Josh Svaty, Ellsworth, declared his candidacy for the Governor of Kansas in May. He visited the Great Bend Tribune Thursday morning.
The top issue, as he sees it, is “good government.”
“Looking at what has happened in the last six and a half years, you can complain about the schools, the tax experiment, but really what it all comes down to is an administration that put the wrong people into the wrong state agencies,” he said. The state needs a leader who can put the right people in place and chart a course.
“I don’t think we’ve seen that for the past six and a half years,” he said. “I think that the Legislature tried to get back to that this session, but there’s still a long way to go. They need a governor that can help work with them on that path for the next four years.”
Svaty, 37, wants to distinguish himself as the rare pro-life Democrat who understands rural Kansas.
“I come from rural Kansas, was born in Great Bend ... and of the Democrats that are considering a run, I’m the only one that comes from this area.” His family has been in Kansas since 1864, and there are Svaty family members in 34 counties, including District Judge Ron Svaty, his uncle, and Riley Elementary School teacher Cara Kitchen, his cousin.
Democrat and pro-life
He identifies with the 20-25 percent of the Democratic party that is pro-life. Above all, he’s sensitive to the fact that the issue is complicated.
“I do hope the Democratic Party realizes that both sides of this debate need to be respected,” he said.
When a representative of a national media organization spoke to him recently about the abortion issue, a point was made about restricting women’s access to health care.
“‘You don’t even understand,’ I said. This concept of access to health care — women and men in rural Kansas are already restricted. If you wanted to visit a Planned Parenthood, you already face a drive to Kansas City or Denver. I don’t want to appear dismissive of that, but you are living in la-la land if you don’t appreciate the sacrifices people already make living in rural Kansas.”
Svaty and his wife Kimberly own Free State Farm in Ellsworth County. It’s important to be cognisant of what it means to farm in the margins, he said. Farming on land irrigated from the Ogallalla basin requires wise management of natural resources.
“If we are not cognizant of the long-term effects of that, then we run the risk of putting the state in a really difficult spot,” he said. “It used to be 25 to 50 years from now, but now it’s 10 to 15 years from now.
“With water, we need to continue to push from the state level to encourage more conservation, and also see it from the local level, allowing farmers to make decisions amongst themselves to be better managers of that resource.”
Public service record
Svaty entered politics at age 22, when he was elected to the Kansas House of Representatives. The Democrat from the majority Republican 108th District was re-elected twice more. He served on the Energy and Utilities Committee, the Joint Committee on Energy and Environmental Policy, and was a ranking member of the Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee.
In 2009, Governor Mark Parkinson named him secretary of agriculture. In 2011, he became a senior advisor to the regional administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency’s Region 7 until 2013. He is a former vice-president of the non-profit agricultural research entity, The Land Institute.
Svaty is the second Democrat to declare his candidacy for governor, following the February announcement from former Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer. On the Republican side, Svaty could find himself running against Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer, Wichita businessman Wink Hartman or Secretary of State Kris Kobach.