Former Kansas Gov. Bill Graves finished a three-stop campaign tour across Kansas tonight, advocating for moderate Republicans running for the state Senate.
He stopped in Lenexa Thursday night to help raise money for five moderate Republican candidates running for the state Senate in Johnson County.
"I suppose the days of playing nice are over, have been long over for a while," Graves told a crowd of about 200 at the Lenexa Conference Center.
"It's time for us to really circle the wagons and start really working hard and going for election victories," said Graves, who is now president of the American Trucking Associations and lives in the Washington D.C. suburbs.
Graves related a story from this week's Kansan of the Year Banquet in Washington where U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts took him aside and asked him why he was returning to Kansas and "stirring up all this trouble."
"I said, 'Senator...I'm going, first of all, because I can.'"
"And I said, 'Second of all, when my friends call me and ask me to come out and help them, these are people who have helped me.' I said, 'That's just the way you do business.'"
"I said, 'I'm going to go out and support people who I think are are good public officials or will be good public officials."
Graves was in Wichita Wednesday night lending a hand to the re-election efforts of incumbent moderate Republican Sens. Jean Schodorf and Carolynn McGinn. He was in Salina Wednesday to help out moderate Republican Sen. Pete Brungardt.
Graves' appearance sets up statewide battle between conservative and moderate Republicans for control of the state Senate.
It pits him against current conservative Gov. Sam Brownback, who wants to assert more control over a state Senate that has rebuffed his agenda.
Despite earlier indications, Brownback has been getting involved in Republican primaries, endorsing at least five candidates in Johnson County legislative races, and at least three others around the state. He has not disclosed who is he is endorsing.
Brownback will be Johnson County Friday night to help raise money for state Rep. Greg Smith, a conservative who is running for the Senate against Beveridge, one of the candidates Graves came to town to help.
Graves also related a story about how he was approached by someone he would only describe as a supporter of the Brownback agenda and took exception to his return to Kansas. The "supporter" turned out to be the guv's former chief of staff, David Kensinger.
Graves said he was concerned about potential effects of the massive tax-cutting plan on the state.
He said the Brownback supporter (Kensinger) gave him a lecture about the so-called "Laffer curve," explaining that any short-term drop in state revenues would be more than offset by economic development and population growth spurred by the tax cuts.
"I said, 'But what if it's wrong, what if it doesn't work that way?"
The response from the supporter: "That creates a political problem for the governor."
Graves said he responded: "I don't care about the governor's political problems. I care about the state of Kansas. What are the implications for the state of Kansas if this whole grand plan is wrong?"
Kensinger, still a behind-the-scene advocate for Brownback, said he talked to Graves at the social event. He defended the tax plan, which some critics say will leave gaping holes in the state budget.
"We know what Kansas was doing for the previous decade wasn't working and we know this has worked in other states," Kensinger said in an interview.
"The fact is over the last decade, Kansas lost private-sector jobs while government got bigger. This is an economic strategy successfully pursued by other states," he said.