BY JIM MCLEAN
Josh Svaty picked a political no-name to team with in his run for governor.
But the pick is someone who checks off boxes that Svaty can’t with voters in the Democratic primary and, if things play out right for him, in the general election.
She’s not just a woman; her abortion rights beliefs mitigate his support of some abortion restrictions that don’t play well with many Democrats. He didn’t serve in the military; she brings U.S. Army credentials polished at West Point and honed as a Black Hawk helicopter platoon leader in Iraq.
Katrina Lewison offers business experience in the tech world to balance his time as a member of the Kansas House and as the state’s agriculture secretary.
The pairing gives Svaty a chance to turn some heads as voters start tuning in to the crowded campaign.
“This is a change election,” Svaty said.
Gone, he said, are the days of “two white guys running at the top of the ticket.” That’s his shot at the all-male tickets of the two leading contenders for the Republican nomination, Gov. Jeff Colyer and Secretary of State Kris Kobach.
Colyer, who served for seven years as lieutenant governor before taking over in January when former Gov. Sam Brownback left to take an ambassador’s job in the Trump administration, installed Salina businessman Tracey Mann as his successor.
Mann, a former director for the National Student Leadership Forum on Faith and Values, ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 2010.
Kobach added former rival Wink Hartman to his ticket after the Wichita businessman dropped out of the race for the GOP nomination for governor.
Lewison, who’s five months into a term on the Manhattan school board, said her desire to put Kansas “back on the right path” motivated her to run for statewide office.
“I see this as a chance to step up when Kansas needs leaders the most,” Lewison said.
An abortion rights supporter, Lewison said she wouldn’t have joined the ticket if she and Svaty “weren’t aligned” on the issue.
“Josh has been very clear about his position that he would not further restrict a woman’s right to make her own reproductive choices,” she said.
Svaty’s selection of a running mate is the first event in what promises to be a flurry of campaign activity between now and June 1, the date by which all major party candidates for statewide office and the Kansas House must file with the secretary of state’s office.
The campaign of state Sen. Laura Kelly, another perceived frontrunner for the Democratic nomination, says she will name her running mate “late next week” and file the following week.
Several other declared candidates for the Democratic nomination have yet to make their campaigns official. They include former Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer, Olathe physician Arden Andersen and former FBI agent Michael Tabman. Salina salesman Robert Klingenberg has named a running mate but hasn’t yet filed.
Wichita high school student Jack Bergeson is the only Democratic hopeful to have both chosen a running mate and filed his candidacy with the secretary of state’s office.
Two prominent Republican candidates — former state Sen. Jim Barnett and Insurance Commissioner Ken Selzer — must also round out their tickets and file before the deadline.
Several teenage candidates running for the GOP nomination must do the same. They include, Tyler Ruzich, Dominic Scavuzzo and Joseph Tutera, Jr.