Lynn Rogers took one for the team in Kansas treasurer campaign. Will he now lead Democrats?

Bob Beatty
Bob Beatty

Will Kansas Democrats look to Lynn Rogers again?

A little over two years ago, Gov. Laura Kelly needed to appoint a new treasurer, as then-Treasurer Jake LaTurner had won his race to be a U.S. Congressman. I offered — unsolicited, I should add — the following advice to the governor in my December 2020 column: “The person for the job should be a promoter first and foremost,” and should use the treasurer’s office — like previous Republican officeholders LaTurner and Lynn Jenkins had done — to run countless TV ads promoting the state’s 529 college savings program administered by the state treasurer.

I wrote: “Governor Kelly should think outside the box when making her choice. Look at people from the media business, like television newscasters and presenters.”

The governor ignored me and appointed her lieutenant governor, Lynn Rogers. There’s no bitterness here; she was politically wise to select Rogers. While the three previous Republican treasurers parlayed the office into winning elections to the U.S. Congress, Rogers instead used the office to help Kelly get re-elected and to promote the Democratic Party throughout the state.

Ironically, Rogers helped Kelly win her second term by not running statewide 529 TV ads featuring himself, which he certainly could have done in an attempt to win his election in 2022. If he had featured himself (and maybe his family, like LaTurner did) in the TV ads, many Republicans in the state would have been livid, accusing Rogers of being craven and abusing his office.

More:Wanting to build on momentum, Lynn Rogers is running for chair of Kansas Democratic Party

In short, they would have raised hell, and Kelly, who had appointed Rogers, would have been caught up in the maelstrom. In a Kansas governor’s race that featured an anti-Kelly ad depicting animals defecating, one can easily imagine the hay that would have been made linking Kelly to a likely called “self-serving” Lynn Rogers.

Of course, Jenkins and LaTurner had taken great advantage of the free TV exposure that the treasurer’s office afforded them, and there was no electoral backlash. In fact, it can be argued that it propelled them to higher office.

Well, that’s politics, folks. Sometimes there are double standards, and if that’s how the voters see it, then that’s how it is.

Truth be told, without the benefit of the 529 TV ads, winning a down-ballot statewide race as a Democrat without an opponent named Kobach was a Sisyphean task, and Rogers ended up losing the treasurer race by 14 points.

But he didn’t approach the race with a defeatist attitude and instead devoted himself to traveling across the state, especially concentrating on rural Kansas, and talking with voters about topics such as education, retirement, housing and water. He visited with minority communities and was the only statewide candidate who produced a Spanish language campaign ad.

He received notice for a series of videos called “Kitchen table talks” that featured Rogers and “regular folks” talking about, well, kitchen-table issues.

Rogers is now running for chair of the Kansas Democratic Party. Some Democrats are leery because Rogers is a former Republican, having switched parties only a few years ago.

Rogers feels that he can be a different style of promoter, telling The Topeka Capital-Journal that he thinks Democrats can grow their party ranks with younger voters and former Republicans, saying, “You’ve just got to talk to everybody.”

Stay tuned, Rogers might not be retiring from the Kansas political scene yet.

This article originally appeared on Topeka Capital-Journal: Lynn Rogers avoided 529 savings ads in Kansas treasurer's campaign