Kan. Gov. Selects Running Mate for Race

The Associated Press
Wednesday, May 31, 2006; 6:31 PM

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. -- Democratic Gov. Kathleen Sebelius announced Wednesday that the former state Republican party chairman, who switched his affiliation to Democrat only a day earlier, will be her next running mate.

Mark Parkinson will replace retiring Lt. Gov. John Moore, also a former Republican, on the Democratic ticket.

"My philosophy has always been good leaders and great ideas don't come with a party label," Sebelius said at a news conference.

The Kansas GOP fired off a statement calling Parkinson a hypocrite and pointing out that four years ago Parkinson had called Sebelius a "left-wing liberal Democrat" and said Republicans who supported her were "either insincere or uninformed."

"Mark Parkinson obviously feels more at home with liberal Democrats than he does with Republicans. By his own words, he is either uninformed or insincere. Or third, he is simply coming out of the closet," said Ron Freeman, executive director of the state Republican Party.

Parkinson, 48, acknowledged that he had doubted Sebelius when she first ran for governor four years ago but said he now believes she provides "independent leadership" for Kansas.

"In an age where leaders duck responsibility and dodge their mistakes let me be the first to say: I was wrong," Parkinson said in a written statement.

Sebelius cited Parkinson's business experience and willingness to work with people from different political parties as reasons she chose him.

"I was looking for a Kansan who shares my independent approach to leading this state; someone willing to set partisanship aside for the sake of achieving real progress," Sebelius said. "And I was looking for a Kansan who brings a businessperson's perspective and critical eye to the operations of state government."

Parkinson, who owns and operates assisted-living centers, served as GOP chairman from 1999-2003. He also served in the state House from 1991-92 and the Senate from 1993-97.

The Republican Party has dominated Kansas politics since statehood, but for years the Kansas GOP has been split between moderates and conservatives. Sebelius hopes to win votes from Parkinson's fellow moderates in her re-election bid _ something she did successfully when she beat conservative Republican challenger Tim Shallenburger in 2002 after Moore switched parties to be her running mate.

Shallenburger, now the state GOP chairman, said he had no fear that Parkinson's move heralded an exodus of moderates to the Democratic camp, saying the Republican Party is broad enough to hold a wide range of views.

"This doesn't bother me," Shallenburger said. "It bothers me when people do it for reasons that are not true."

U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., who shared the stage with Sebelius at a pandemic flu conference later in the day, called Parkinson's decision "a personal betrayal."

Another prominent Kansas Republican who recently switched parties is Johnson County District Attorney Paul Morrison, who hopes to challenge conservative Republican Attorney General Phill Kline in the November general election.

© 2006 The Associated Press