Campaign comes to Lansing
Robin Jennison is taking a cue from someone Republicans of all shades can appreciate.
Jennison, the former House speaker from Healy and one of seven men seeking the GOP nomination for governor, is abiding by Ronald Reagan's so-called 11th Commandment: "Thou shalt not speak ill of any Republican."
Jennison visited Leavenworth County on Wednesday, July 19, making stops in Lansing and Tonganoxie. In Lansing, he spoke to a group of about 20 people who had gathered at Ashlee's at the Condotels.
Rather than taking aim at the position of any of his six GOP opponents, though, Jennison stuck to offering his views on the various issues facing Kansas.
"We have not talked about any of our opponents in this primary, and we will not. We won't have any ads about any of our opponents in the primary," Jennison told the audience. "We get along with all of them very well. I'm not going to say they're all getting along together, but we get along with everybody else."
The only swipes he took were at Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, the Democratic incumbent. Jennison told the group Sebelius' popularity wasn't
"You know, she hasn't done anything to really make anybody mad," Jennison said. "She's a nice lady; I mean, you know, Kathleen's a nice lady."
But not making anyone mad or being a nice lady aren't necessarily attributes of a good governor, he said.
"One of the things I criticize the governor for is not being a leader, and there's not been a single, major initiative to come out of her administration," Jennison said.
Since Sebelius became governor four years ago, Jennison noted, Lansing's State Rep. Kenny Wilk was the key proponent of the biggest initiative to come out of state government. In 2004, Wilk pushed through the Legislature the Kansas Economic Development Growth Act, which makes an estimated $500 million investment over a 10-year period to solidify Kansas as a major player in the biosciences industry.
During a question-and-answer session, Jennison touched on a number of issues facing the next Kansas governor, including:
¢ Public school funding: Jennison said the current way of funding schools - through a statewide property tax levy - needed to be scrapped. "All we've done is continue to fund a formula that does not work," he said.
What's needed, he said, is for the Legislature to determine what exactly it an education is and plan accordingly.
"Do we need 10 foreign languages (to teach) or do we need one? What should the student-to-teacher ratio be?" Jennison asked. "I mean, there have been school districts that have talked about that, but the state of Kansas hasn't."
¢ The economy: Jennison said the northeast Kansas economy largely had been carrying the rest of the state.
"The fact of the matter is, that can't happen. We've got to have a sustainable economy across this state," he said.
He pointed to the burgeoning interest in biodiesel manufacturing as one segment that could help the state's economy in rural and urban communities alike.
Again, though, he criticized Sebelius' leadership on the issue. On a recent visit to a regents university where biodiesel research is taking place, Jennison said researchers complained to him they were receiving no direction from the administration on where to proceed.
¢ Property valuation: Jennison said he was the lone candidate willing to go to work on the problem that many Kansans face with skyrocketing property valuations.
"It is a very serious problem. And it is a problem that we've got to address, and it is not going to be a problem that is easily addressed," he said. "But I will guarantee you one thing: The governor that we have right now will not address it."
¢ Expansion of casino gambling: Jennison said he favored passing a constitutional amendment to allow casinos throughout Kansas to compete with those in neighboring states and those on Indian reservations, from which Kansas derives no direct tax benefits.
He added, however, that he wouldn't push the issue year-in and year-out as Sebelius had done.
"I think it takes away from some other things we want to do, the economic development things I want to do," he said.
¢ Embyronic stem cell research: Jennison said he was a strong anti-abortion proponent, but came to the conclusion that stem cell research was needed.
"If a member of my family or a friend had something that this technology would help, I'd take them to that technology just like that," he said.
In the hunt
The seven Republican competing for their party's gubernatorial nomination in the Aug. 1 primary are:
¢ State Sen. Jim Barnett, Emporia
¢ Former Rep. Rex Crowell, Longton
¢ Ken Canfield, founder of a center for fathering, Overland Park
¢ Dennis Hawver, an Ozawkie attorney
¢ Former House Speaker Robin Jennison, Healy
¢ Tim Pickell, a Prairie Village attorney
¢ Richard Rodewald, a retired autoworker from Eudora