As Kathleen Sebelius walked into the San Francisco home Friday evening, she had a light, relaxed air about her. Glennia and I happened to be near the door, so we greeted her and I immediately told her I was from Kansas, blathering something about how my parents met while working in the state Capitol building in Topeka hoping to make her feel welcome. She was graceful and kind, we spoke about the MOMocrats (she liked our buttons) and I asked how we can help her out. It was an open-ended question, but I mentioned the VP nominee posibility. She seemed genuinely surprised by the question and made it clear: "those discussions haven't even started yet." And later "there's nobody picking out drapes." Then she said something about waiting until Tuesday.
Super Tuesday. It used to be about states like California. Now it's about South Dakota and Montana. Sebelius spoke as an endorser and surrogate for Barack Obama, so the point here was that she believes based on the numbers that he will have enough delegates to be the official nominee on Tuesday. Two states will make a difference. We'll see.
San Francisco District Attorney, Kamala Harris, provided the introduction to the petite Kansas Governor, emphasizing her work on healthcare and the environment and her experienced leadership. Emerge and NARAL moms were there to cheer them on, as well as a pleasant crowd of San Francisco politicos and personages concerned with getting a Democrat into the White House.
Governor Sebelius opened her remarks by mentioning how she grew up as the daughter of a governor, talking about public service and how her kids have a different perspective than most in their generation due to their mother's involvement, as she did. "We have lost an enormous amount of voters," she lamented in reference to her sons' generation (mid to late twenties). Due to this campaign, she says "we have a generation who is back taking part in the democracy of our country."
About Obama, she joked "he may have been raised in some exotic places, but he was raised by Kansans," proud of Midwestern values. She spoke about transparency and openness in government. "We don't need just a little change. We need a huge change in Washington." And she spoke about being a governor on Bush's watch and how difficult that has been.
"We need a dramatic change in our energy policy," she said. A mom after my own heart. She said the Bush administration told the EPA to essentially stop regulating for the next six months (gee, I wonder why) so "even if the EPA won't do their job, we need to do ours." The Kansas legislature has a 2/3 majority of Republicans, but with her veto she was able to keep coal out of Kansas. She emphasized taking advantage of our clean resources, like utilizing wind power in the Midwest. And later she emphasized "we clearly need a Secretary of the EPA who will do his or her job." (Hmm, backup plan in case VP doesn't happen? Not a glamorous job, to be sure, but it couldn't be a more important time to have the EPA in good hands.)
She joked about California: "I read your polls. I've got poll envy." She meant she would love to have Kansas as a solid blue state. But, she said, we now have 28 Democratic governors in America, 15 of whom are like her, in states that Bush won in 2000. Assuming Obama clinches the nomination on Tuesday, she says "we have 5 months to get the word out."
Q&A included a question about converting Republicans where she responded by saying there are two Republican parties, half who are small government moderates but who basically believe government is good, and the other half who are "very socially conservative folks" who took over Kansas in the mid 90s and "gave us time to transform." Her new Lieutenant Governor was formerly a Republican. Lots of Republicans are coming to her who have registered as Democrats now. She says she's trying to "re-brand" the party. "People are really looking for change."
Another questioner wanted to know how to "get Clinton supporters into the fold." Sebelius replied: "I believe there may be some bruised feelings for a week or two," but she shrugged off any concerns of a longer process because the difference between Obama and McCain is so big, there will only be a "small handful" of people who will shift from Clinton to McCain.
The final question directly brought up the VP possibility, where the governor looked genuinely embarrassed, clearly not quite accustomed to these kinds of questions yet. She replied again as I noted above, and made the drapes joke. "It's a very dangerous way to run a campaign," she said, referencing the way some candidates promise people positions before they're in office in order to make endorsement or other deals pre-election. She said that "Barack" as she called him throughout "wasn't going to have that conversation with anyone..."
Near the end of her remarks, she said that although Barack Obama "arguably" may have less experience than others in the race, "he has run a brilliant campaign," "he is a great CEO," and "I am a believer that this message can transform America." Closing the event, she simply stated: "We've got to see ourselves again as the United States of America." I hearby decree upon Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius the Order of Honorary MOMocrat.
Oh yeah, we like her.
Sarah Granger is proud to be from Kansas and California.
Photos: Top: Sarah, Governor Sebelius, and Glennia, taken for MOMocrats. Lower: Governor Sebelius, taken by Glennia. All rights reserved.