Now that Kansas Sen. Julia Lynn’s name won’t appear on the general election ballot in November, Beverly Gossage and Dave Owen are vying for the nomination to replace her. The Olathe Republican asked that her name be removed from the ballot due to an illness in her family, and today a judge granted that request.
Republicans are scrambling to replace the four-term state Senator’s name on the ballot. Lynn’s replacement will be selected by 71 Republican precinct committee members next Wednesday, Sept. 16.
“In these unprecedented times, it’s imperative that the precinct committee people evaluate carefully and select the most electable replacement possible, and I have confidence they will,” said Sen. Ty Masterson, an Andover Republican.
To date, two people have thrown their names in the ring. Beverly Gossage, a health insurance agent from Eudora, and Dave Owen, a former state senator and former lieutenant governor of Kansas who lives in Olathe.
Owen said he’s concerned about a Democrat winning the district in the absence of a strong incumbent on the ballot.
“I have a long history and an ability to raise money quickly, and I believe that’s what it’s going to take,” Owen said.
Gossage ran for insurance commissioner in 2014. She placed second in a crowded Republican primary to Ken Selzer, who eventually became the state’s insurance commissioner. She’s spent the last several years advising state and federal legislators on health care reform.
“The candidate needs to be someone with a solid background in policy who will adhere to the Constitution, our party platform, and can organize a campaign in a severely diminished timeframe,” Gossage said. “And they must already have some name recognition.”
In a close election in 2014, former Gov. Sam Brownback won Senate District 9 with 53 percent of the vote. President Trump won the district in 2016 with 53 percent of the vote, and voter registration favors the Republican. But that doesn’t mean it’s a safe district for the GOP. Former Congressman Kevin Yoder won district nine by only 3 points in 2018, but Gov. Laura Kelly, a Democrat, won the district by 8 percent in the same election.
Gossage, Owen, and anyone else who throws their hat into the ring will have five days between now and the replacement convention to woo Senate District 9 precinct people. The eventual nominee will then have only 50 days to campaign before Election Day and only about 20 days before advanced voting begins.
Owen has a long history in Kansas politics, but critics worry he might be spending time explaining his past rather than talking about issues in the short campaign for Senate District 9. Owen served as a political adviser and fundraiser to Sen. Bob Dole for 20 years, but the relationship abruptly ended after Owen was fined for laundering campaign funds. He arranged a fundraiser in which employees of Birdview, an Overland Park company, were reimbursed by Birdview for contributions to Dole’s 1988 campaign. He served six months in the Leavenworth federal penitentiary in the mid-1990s on an unrelated tax evasion charge. He was eventually pardoned by President Bill Clinton.
Mike Brown, a Johnson County Commissioner who has endorsed Owen in the race, called it “political persecution.”
“The U.S. Justice Department, after investigating his prosecution, determine it was actually a political persecution,” Brown said. “The Justice Department recommended and Dave received a full Presidential pardon from a Democrat President.”
Brown supports Owen because of his experience and his prior service to the state of Kansas.
“Dave Owen brings a wealth of experience to the Kansas Senate on day one, and it is imperative Senate District 9 remain in the GOP column,” Brown said. “To that end, I will fully support and robustly work on behalf of whoever the collective group of precinct committee people nominates.”
State Sen. Molly Baumgartner is impressed with the knowledge and experience Beverly Gossage would bring to the Kansas Senate. Gossage has worked as a classroom teacher, owned a small business, and now works in health care.
“From a professional standpoint, she brings quite a bit of depth and breadth in a number of areas. From all the different layers of things we’re talking about today– small business, health care, education, she’s been involved,” Baumgardner says. “A lot of folks are looking for someone who can work with them for solutions. In my experience, Beverly does that with grace.”
The winner of the precinct election next week will face Olathe Democrat Stacey Knoell in the general election.