My Fellow Kansans

Kansas voters elected a new governor, Democrat Laura Kelly, who wants to promptly expand Medicaid eligibility, resolve a long-running lawsuit with more school funding, and address a crisis in the state's foster care system. But her ability to fulfill that agenda will depend on how willing a more conservative Legislature is to work with her.

Following an on-stage conversation with the governor-elect, My Fellow Kansans host Jim McLean was joined by Washburn University political scientist Bob Beatty and Kansas News Service reporters Stephen Koranda and Celia Llopis-Jepsen for a live panel discussion of the dynamics heading into the 2019 legislative session. 

Beatty, armed with insights from a Fox News exit poll, said voters are looking for their elected officials to chart a center path. 

 

With the election of Democrat Laura Kelly as governor, it appears Kansas is trending back to the center. But voters sent a mixed message as conservatives regained control of the Legislature. 

To cap off this season My Fellow Kansans, the incoming governor sat down with Jim McLean of the Kansas News Service and took questions from a live audience at Washburn University in Topeka. 

As Kelly prepares to take over the reins of state government, she said she's found the problems to be worse than she thought. But the governor-elect, a veteran of the state senate, is confident she'll have a "moderate majority" of Democratic and Republican lawmakers working with her on solutions. 

Kansas Gov.-elect Laura Kelly insists the state budget she’s preparing can fully fund the state’s schools, expand Medicaid coverage to another 150,000 people and begin to repair a troubled child welfare system — without a tax hike.

The Democrat said Wednesday night she’ll lean on experience and relationships built over 14 years in the Kansas Senate to carve out compromises with lawmakers on those priorities.

Yet she described her job as daunting and state government as broken in several key areas.

Well, fellow Kansans, it’s over.

Democratic state Sen. Laura Kelly, running as the “fix-it” candidate on the premise that Kansas had gone off the rails, beat “full-throttle conservative” Kris Kobach in the race for governor.

Her win signaled Kansans’ desire to, if not reverse the state’s turn to the right, at least turn down the political rhetoric and focus on the basics.

A race that looked to be oh-so-close turned out to be a clear victory for Democrat Laura Kelly, the new governor-elect of Kansas.

On this mini episode of “My Fellow Kansans” we hear what Kelly had to say on election night and her explanation of what vaulted her to victory over Republican Secretary of State and conservative firebrand Kris Kobach. 

We’ve nearly arrived at a pivotal moment — the election that will determine whether Kansas continues rightward, returns to its traditional center, or starts down a new path. My Fellow Kansans, a podcast from the Kansas News Service, has been charting how we got here and what’s at stake in Tuesday’s voting. 

Nearly 30 years ago, the anti-abortion protests of the 1991 Summer of Mercy in Wichita energized conservatives and paved the way for the rise of Sam Brownback. As a U.S. senator, Brownback embodied the Christian right. But as governor, tax cuts headlined his red state agenda.

If conservative firebrand Kris Kobach would continue Kansas on its path to the right, Democrat Laura Kelly would be its pivot back to center.

After a weak start early in the campaign, polls suggest Kelly is now virtually tied with her Republican opponent in the heated race for Kansas governor.

If there’s a talking point in Kris Kobach’s campaign that virtually no one could quibble with, it’s captured in his billboards: “The consistent conservative.”

On the campaign trail, he offers another term that underlines the ambitious Republican secretary of state’s approach to politics and to governing. He promises to be a “full-throttle” conservative.

Indeed, if his politics are conservative, his approach to public life is aggressive. He pledges a hard line against abortion, on immigration, for lower taxes.

And he promises to fashion a Kobach administration in Kansas the way President Donald Trump has remade politics in Washington.

Jim McLean / Kansas News Service

In 2016, as Kansas voters revolted against Gov. Sam Brownback and his conservative allies in the Legislature, one-time Republican gubernatorial nominee Jim Barnett saw an opening.

The Topeka doctor bought a red pickup truck, and, with his wife, Rosie Hansen, started exploring the possibility of running for governor again — this time as the unabashed moderate in a field of conservatives.

Before he was governor, Sam Brownback had been state agriculture secretary, congressman, and U.S. senator. But when he captured the state’s top office in 2010 he had even bigger plans: to transform Kansas into a red-state model for the nation.

That’s not the way things panned out.

Pages