February 14, 2019
KDP Chair Gibson to not seek re-election
KDP Chair John Gibson released the following statement on his decision to not seek re-election:
Topeka, KS – I was proud to be elected Chair of the Kansas Democratic Party at Washington Days in 2017. I was even more honored to lead Kansas Democrats during one of the most critical elections of my lifetime. I wouldn’t trade these past two years for all of the world, but I also know that now is the time for me to step back from the job of Chair. I will not seek re-election at Washington Days this year.
Aside from my family, there’s nothing in my life that I am prouder of than what we accomplished together as Democrats in Kansas. It’s not just that we elected a Democratic Governor in a tough three-way race. It’s not just that we finally returned a Kansas Democrat to Congress. Those were important accomplishments that are already paying dividends for Kansans, but I’m even more proud of how we invested in the future of the Democratic Party.
We organized county parties around the state, until there were more than 75 Kansas counties with an active local party. We recruited and trained candidates for everything from water board to congress, electing hundreds of Democrats. We began a fellowship program to prepare the next generation of Democratic leaders for the challenges of winning elections in Kansas, and the first of those fellows are already serving our Party and our state. Most importantly of all, we brought thousands and thousands of new people into the Democratic Party, from retired women becoming activists for the first time, to college students learning how to register their classmates to vote, to new citizens looking to put their often hard-won freedoms to use. Credit for our victories, from school board races to the governor’s office, belong to our volunteers, our party leaders and officers, and of course the brave candidates who carried our banner. I’ve been privileged to be the lead cheerleader for those efforts, and that’s a joy I will take with me to my grave.
There are many in our Party who made our success possible, but I must single out our Vice-Chair, Vicki Hiatt, for my thanks. Vicki worked tirelessly to make our victories possible, both our victories in 2018 and the victories that we will win in the future. Vicki visited each county in Kansas during her term as Vice-Chair. She trained candidates and volunteers. She spoke at county party meetings and raised money for the Party and our candidates. Vicki has nurtured future Democratic leaders and made tough decisions to the benefit of us all. I didn’t know Vicki before we were elected to serve together, but in the short time we have worked side-by-side I have come to rely upon her as one of my closest friends and a trusted advisor. She has often been in the background during the past two years, but Vicki has been an integral part of the success Democrats have had in Kansas in 2017 and 2018.
While I’m leaving the role of Chair, I will remain forever a part of our struggle for a more perfect union. I am inspired by a small moment from the spring of 2017. Vicki, our Executive Director, and I had traveled to Washington to meet with national Democratic leaders to advocate for Kansas to be included in their 2018 campaign plans. After a long day of meetings with the alphabet soup of Democratic organizations in DC, we left the DNC headquarters as the sun was setting to take a taxi back to our hotel. We all put our heads down to catch up on emails and text messages on our phones while our driver, an immigrant to this country, told us about his life. He and his wife came here with nothing but a dream. He used to drive his taxi five days a week so that his wife could stay home with their children. When his son graduated from high school and went to college, he started driving his taxi six days a week to pay the tuition. Our driver then explained that his son had just told him that he wanted to go to medical school and that his daughter was applying to colleges, so he had started driving his taxi seven days a week. He told us that he wished he could drive eight days a week to help his children pursue their dreams.
We all nodded and chuckled at the stories as we read and replied on our phones, until finally our patient driver could take no more. “Look up!” he insisted as we drove by the National Mall. “Look up! This is beautiful!” We tore our eyes away from our screens to see the Washington Monument casting a long shadow, the reflecting pools glinting in the setting sun, and the Lincoln Memorial solid in the distance. We were surrounded by the monuments to our government of the people, by the people, and for the people, and they were all beautiful. My heart caught in my throat as I realized how serious our work in the Democratic Party is. I’m glad that a patriot born in another land chose to be an American, and I’m blessed that he shared that moment with me.
The memory has put steel in my spine during difficult moments over the past two years. “Look up!” I would tell myself. No matter how challenging our day-to-day work has been, and no matter how hard it may be in the days ahead, we are doing the work of America, and it is beautiful.