Governor candidate Josh Svaty chooses running mate

Josh Svaty, a Democratic candidate for governor, announced his running mate would be Katrina Lewison. He made the announcement in a tour throughout Kansas on Wednesday, including this stop at Memorial Hall in Kansas City, Kansas. (Staff photo by Mary Rupert)

by Mary Rupert

Josh Svaty, a Democratic candidate for governor, swung by Memorial Hall in Kansas City, Kansas, on an 11-stop blitz Wednesday to introduce his running mate, Katrina Lewison.

Svaty, a farmer, a former state representative, EPA senior adviser and former Kansas secretary of agriculture from Ellsworth, Kansas, emphasized his running mate’s qualifications.

Lewison is a West Point graduate from Hutchinson and Buhler, Kansas, who served as a Black Hawk platoon leader during Iraqi Freedom, and who is now a director of consulting and training in Manhattan, Kansas. She and her husband have three children, and she is a member of the Manhattan-Ogden school board.

Katrina Lewison (Staff photo by Mary Rupert)

“She has the energy and excitement I think would make for a great lieutenant governor,” Svaty said. “We realized that our voices speak for a large amount of Kansans.”

Svaty said they are both concerned about education and the future of Kansas. Svaty, who is married and has four children, outlined some of his issues during the speech Wednesday.

In his speech, Svaty said that the next governor has to work on Medicaid expansion, lower the sales tax on food, and take action to retain teachers in the state. He said he supports restoring funding to the schools.

The government needs to rededicate itself to children, gubernatorial candidate Josh Svaty said during a campaign stop Wednesday in Kansas City, Kansas. (Staff photo by Mary Rupert)

He received applause when he said the government has to rededicate itself to children, including needy and disabled children.

In answer to a question from audience member Nancy Burns, Wyandotte County register of deeds, about the most important challenges, Svaty said challenges include the length of time it will take the state to pay off its bonded indebtedness.

He also talked about revenue streams, mentioning recent news stories about the possibility of future online sports gaming. He said Kansas should have a tax on any online sales in Kansas.

Unified Government Commissioner Mike Kane asked him about his position on the prevailing wage. The state has blocked the UG’s former prevailing wage ordinance.

“I am a firm believer in local control,” Svaty said. “Let the county set the prevailing wage.”

State Rep. Louis Ruiz, D-31st Dist., asked a question during Josh Svaty’s campaign rally stop Wednesday in Kansas City, Kansas. (Staff photo by Mary Rupert)

In answer to a question from State Rep. Louis Ruiz, D-31st Dist., Svaty said he was in favor of the state supporting a path forward for children of immigrants.

“We are a state of immigrants,” he said. His platform says that “discrimination masked as policy must be defeated.”

On the question of his budget priorities, and what he would change from the previous administration’s budget, Svaty said he supports reinvesting in higher education again, and said the state also needs a 10-year transportation plan.

Gov. Jeff Colyer signed a bill creating a transportation task force on Wednesday. The budget bill he signed Tuesday still makes transfers from the Kansas Department of Transportation funds to the general fund, but the amount of the transfer has been reduced.

The budget bill that Colyer signed Tuesday restored some funding to higher education and schools, while Colyer vetoed a KanCare provision that would not provide funding if the governor required work requirements.

More details on Svaty’s positions on the issues are at

State Rep. Tom Burroughs, D-33rd Dist., who introduced Svaty on Wednesday, said, “The people of Kansas recognize we need change.” He said Svaty helped Wyandotte County pass casino legislation in past years in the Legislature.

Svaty has been campaigning for governor for a year, but the campaign seems to be just starting to pick up some interest among residents, who will vote Aug. 7 in the primary.

In the past week, Republican Gov. Colyer, who is running for election, has made at least four appearances in Wyandotte County. Democratic candidates for governor have made appearances at the Wyandotte County Democratic breakfast last month and some are scheduled to speak there this Saturday.

Other Democratic candidates for governor running in the Aug. 7 primary include Carl Brewer, Wichita mayor; Laura Kelly, the Kansas Senate minority whip; Michael Tabman, retired FBI special agent in charge and news commentator; and Dr. Arden Andersen. The filing deadline is noon June 1.

Back in January, Svaty reported the highest campaign contributions among Democrats running for governor, at about $192,000, compared to Sen. Kelly’s $155,000 and Brewer’s $45,000, according to campaign finance records.

A Docking Institute poll in April showed that Kelly had the highest positive support of the persons who knew her, of all the gubernatorial candidates. Republican Kris Kobach had the highest name recognition among all candidates, but his ranking was second lowest on positive support. Svaty had a high positive rating, but lower name recognition than Kelly and Brewer.

Kelly has the support of some prominent Kansans, including former Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, former Mayor Carol Marinovich and former state party chairwoman Joan Wagnon.

Leading Republican candidates include Gov. Colyer, Secretary of State Kris Kobach, and Insurance Commissioner Ken Selzer. Then there is independent candidate Greg Orman, who will not appear on the ballot until November, and who has raised more than $400,000, according to campaign finance reports.

An audience of more than 30 attended Wednesday’s campaign stop by Josh Svaty at Memorial Hall in Kansas City, Kansas. (Staff photo by Mary Rupert)

More than 30 people turned out to meet Svaty and his new running mate on Wednesday. Some were supporters, some were there to meet the candidate before making a decision in August. State representatives from Wyandotte County were in attendance, including Rep. Burroughs, Rep. Ruiz, Rep. Stan Frownfelter, and Rep. Pam Curtis, as well as former Rep. Bill Reardon.

Rep. Curtis, D-32nd Dist., said she was glad to see candidates showing an interest in Wyandotte County, and would like to see other candidates hold campaign events here, also.

