Democrats Tap Kansas Governor for Response to Bush’s State of the Union

Posted January 15, 2008 at 3:31pm

Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius has been tapped to deliver the Democrats’ official response to President Bush’s State of the Union address on Jan. 28.

In her second term, Sebelius is one of the Democrats’ more popular and prominent female governors. She also represents a conservative-leaning state that favored Bush over Democratic presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry (Mass.) by a 62 percent to 37 percent margin in 2004.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) made the announcement.

“Gov. Sebelius is a forward-thinking, solutions-oriented Democratic leader, who has worked in a bipartisan way to create jobs, grow the economy, make historic investments in education, and make college more affordable,” Pelosi and Reid said in a statement.

Sebelius is the second red-state governor in three years to deliver the Democratic Party’s State of the Union response. Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine gave the party’s speech in 2006, while a fellow Virginian, Sen. Jim Webb, delivered the party’s remarks in 2007.

In selecting Sebelius, Democrats are clearly hoping to highlight the diversity of their party in a year in which both a woman and an African-American are seeking their party’s nomination for president. It also shows Democrats’ interest in recapturing the political advantage in states that Republicans have dominated in recent years.

Beyond that, Democratic leaders may have wanted to pick a prominent party official who has yet to endorse in the 2008 presidential contest. Sebelius has kept her choice quiet in a state that will take part in the Super Tuesday primary on Feb. 5.

She also has been mentioned as a future candidate for the U.S. Senate. Kansas Republican Sen. Sam Brownback already has announced he will not seek another term in 2010, leaving open that possibility for Sebelius, who is prevented from seeking a third term as governor.

State Sen. Leticia Van de Putte of Texas will deliver the Spanish-language response for the Democrats. Van de Putte is the immediate past president of the National Conference of State Legislatures.