UPDATED: Democrat seeks to unseat Sutton in Johnson County


(Updated to reflect comments Davenport posted on social media)

A Gardner man who served in the ministry for 15 years is seeking to challenge five-term Republican state Rep. Bill Sutton.

Keith Davenport, a Democrat, said he is running for the House District 43 seat in southwest Johnson County for the “common good.”

Keith Davenport

“I believe that a strong democracy is the best route to a bright future for Kansas, but too often the voices of our community haven’t made it to Topeka,” Davenport said in a statement.

“I am passionate about representing the real concerns of this district and advocating for practical solutions to everyday challenges like childcare, schools, jobs, and roads.”

Davenport now serves as the executive director for the Missouri Center for Employee Ownership and the soon-to-be Kansas Center for Employee Ownership, nonprofit organizations raising awareness for employee ownership.

He previously worked in Johnson County government as a community relations manager and a communications specialist for the county’s mental health center.

He was ordained as a minister in the Church of the Nazarene and served in the ministry for 15 years.

Part of that ministry included coordinating new church development for the Church of the Nazarene across North America.

He also was the lead pastor for the Faith Church of the Nazarene in Lawrence.

Davenport shed some more light on his life in posts on Twitter, saying grew up a conservative but became disenchanted with the political process.

“As I matured, went to seminary, started a family, and began working with high school and college students in Wyandotte and Johnson Counties, my views began to change,” he posted on Twitter.

“After the 2016 election cycle, I began to dig deeper into public policy and reach out to my conservative elected representatives. The results were disheartening,” he wrote.

Most replied to him with form letters and copy and pasted replies, he said.

“They weren’t listening. Others representing our community literally didn’t reply at all. That’s not how democracy should work,” he said.

“Elected officials should listen to, engage with, and represent everyone in their communities, not just those who agree with them.”

The political makeup of the district didn’t change substantially after redistricting.

State Rep. Bill Sutton (right) asks a question at a legislative committee meeting.

About 61% of voters in the district supported former President Donald Trump in 2020. It falls to about 60% with the new boundaries.

Sutton was first elected in 2012 with 67% of the vote and has been reelected fairly easily over the years.

He’s been reelected three times with 60% of the vote or more, and a fourth time he was unopposed.

He chairs the General Government Budget Committee in the House and serves on the House Appropriations and Commerce committees.