OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) — Democratic challenger Paul Davis said Tuesday that more than 500 Republican dissidents support him in the Kansas governor's race, while conservative GOP Gov. Sam Brownback sought to convey unity with a packed luncheon and endorsement from a well-known former corporate CEO.
Both candidates had campaign events in Wichita and the Kansas City suburb of Overland Park with the Nov. 4 election only three weeks away. Davis led in most polls during the summer, but recent independent polling shows the race has tightened in Brownback's favor in their Republican-leaning state.
Davis had a news conference in Overland Park with leaders of the dissident group, Republicans for Kansas Values, to tout the backing of about 180 mostly former elected GOP officials and about 360 educators, local school board members and local business and community leaders.
The Democratic challenger made a national splash in July by announcing the dissident group's formation with about 100 ex-GOP elected officials as members. The event in Overland Park and follow-up news conferences in Wichita and Topeka touting the split within the Republican Party were designed to recapture that earlier buzz.
About 450 people packed a luncheon at a Wichita hotel to hear speeches by Brownback and former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, who endorsed the governor and praised the same fiscal policies that Davis has criticized. Fiorina, who ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate in California in 2010, also appeared with Brownback at an evening banquet in Overland Park, with both events sponsored by Women for Brownback and Kansas House Republicans.
"Now is not the time for a protest vote," Fiorina told the crowd.
Fiorina's visit came a day after New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, the chairman of the Republican Governors Association, traveled to Wichita for a campaign stop with Brownback.
"We're both campaigning with Republicans," Davis said after his event in Topeka. "He's campaigning with Republicans from California and New Jersey and out of state, and I'm campaigning with Republicans from Kansas."
Davis is wooing moderate Republicans and unaffiliated voters worried about tax cuts enacted at Brownback's urging, which have dropped the state's top personal income tax rate by 26 percent and exempted the owners of 191,000 businesses from income taxes altogether. Brownback contends the reductions are boosting the economy, but the Legislature's nonpartisan research staff predicts a $260 million budget shortfall by July 2016.
"This election is not about electing a Democrat or a Republican," said Dick Bond, a Republican former Kansas Senate President who supports Davis. "It's about electing a moderate, common sense Kansan as governor."
But Clay Barker, the state GOP's executive director, noted that the dissident Republicans are a tiny fraction of the state's more than 765,000 registered GOP voters.
"It was the same, old, worn-out talking points. Nothing new," Barker said.
Associated Press writer Roxana Hegeman in Wichita contributed to this report.
Davis campaign: http://www.davisforkansas.com/
Brownback re-election campaign: http://www.brownback.com/
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