Svaty rolls out pro-choice running mate despite anti-abortion voting history


Matthew Kelly

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Josh Svaty speaks to supporters Thursday at Reverie Coffee Roasters.

Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Josh Svaty introduced supporters to his running mate, Katrina Lewison, at Reverie Coffee Roasters Thursday morning.

Lewison’s addition to the ticket as a vocally pro-choice Iraq combat veteran appears to be a move to the left for Svaty, a centrist with an anti-abortion voting history in the Kansas Legislature.

Democrat James Thompson, a candidate for Kansas’s 4th Congressional District, asked Svaty and Lewison how they plan to reconcile their ideological differences to protect women’s rights.

“One of the big issues in Wichita that a lot of women are concerned about is your voting record in the past on abortion,” Thompson said. “And what do you two plan to do as a team to make sure women’s rights are protected here in this state?”

Lewison was quick to respond.

“Well, I can say quite simply that I am pro-choice and this is something that is very —” Lewison started before the crowd’s applause drowned her out. “I think that something that Josh and I are both committed to is extending women’s access to quality healthcare all across the state.”

“This is deeply personal to me,” Lewison said. “I learned long ago to speak up for myself and the rights of my body, and that’s what I’m teaching my daughters as well.”

Svaty was then asked to respond to the same question. He said he chose Lewison as a running mate partially to send a message to Democrats.

“I also wanted to demonstrate to a lot of people within the Democratic party that I look for and like to align myself with powerful, assertive women,” Svaty said.

“It’s important to have a strong voice for those issues, and arguably, any man opining on those issues is outside of what he knows best.”

At a news conference in Topeka Wednesday, Svaty said he would veto any new restrictions on women’s reproductive rights.

After the event, Thompson said Democrats need to move forward with a progressive, pro-abortion-rights platform, but that women’s rights extend beyond one issue.

“I think it’s ridiculous to say that just because a person is a pro-life candidate, that they can’t be supportive of other women’s issues,” Thompson said. “I think that for me, that ultimate issue is allowing a woman control over her own body, and we need to make sure that that is supported as much as possible. If a candidate doesn’t support that and they make it through the primary, then we need to look at the other issues that we can advance on.”

“I’m looking forward to seeing what the other candidates have to say, because I’m not endorsing anyone at this point,” Thompson said.

Kansas House Minority Leader Jim Ward recently dropped out of the race, but Topeka Sen. Laura Kelly and former Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer remain in contention for the Democratic nomination. This is the first contested Democratic gubernatorial primary in 20 years.