Op-Ed: Why I Remained an Independent Candidate
January 4, 2019
This past year I ran for governor of Kansas as an independent. As we’re living through yet another government shutdown, I can’t think of a better backdrop to explain one of the decisions I made in that campaign that perplexed many.
First, a little background. The two major political parties had offered up sharply contrasting candidates. The Republican nominee, Kris Kobach, was Kansas’s incumbent secretary of state. He had a national reputation for being anti-immigrant and had led a nationwide effort aimed at suppressing the votes of people who disagreed with him politically. He was an ardent supporter of President Trump and wanted to return Kansas to a failed experiment in supply-side economics. His criticism of his Republican predecessor was that he failed to cut spending deeply enough to make the plan work. Kobach occasionally campaigned in a Jeep with a machine gun mounted on the back.
The Democratic nominee, Laura Kelly, was as measured and calm as secretary Kobach was inflammatory. A four-term, moderate state senator from Topeka, she vowed to return the state to a time when Republicans and Democrats worked together – a more civil period in our history, but also a time when Kansas began its steep decline. She only really got animated when talking about ending the failed Brownback tax experiment “once and for all.” This was an act the legislature had already taken the year prior.
Over the last eight weeks of the campaign, the calls for me to drop out of the race and support Sen. Kelly grew louder. The concern of her supporters was that I would split the “anti-Kobach” vote, allowing him to slip into office and return state government to discredited and divisive policies of the recent past. Of course, painting an independent as a spoiler is always what Democrats or Republicans say when a credible candidate dares to challenge the established duopoly. In the waning days of my campaign, as the polls showed me with virtually no path to victory and time running out, even some of my core supporters joined the chorus of political pundits who believed I could help manufacture a “less bad” outcome.
I elected to stay the course. While I disagreed with the assessment of how my candidacy was affecting the race, that’s not the reason I chose to ignore the pleas from so many. To be clear, there was more than one reason I didn’t bow to the pressure. The most important reason, however, can best be described by sharing a conversation I had with a friend who is a Democrat donor.
In his mind, had I dropped out of the race and... Continue Reading.