With the news Lt. Gov. Mark Parkinson will not be running for Governor of Kansas in 2010, all of the political hacks of the state (and the nation, I expect) looked at each other and said, "OK, if not Parkinson, who's going to run as the Democratic nominee?"
Speculation fell immediately at the feet of former Minority Leader of the Kansas House of Representatives and current state Treasurer Dennis McKinney.
While McKinney does seem to fit the bill as the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination, let's assume for a moment he decides to run for the office he now holds, state treasurer, in 2010, rather than launching a run for Governor. Who else might the Democrats nominate?
The Kansas Republican Party Executive Director Christian Morgan said dismissively:
"Who do they have that's going to step up?" said Christian Morgan, the Kansas GOP's executive director. "I think they have an incredibly short bench."
It's not the length of your bench that matters, Chris- it's how you use it. One would have thought you'd know that as well as anyone.
While it's true we don't have the problem the Republicans have in Kansas- so many Republican elected officials think they're good enough, smart enough, and that, doggone it, people like them that their party always end up with primaries that involve knees to the groin and pulled hair- the Kansas Democratic Party, on the other hand, has talent that has governed efficiently at every level- the hallmark of a person who could lead our state. Household names they might not all be, but we're guessing "Sandy Praeger" wasn't, either, before she was elected our Republican Insurance Commissioner.
On my short list of potential Democratic candidates for Governor, we have two mayors: Joe Reardon of the KCK-Wyandotte County Consolidated Government and Carl Brewer of Wichita. Hailing from the largest population centers of the state & the economic engines thereof, these two men are already executives with many of the same responsibilities as found in the governor's office, just on a smaller scale. Actually crafting a budget and implementing policies that effect the economy in very direct ways are both things Senator Sam Brownback can't claim he's ever done, and would make both men excellent candidates for Governor.
Jill Docking is always mentioned as a potential candidate for statewide office because she came so dang close to trouncing Brownback when he first ran for the United States Senate in 1996. While she hasn't sought elective office since that bid more than a decade ago, Docking has stayed active in politics and currently sits on the Kansas Board of Regents- so she has first hand knowledge of the budget disaster the state faces- again, something Senator Sammy just doesn't have.
Securities Commissioner Chris Biggs might decide to make a run at the Governor's mansion- he's another person, like Docking, who has run statewide and only lost very narrowly against Republican Phill Kline when he was elected Attorney General in 2002.
Either of the big-name District Attorneys in Kansas would be excellent candidates- Nola Foulston from Wichita or Charles Branson from Lawrence. A little dash of hard and fast law-and-order can't hurt a candidate for any office. And, again, you've got that whole administrative experience thing that comes in awfully handy. It's also encouraging both of them just got re-elected in landslides.
Congressman Dennis Moore (KS-03) could certainly, certainly run and win- but he's already told us he's running for re-election, so we're pretending he's not available right now. Same goes for Attorney General Steve Six- he'd better be running for his spot in '10.
State Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, former Congresswoman Nancy Boyda, State Senator Laura Kelly or Kansas Democratic Party Chairman Larry Gates could certainly all raise the money necessary to make a competitive bid, as could State Senator Janis Lee or former State Senator Christine Downey.
Ready for some real wild cards? How about Secretary of Social and Rehabilitation Services Don Jordan or Secretary of Agriculture Adrian Polansky, or Roger Werholtz from the Department of Corrections? Before you laugh those folk off the playing field, remember what Sam Browback was before he ran for Congress....yes, that's right, just a lowly Secretary of Agriculture.
So, there, a bench. It's obvious some of those folk are more likely than others to even consider a run, but each one of them could run for Governor and win the seat against Brownback or Secretary of State Ron Thornburgh or Insurance Commissioner Praeger or whoever else might decide to jump in on the Republican side.
What's our power ranking? McKinney's out front, followed by Mayors Reardon and Brewer with Docking, Biggs, and the DA's next. That is about as tenuous a "ranking" as there as even been, seeing as none of the people involved have even said they might be interested in running.
Perhaps the very most important thing to remember is this: 2010 is still a long way off, friends.