Former Republican Kansas Gov. Mike Hayden has endorsed Democrat Laura Kelly in this year’s race for governor. That means only one living Kansas governor has stayed totally out of the race: Republican Sam Brownback.
Brownback left office earlier this year to serve in the Trump administration, but Washburn University Political Scientist Bob Beatty said Brownback remains an issue in the election.
"His shadow looms really large, both for the people who liked him and didn’t like him," Beatty said. "This election is still in many ways a referendum on Sam Brownback.”
Kobach has worked to distance himself from Brownback, and Kelly has repeatedly tried to tie Kobach to the former governor.
It would be surprising to Beatty if Brownback does publicly endorse a candidate in the race. That's because of Brownback's low approval when he left, and because he's now in a diplomatic post, which are often seen as less political.
Hayden served as governor from 1987 to 1991 and later worked in Democratic administrations as the secretary of wildlife and parks. In his statement, Hayden said Republican Kris Kobach would repeat policies from the Brownback years.
Sitting Republican Gov. Jeff Colyer quickly endorsed Kobach after Kobach beat him in the primary election.
Former Democratic governors Kathleen Sebelius and John Carlin have backed Kelly. Former Democratic Gov. Mark Parkinson donated $2,000 to Kelly's campaign earlier this year.
Former Republican Gov. Bill Graves endorsed Kelly last month.
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