Michael Austin, a former adviser to Gov. Sam Brownback and a former policy analyst for the conservative-leaning Kansas Policy Institute, officially announced his campaign for state treasurer on Monday.
Austin has been guarded about his political plans after leaving the Kansas Policy Institute although it has widely been believed that he was running for treasurer.
Last week, he quietly filed paperwork appointing a treasurer for his campaign and on Monday announced his candidacy officially in Wichita.
The paperwork, filed on June 1, lists former Wichita School Board member Joy Eakins as his treasurer.
“I’m a strong believer in the principles behind the constitution,” Austin said in prepared remarks.
“I support radical policy I like to call, ‘Keeping more of what you earn,'” he said.
“I support giving Kansans the tools to govern their own lives. I’ve spent my career
educating and fighting for conservative principles.
“It’s time the state government did the same. It’s time for us to step up and make sure we protect the freedom that makes those opportunities possible.
Austin is building his platform on promoting school choice, encouraging financial literacy and curbing wasteful spending.
In his announcement, Austin alluded to the recent legislation creating education savings accounts where struggling students can take their state base aid with them to attend a private school.
“I’ll work with the legislature to ensure your tax dollars follow the child, not the system,” Austin said in his remarks.
“If schools want to put in place draconian rules and teach activism, not academics, Kansas families should have the resources and freedom to leave,” he said.
Austin joins Republican state Rep. Steven Johnson of Assaria as the second Republican candidate to officially join the race for state treasurer.
Former Republican congressional candidate Sara Hart Weir and state Sen. Caryn Tyson of Parker are also believed to be interested in the position.
Weir has been keeping a relatively high profile since losing the Republican primary for Congress, most recently as last week when she spoke to the National Association of State Treasurer’s Conference.
She also now chairs Kansans or Terms Limits.
Johnson’s campaign issued a statement after Austin’s announcement.
“Steven Johnson’s long experience in the financial services industry and on financial committees in the Kansas Legislature give him the advantage in the race for state treasurer,” spokesman Andrew Hansen said.
“We look forward to sharing with voters the work Steven Johnson did to balance the budget and save the state pension system from insolvency.”
The seat is now held by Democrat Lynn Rogers, who was appointed to the position by Gov. Laura Kelly when former Republican Treasurer Jake LaTurner was elected to Congress.
Rogers also is running to serve a full four-year term for the seat.
He also has been holding a number of public events related to 529 college savings plans and returning unclaimed property to Kansans that would elevate his visibility going into next year’s elections.
On Saturday, for instance, Rogers, met with the Kansas Lions Club during their annual convention to give an update on the services provided by the state treasurer’s office.
Rogers responded to Austin’s candidacy on Twitter Monday night.
He said Austin’s track record “with fiscal policies is about as good as Kris Kobach’s track record with lawsuits.”
Rogers tried to wrap Austin in his work as Brownback’s top econonomic adviser.
Referring to himself as the “people’s banker,” Rogers called Austin the “senior architect” of the “failed Brownback/Colyer tax experiment.”
“He tried to steal your KPERS retirement, gutted our public schools and killed jobs,” Roger said on Twitter.
“And he thinks you should trust him with MORE state money? I don’t think so.”
Austin, who often jousts with Democrats on social media, previously worked as the chief economist at the Department of Revenue under former Govs. Sam Brownback and Jeff Colyer.
He also worked as a tax policy analyst for the Show-Me Institute, a conservative think tank in Missouri.
He now works as an adjunct instructor at Washburn University’s School of Business.
And last week, Austin announced he was creating a consulting firm called, Knowledge and Decisions Economic Consulting.
It is characterized as a “government policy consulting firm that offers comprehensive capabilities and economic knowledge necessary to help you solve the most complex issues of your organization.”
He has a master’s degree in economics from the University of Kansas and a bachelor’s in business administration from Washburn