By Amy Houston
A Haysville business owner is challenging Gov. Sam Brownback in the Republican primary election this summer.
Jennifer Winn, owner of Landscapes Inc., is a candidate in the Aug. 5 primary. She said she wasn’t previously affiliated with a political party, but she would have needed 5,000 signatures from registered voters to run as an independent.
Winn, a Wichita native, ran for the U.S.D. 259 Board of Education but was unsuccessful. She was not considering another run for office until “the awakening I had dealing with my own personal situation with my own child,” she said.
“The more I asked why, the more I realized how bad things really were,” Winn added. “And so the more educated I became, the more I realized very quickly that somebody had to do something.”
Winn and her husband, Darren, have four children and six grandchildren. Her grown son, Kyler Carriker, has been charged with first-degree felony murder of Ronald Betts and attempted possession of marijuana with intent to distribute. An Oct. 6 jury trial has been scheduled in Sedgwick County District Court.
“I can remember that day very vividly, obviously, the day they came back and said they were going charge my child with first-degree felony murder that didn’t hurt anyone,” Winn said.
Carriker allegedly set up a drug deal involving marijuana, but the seller – Betts – was killed in a shootout. Carriker is not suspected of firing a weapon, but his alleged involvement in a crime that resulted in a fatality led to the charge against him.
“The law was not acceptable, and that is what drove me to dig,” Winn said. “And I kept digging because I wanted to know why.”
Winn is concerned about issues such as jury nullification, or a jury’s right to nullify. That means a jury acquits someone it believes is guilty because it doesn’t agree with the law or believes the law has been applied improperly.
She is also concerned about the rate of incarceration in the United States and the cost of incarcerating nonviolent offenders. No country incarcerates a higher percentage of its population than the United States.
“We are simply the worst country in the world to incarcerate its people,” Winn said.
Other issues important to Winn include stopping wasteful spending; prioritizing children, veterans and the disabled; and boosting transparency in state government. She said she would create a website allowing taxpayers to communicate with their government.
“If I can’t expose everything that’s wrong, I can’t fix it,” she continued. “If we don’t know what’s going on behind closed doors, we can’t fix it.”
Winn acknowledged that she faced an uphill battle running against an incumbent governor, but she said she hoped to inspire other citizens to seek elected office. She added that a candidate doesn’t have to be an attorney and doesn’t need millions of dollars. She credited her staff at Landscapes Inc. for allowing her to campaign for governor.
“Because I have such a wonderful staff … I have the ability to dedicate my time and pursue changing our state and getting it back to the people,” Winn said.
The deadline to register to vote in the primary is July 15. The winner of the primary election will advance to the general election, set for Nov. 4.