Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly has a big decision to make.
She has just named Lt. Gov. Lynn Rogers to fill the office of state treasurer. The current treasurer, Jake LaTurner, is headed to Washington, D.C., as a U.S. representative. That means Kelly will have to name a new lieutenant governor, and soon.
We encourage the governor to think outside the box. This is a great opportunity for Kelly to show that state government isn’t just the exclusive playground of older, wealthy, white people.
Let’s be honest for a moment. The low pay and high demands of public office mean that most people who serve are either retired, wealthy or simply lucky enough to have day jobs that offer abundant flexibility. We end up, therefore, with a government that looks much older and less diverse than the reality of our state’s population.
Kelly can change that. She can pick someone younger, someone with a different kind of background, perhaps someone from outside the world of politics altogether.
We need different perspectives. The opinions largely expressed in the Statehouse can best be expressed as warmed-over, Koch-branded libertarian conservatism. Former Gov. Sam Brownback’s catastrophic mismanagement of the state budget prompted enough common sense candidates and voters to take action and stem the tide of nonsense for a time.
But with school funding controversies largely resolved, and with state revenue no longer plummeting, the sense of urgency has diminished. And while Kelly defeated ideologue Kris Kobach for the governorship, the House and Senate have been tilting back to their bad old habits — away from moderation and toward extremism.
One pick of a lieutenant governor isn’t going to reverse that all at once, of course.
But if we want a change of atmosphere in Kansas politics, if we want parties collaborating rather than squabbling, we need a new approach. We need new faces. And we need someone who is willing to see our state for what it is — a diverse collection of beliefs, backgrounds and goals — rather than what they believe it to be.
There is no doubt already chatter aplenty about Kelly’s potential pick. We’re sure that names are floating out in the ether. The temptation may be to pick one and announce Rogers’ replacement sooner rather than later.
For the reasons we outline above, however, we would urge the governor to take as much time as possible. For the sake of Kansas, it’s worth getting right.