Dems hope to continue gaining ground in race for governor

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

State Sen. Kelly Kultala, running mate for Democratic gubernatorial candidate and state Sen. Tom Holland, said she believes their campaign is gaining ground on that of Republican nominee U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback and his running mate, state Sen. Jeff Colyer.

"The campaign is going very, very well," Kultala said during a Wednesday interview with The Fort Scott Tribune. "The last five weeks have just been totally opposite of the first two or three months."

Brownback is leading Holland 59 percent to 32 percent, according to a recent poll conducted by Survey USA. Kultala said the gap between Brownback and Holland has "narrowed considerably" since campaigning began.

Incumbent Gov. Mark Parkinson, who assumed office after Democrat Kathleen Sebellius' appointment to U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services, did not run for election this year.

Holland did well in a debate against Brownback at the Kansas State Fair last month in Hutchinson, according to several media reports following the event, Kultala said.

"Since then, the momentum has just picked up," Kultala said. "It's really starting to pick up."

Kultala, who is touring several Southeast Kansas towns this week, said she plans to visit downtown Fort Scott to meet with local residents between 3 and 4 p.m. Saturday. She conducted a tour of the south-central portion of the state last week and said she plans to tour northeast Kansas next week.

One of their main focuses on the campaign trail has been to improve Holland's name recognition. According to a baseline poll conducted in July, Brownback's name recognition was 52 percent while Holland's was 28 percent, Kultala said.

"We've worked on trying to get the name recognition up," she said. "We know we're running against a 16-year Washington, D.C. incumbent with huge name recognition and deep pockets."

The campaign has a small staff of 10 people who are helping Kultala and Holland travel across the state to meet and visit with the people of Kansas.

"We're working on a shoestring budget, trying to save money, and just meeting with people across the state. We don't have a big, fancy expensive bus that was painted out of state and has out- of-state license plates on it," she said. "There's just Tom in his minivan and me in my Ford Escape and we go separate directions and we just go meet people. ... We're talking to people about our campaign."

Holland has visited the Fort Scott and Pittsburg areas twice in the last several weeks.

"We cover twice as much area if we split up and go in different directions," Kultala said.

Kultala said she feels the election is going to "be closer than people think" as Holland's campaign has received much support from moderate Republicans recently.

"I've talked to numerous people," she said. "A lot of people know who Sen. Brownback is, but, the name recognition is wide, the support is shallow. ... We really believe that if the base will get out there and vote, if all the independents and moderate Republicans get out and vote, that we can win this."

Issues that Holland and Kultala plan to address within the next few years -- if elected -- include adequately funding the schools, opportunities for job creation, changing the way services and benefits are delivered to the state's veterans and using state lottery money to fund scholarships for technical training through community colleges and technical schools, among others.

"The Holland-Kultala team is a pragmatic, moderate team and to move forward and work with Republicans and Democrats, we're the most moderate choice," Kultala said. "I don't think the general voter has gotten the information to make the educated decision they need to make."

Kultala has represented the 5th District in Kansas since 2008 and is the ranking Democrat on the transportation committee. She also served as the 5th District Commissioner for the Government of Wyandotte County in Kansas City from 2001 to 2005. She has served on the Piper School Board and is a current member of the Wyandotte County Library Board. She is married with three children.