Paul Davis kicked off his campaign for the Kansas 2nd District seat in Congress by calling Washington broken and criticizing a culture there that quashes bipartisanship.
“No matter what party you affiliate with, no matter who you voted for in the 2016 presidential election, Washington is not working for you,” said Davis, who served as the top Democrat in the Kansas House and narrowly lost a bid to unseat Gov. Sam Brownback in the 2014 election.
During a stop in Topeka, Davis touted his 12 sessions in the Legislature. He said he was proud of his work across the aisle with Republicans.
“When did bipartisanship become a threat? Working together, building consensus, finding solutions. These are the sacred principles of democracy,” he said.
Davis, an attorney from Lawrence, also was bipartisan in his criticism. He said if elected, he wouldn’t support U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California for a leadership job. She’s currently the chamber’s top Democrat and was speaker when her party was in the majority.
“This is a broken Congress right now, and I think the leaders of both political parties bear responsibility for that. I think that we need new leadership in both political parties,” Davis said.
While he made that bipartisan pitch, Davis did take issue with some of President Donald Trump’s actions.
“A lot of Americans are turning on their TVs every day and shaking their heads when they see the comments coming out of the president,” he said. “He was elected president and if I’m successful in this campaign I will work with him, but I’m also going to call him out when I think it’s necessary.”
Fundraising and campaign funding need a change, according to Davis. He blasted the influence of big donors and said he supports a constitutional amendment barring so-called “dark money” in politics.
“I think people are disgusted by all of these nice-sounding groups that are coming in and trying to influence the outcome of elections, and people have no idea who’s funding them,” he said.
While Davis said he agrees with top Republicans that the federal tax code needs an overhaul, he doesn’t support some of the proposals in Washington — especially one that’s familiar to Kansans.
“They want to pull the Brownback tax experiment out of Kansas’ dumpster, polish it up a little and sell it to the entire country,” Davis said.
Current 2nd District Congresswoman Lynn Jenkins has announced she’s not running for re-election and will look for opportunities in the private sector.
Neosho County Democrat Kelly Standley also has said he will run for the seat, although the Secretary of State's website indicates he has yet to file.
Also in the race to replace Jenkins is Republican state Sen. Steve Fitzgerald, who has said he supports Trump’s agenda and wants to advance it in Congress.
In an interview Tuesday, the former Army officer and Green Beret said he believes it takes more than Davis's legislative experience to be ready for the 2nd District job.
“I feel like he doesn’t have the breadth or the depth of experience and knowledge to be able to go and be productive for Kansans in the federal government,” said Fitzgerald, Leavenworth Republican.
Fitzgerald said he looks forward to the race, which might get contentious.
“I think there are a number of things in his legislative record that we are going to go over,” he said. “We’ll put this before the Kansas people and try and get them to make the right decision.”
Basehor City Council member Vernon Fields has also filed to run on the Republican side. He said he's pushing his experience in criminal justice and the medical field, but didn't weigh in on Davis jumping into the race.
"The Democrats will put up their best candidate," said Fields. "I'm just looking forward to having hearty discussion and a robust debate when the time comes."