Ward suspends gubernatorial campaign; Democratic field winnowed to three

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The Democratic primary campaign for Kansas governor became more defined Wednesday morning when House Minority Leader Jim Ward withdrew from the race.

Ward, elected to the Kansas House from Wichita in 2003, announced today that he was suspending his campaign. He filed for re-election to the House.

Jim Ward

“My voice is not leaving Kansas politics. Our energy is not dissipating,” Ward said in an email to supporters. “While I won’t be asking for your vote for governor, I will continue to ask for your support, input and participation in our democracy.”

Ward immediately turned his attention to winning House races this year, noting that the past session underscores the need for Democrats who will fight for schools, affordable health care and against discriminatory social policies.

Ward’s departure leaves three major Democrats in the gubernatorial field: state Sen. Laura Kelly, former state Rep. Josh Svaty and former Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer.

A recent poll out of Fort Hays State showed that Ward was among the more recognizable names among the Democrats running for govenor.

With a name ID rate of 33 percent, Ward trailed only Brewer who led all Democrats at 38.4 percent. However, Ward’s favorability rating sat at 36.2 percent of those polled, placing him fourth among the major Democrats in the primary field. Kelly and Svaty may have been lesser known, but enjoyed far higher favorability ratings in the poll.

Ward did not mention who he might he might endorse in the race. Kelly, however, has scheduled a Thursday morning news conference to reveal an undisclosed endorsement.

Whether that might be Ward was unknown although the two candidates skirmished over gun rights earlier this year.

Kelly issued a statement Wednesday afternoon praising Ward for his work against the administration of former Gov. Sam Brownback and then-lieutenant governor and current Republcan Gov. Jeff Colyer.

Jim Ward has worked tirelessly on behalf of Kansas families for many years,” Kelly said in a statement. “I commend him for his work holding the Brownback-Colyer Administration accountable and fighting for Medicaid expansion.”

Last year, Ward raised about $91,000 for the governor’s race, compared to $192,000 for Svaty and $155,000 for Kelly. Brewer had pulled in $45,000.