Bo Rader The Wichita Eagle
Bo Rader The Wichita Eagle

Politics & Government

Field for Kansas governor grows: State official enters race

By Jonathan Shorman

August 07, 2017 11:34 AM


Insurance Commissioner Ken Selzer is running for governor.

Selzer, a Republican, told The Eagle on Monday he will make further comments in three to four weeks, but that he intends to run.

“I’m a thoughtful, calm decision maker who would bring an emphasis on efficiency and customer service just like we did in the insurance department,” Selzer said.

Selzer, 64, filed paperwork late last week appointing a campaign treasurer. He expressed interest in possibly running during an interview in early July.

Ken Selzer
Wichita Eagle File photo

As insurance commissioner, Selzer oversees the state agency responsible for regulating insurers, educating consumers on insurance and licensing insurance agents.

There is precedent for an insurance commissioner becoming governor. Kathleen Sebelius held the post before winning the governor’s race in 2002.

Selzer, a certified public accountant, lives in Leawood but grew up in McPherson and Marion counties.

He was elected insurance commissioner in 2014. He beat Democrat Dennis Anderson 61 percent to 38 percent.

A run for governor will prevent Selzer from running for reelection as insurance commissioner because both positions are on the ballot in 2018.

Selzer will join a growing field of Republican candidates. Secretary of State Kris Kobach, businessman Wink Hartman and former state senator Jim Barnett are all running. Entrepreneur Ed O’Malley is running an exploratory campaign.

In addition, Senate President Susan Wagle, R-Wichita, and former state representative Mark Hutton have both said they are considering whether to run. Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer may also run.

“We are campaigning on our own merits, not campaigning against anyone else,” Selzer said.

Selzer brings arguably less statewide name recognition than Kobach or Colyer. But that could allow him more control to shape what kind of candidate he wants to be.

“Does he want to try to run closer to where the moderates are ... or does he want to try and run closer to the conservatives?” said Patrick Miller, a political scientist at the University of Kansas. “Does he want to be someone who tries to bridge a gap between the two?”

“I think this race is missing someone who can really effectively appeal to both moderate and conservative voters. He has an opportunity to try to create and mold his image more than I think some candidates do.”

On the Democratic side, former Wichita mayor Carl Brewer and former state representative Josh Svaty are running. House Minority Leader Jim Ward, D-Wichita, is weighing a run.

Contributing: Hunter Woodall of The Kansas City Star

Jonathan Shorman: 785-296-3006, @jonshorman