Svaty and other candidates plan to speak at the Wyandotte County Third District Democratic breakfast at 9 a.m. Saturday, May 19, at Las Islas Marias restaurant, 7516 State Ave., Kansas City, Kansas. The breakfast, open to Democrats, begins at 8:15 a.m., with the program starting at 9 a.m.

Josh Svaty, a Democratic candidate for governor, talked with Wyandotte County Register of Deeds Nancy Burns after Wednesday’s campaign announcement in Kansas City, Kansas. (Staff photo by Mary Rupert)
More than 30 people turned out for the Josh Svaty campaign tour announcement Wednesday in the lobby of Memorial Hall in Kansas City, Kansas. (Staff photo by Mary Rupert)

Candidates to speak at Democratic meeting Saturday

The Wyandotte County Third Saturday Democratic Breakfast Saturday, May 19, will feature some candidates for the Democratic nomination for Kansas governor.

The breakfast begins with a buffet at 8:15 a.m. followed by the program at 9 a.m. at Las Islas Marias, 7516 State Ave., Kansas City, Kansas.

Scheduled to speak at the breakfast are three candidates for governor, Carl Brewer, former Wichita mayor; Josh Svaty, former state representative and state agriculture secretary; and Michael Tabman, retired FBI special agent in charge and news commentator.

Three other candidates for governor, Laura Kelly, a state senator; Jim Ward, a state representative; and Dr. Arden Andersen, spoke at the April breakfast meeting. Since then, Rep. Ward has withdrawn from the race.

The cost of the buffet is $10, or $6 for students and those on limited income. Reservations are requested to by Friday, May 18, for those planning to attend. It is not necessary to RSVP, but it is encouraged. It is not necessary to purchase a breakfast to listen to the program.

The meeting is open to all Democrats, and all Democratic candidates may distribute campaign literature and signs before and after the program.

UG Commission puts renewal of sales tax on August ballot

The Unified Government Commission voted unanimously Thursday night to put the renewal of a three-eighths cent sales tax for public safety and neighborhood infrastructure on the Aug. 7 ballot.

The three-eighths of a cent sales tax currently generates about $10 million a year for the UG, according to UG documents.

The dedicated three-eighths cent sales tax was originally passed in 2010 and will expire in 2020, UG Administrator Doug Bach told the commission tonight. If approved at the polls this year, it would continue at the same three-eighths cent rate from 2020 through 2030.

A “yes” vote at the polls would not result in a tax increase, as residents already are paying the same amount of sales tax, according to Bach.

Bach told the commission three-eighths cent sales tax for public safety and infrastructure passed in 2010 with 70 percent support of the voters. It applies only to the city of Kansas City, Kansas, he added.

He said the three-eighths sales tax has resulted in $54 million in revenues so far, and is expected to reach $80 million by 2020.

The issue is coming up now because the UG is currently planning its 2019 budget, and wants to know what will be happening as it starts to plan for 2020, he said.

Bach said this benefits residents by putting more of the tax burden on retail sales and less on property taxes. He added that the Village West area receives 12 million visitors a year, and the sales tax is paid by tourists and visitors, benefiting all Kansas City, Kansas, residents.

When the bonds were paid off at Village West at the end of 2016, $1.5 million and more came from the sales taxes in that area.

The current sales tax in Kansas City, Kansas is 9.125 percent, he said. There are additional sales taxes in some designated areas here. Most, about 6.25 percent, goes to the state of Kansas. One cent goes to the county, one cent to the city, one-fourth cent goes for EMS services, and three-eighths of a cent goes for public safety and infrastructure, he said.

Bach said if a person purchased a large pizza for $15, this three-eighths of a cent sales tax would result in 6 cents, and if the person purchased $100 worth of groceries, a three-eighths of a cent sales tax would result in 38 cents.

Currently, the proceeds of this special sales tax are divided in three parts, with about $3.9 million to fire operations, $3.3 million to neighborhood infrastructure, and $3.9 million for police, he said.

This sales tax has funded 25 police and 25 fire jobs, and also has purchased fire trucks, police cars, and will go toward funding police car cameras and body cameras, according to Bach. Neighborhood street and park projects have taken place throughout the city.

Bach noted that a community survey taken recently showed that residents were in line with these spending priorities. Residents’ top concern was street maintenance, and police services were ranked as the second priority, he said.

There was no opposition from the commission tonight to the sales tax ordinance.

Commissioner Brian McKiernan said residents are already paying this sales tax and he was very much in favor of continuing it. It has been in place for 10 years and will not represent any additional taxes, he said.

Commissioner Gayle Townsend discussed how some of the neighborhood infrastructure funds were being used by the commissioners to pay for Community Neighborhood Improvement Projects, including specific projects such as improving sidewalks and ball fields.

Commissioner Melissa Bynum said she would like to see the CNIP discussed at a future meeting.

The wording on the Aug. 7 ballot, according to the ordinance passed tonight, will be: “Shall the following be adopted?
“Shall the City of Kansas City, Kansas, be authorized to impose an additional three-eighths of one percent citywide retailers’ sales tax the proceeds of which shall be used for the purposes of financing public safety and neighborhood infrastructure, including the construction, repair, and maintenance of roads, curbs, and sidewalks, the collection of such Sales Tax commencing on July 1, 2020, or as soon thereafter as permitted by law, and terminating ten years after its commencement?”

More information on the sales tax may be found at

In other action, the commission approved a second amendment to the Legends Parking Garage development agreement. According to the UG’s economic development director, it includes some new language clarifying penalties for not meeting local, minority and women business requirements.

To see more of this UG meeting, visit the YouTube video at