TOPEKA, Kan. – As a Democrat in a red state, Sen. Laura Kelly has shown that she can appeal to both political parties.
Sen. Laura Kelly is the democratic nominee for Kansas Governor.
It seems like every week she is endorsed by a republican, something that is unheard of in Kansas politics during a race for governor.
We talked with Sen. Kelly at The Pennant, a new food spot near the state capitol.
This is the dialogue between Sen. Kelly and reporter Steven Dial.
Steven: Senator thank you for sitting down with us, this is a new spot have you been here before?
Laura Kelly: I have been here before, I love this place, it has brought people to downtown.
Steven: I hear you like sports, how often do you golf?
Kelly: Not very often these days. I’d go a couple times a week when I wasn’t in session.
Steven: Another sport is tennis.
Kelly: I played for a long time. I played when I was a kid. When I became a state senator I was on two USTA teams, but they play in the winter, so I had to give it up. I used to play singles.
Steven: What did you think of the Serena Williams situation?
Kelly: I think it was very unfortunate that the action was what it was. I can remember Andre Agassi throwing fits on the court and never being penalized the way Serena was.
Steven: You are in a tight race with Kobach and an independent. Do you think Orman can take your voters?
Kelly: I think there are two schools of thought. Some me, but some Kris. The reality is that at this point, he is probably losing ground. I don’t think the message parties are not working together is working. In Kansas that’s exactly how we get things done. Moderate republicans and democrats getting things done, that has been my trademark in the Senate, the relationships that I have across the aisle.
Steven: Being a newcomer to the Midwest, you are a Democratic Senator and you are getting republican endorsements, that shocked me, what does that say about you as a candidate?
Kelly: Many well-known Republicans who have never endorsed a democrat before in a statewide race, I think it says a lot about me and their understanding and knowledge of how I operate and in a bipartisan method. I am no-nonsense, they would prefer me and know I will take Kansas forward vs. putting Kris Kobach in there and taking a quick U-turn and lead to more devastation.
Steven: You have said that you want to be the education governor what makes you different.
Kelly: I want to fund public education as opposed to Kris. He thinks it is over-funded. I think I value public education from early childhood to college. I think people understand that. Particularly to early childhood. That is the best investment we can make. They won’t be in the juvenile system, we can save money, I have a clear record of funding education.
Steven: My dad is retired Army, but I did not grow up as a military brat. I was born on Ft. Jackson, dad got out and I grew up in Atlanta. Your first language was what?
Kelly: Japanese. We were living in Japan when I was between 2 and 4 years-old. I learned some Japanese, unfortunately I only remember one word, it means shut up.
Steven: How often do you use that on the floor of the Senate?
Kelly: Oh, not as much as I should. I heard my two siblings saying that all day long. Then we moved back to the states. My dad was stationed on Ft. Hood and I lost the fluency.
Steven: What role does coming from a military family, helps you as a leader?
Kelly: I lived in a household that was devoted to public service, that influenced my decision, learning as much as I did, growing up among a diverse population, all the kids regardless of who their parents was went to the same school. That gave me the ability to understand value differences and willingness to listen to others concerns.
Steven: What separates you from your opponents?
Kelly: I think because of the eight years we have gone through. We got ourselves on the road to recovery by reversing the Brownback taxes and we need to stay that way. I think people in Kansas are looking for someone just like me, strong and experienced and has relationships to get in office day one and solve problems.
Steven: What is one thing that someone wouldn’t know about you.
Kelly: It was never my lifelong dream to be governor of Kansas. It was my dream to replace Mickey Mantle as center field for the New York Yankees. My parents are New Yorkers, dad was a big Yankees fan. I have since become a Royals fan. I adopt the team where I live. That’s what I wanted to do. I was so disappointed at age 6 or 8 because that wasn’t a possibility. I wasn’t talented enough and I was a girl.
Steven: Did you think it would be as inclusive as it is now?
Kelly: I think there will be more. We have seen a record number of women who have run for office on a local and national level. It is important that political positions reflect our society as a whole. Whether that is on gender, race, any other issues. I think it is very important so you can come to the table and be incorporated.