We’re going to hopefully talk more about young people issues when we talk about affordability of college education, when we talk about jobs and careers that you can have in Kansas.”