A week after a wave of female first-time candidates won big in city-level elections, Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly was in Johnson County on Tuesday to kick off the campaigns of a group of women running for the statehouse in next year’s races.
In an appearance at the Johnson County Democrats offices in Overland Park, Kelly said it’s important for women to take on leadership roles. Newly elected women — from both sides of the aisle and in the House and the Senate — have been able to make “an incredible difference in the state,” she said.
“We [women] don’t run for office for the power, we don’t need it — we’ve got it in our homes,” Kelly said. “We run because we see a problem and we want to fix it.”
Johnson County Democrats Chair Nancy Leiker said Kansas has a long history of being at the forefront of women’s rights and electing women into public office. Women had the right to vote in Kansas eight years before it was enacted nationwide, Leiker said. The first female mayor was elected in Kansas in 1887, and more women had held public office in Kansas by the turn of the 20th century than anywhere else in the United States, she said.
“This year, we are proud to say that Johnson County has more than a dozen women running for office — running to continue the tradition of our founding mothers,” Leiker said.
Two candidates – Joy Koesten, and Stacey Knoell — announced their campaigns for Kansas Senate. Jo Ella Hoye and Sally Jercha explained the reasoning behind their decision to run for the Kansas House of Representatives.
Koesten, a former Republican state representative, has switched parties and is running as a Democrat for the Senate District 11 seat occupied by former Overland Park City Councilman John Skubal. Koesten said she plans to file by petition. She said her commitment to serving Kansans has not changed, and if elected, she will work to keep moving Kansas forward.
Knoell, who is running in Senate District 9, a seat held by Republican Julia Lynn since 2007, said voters in her district deserve a candidate who will amplify their voices. The most frequently asked question she receives is why she would want to run for office, she said.
“I woke up the day after the 2016 election and it felt as if the floor had been pulled out from underneath me,” Knoell said. “Everyday as I listen to the news, I thought to myself, someone should do something. Then I realized that I was that someone.”
Jercha said her motivation to run for State Representative in District 28 can be traced back to the shock of “extremist legislators” attacking Kansas’ schools and economy. If elected, Jercha said she would focus on tax relief for working families instead of “legislating giant, corporate tax giveaways.”
Hoye, who announced her candidacy for House District 17 in May, said gun laws were the reason for her candidacy. Hoye said “Kansas is not immune to the gun violence crisis,” and as both a parent and a gun owner, she had had enough. Additionally, Hoye said the current momentum in the Kansas legislature must be upheld so Kansans can have access to affordable healthcare, the best schools and sensible gun laws.
“I believe that Kansas is ready to feel inspired again,” Hoye said. “Let 2020 be the year that we accept this challenge — 2020, here we come.”