Laura Kelly: Win in governor's race was 'wave of common sense'
Democrat Laura Kelly has defeated a prominent ally of President Donald Trump to win the Kansas governor's race.
Kelly defeated Republican Secretary of State Kris Kobach (KOH'-bahk) on Tuesday to flip the governor's office from red to blue.
It was at least the fourth Democratic pickup, along with wins in the Illinois, Michigan and New Mexico governors' races.
Kobach had built a national profile as an advocate of tough immigration policies and strict voter photo ID laws. He served as vice chairman of Trump's now-defunct commission on voter fraud.
Kelly will be Kansas' third governor in a year.
Republican Gov. Sam Brownback resigned in January to accept a position in Trump's administration. He was succeeded by Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer, whom Kobach defeated in the Republican gubernatorial primary.
Kelly says her ability to reach across the aisle to moderate Republicans played a part in her winning the race to be Kansas' next governor.
Kelly defeated Republican Kobach by about seven percent in Tuesday's gubernatorial election. Before the race was called, Independent Greg Orman conceded, having secured about 6 percent or about 65,000 votes.
"Every vote counted. Every vote was a brave vote against a broken two-party system," Orman said. "This shows that it's a stepping stone to fix a complex, broken system."
While support from moderate Republicans likely gave Kelly the boost she needed to win Tuesday's election, Kansas GOP Chair Kelly Arnold points out Republicans still hold the majority in the Kansas legislature. With this, he voiced concern that there will be challenges to get legislation passed with disagreements between the conservative legislature and the state's next governor. .
Kobach spoke to a crowd of Republicans Tuesday night, thanking campaign contributors and many voters for their support. He says his team "fought the good fight."
"I think we fought really well and we put together a team that did an extraordinary performance on the field and I'm so pleased to have fought side by side with so many great Republicans," Kobach said. "And I want to express my gratitude tonight."
He pointed out that "for the past 54 years, no Republican had succeeded a Republican administration in Kansas and no Democrat has succeeded a Democrat."
"So it looks like that pattern will continue another four years and we'll see how long it goes before it's broken," Kobach said.
In her victory speech, Kelly said the people of Kansas put political partisanship aside in choosing her to lead the state. She thanked the thousands of volunteers who helped support her campaign and the Kansans who voted for her.
"The people of Kansas spoke and they spoke so loudly," she said. "Today, Kansans voted for change, not only in the direction of the state, but a change in the tone of our state."
Kelly credited Kobach and Orman for running aggressive campaigns. She said she's encouraged to see more people across the country involved in the political process, but said Kansas is unique.
"What happened in Kansas today is different than anywhere else in the nation," Kelly said. "And I believe that you know, there will be a lot of talk around America about the "blue wave," but I don't believe that's what's happened here in Kansas. What happened in Kansas was a wave of common sense, a wave of bipartisanship. This wasn't one side beating the other, it was Democrats and Republicans and Independents all coming together to put our state back on track because we all know we have faced challenges over the last eight years like no other state."
Democrat Laura Kelly is projected to be Kansas' next governor, emerging from a field of five candidates led by Republican Kris Kobach.
Approaching 15 percent of the state's precincts reported, Democrat Laura Kelly maintains a lead in the Kansas governor's race. Kelly leads Kris Kobach by about 15 percent, 221,131 votes to 161,546. Orman sits at about 5 percent support with 22,421 votes, followed by Jeff Caldwell and Rick Kloos with 2 and 1 percent respectively.
Early results are coming in, including the first results from Sedgwick County. With 32 of 3,556 statewide precincts reporting, Democrat Kelly leads Republican Kobach 54 percent to 38 percent.
Early results show 71,282 votes for Kelly and 49,910 for Kobach. There's six percent or about 7,700 votes for Independent Greg Orman so far.
Five gubernatorial candidates say they're the right choice to move Kansas forward. That's the one thing every candidate has in common. Mixed and matched, there are also varying degrees of agreement on several issues from taxes, school funding, healthcare, immigration and marijuana legalization.
Libertarian Jeff Caldwell, Independents Rick Kloos and Greg Orman, Democrat Laura Kelly and Republican Kris Kobach appear on the ballot. Orman joined Kelly and Kobach in making a final push to voters in south central Kansas Monday, but realistically, polls say, this race is a toss up between two: Kelly and Kobach.
Monday in Wichita, Kelly, Kobach and Orman delivered their final messages to their supporters.
Kobach, largely in support of President Donald Trump's policies on several key issues at the federal level, says he's the only choice for Kansas and tells voters, "what you see is what you get."
"In my case, I'm going to give you exactly what I'm telling you," he says. "I won't back down. I won't change my tune."
From her role as a state senator, Kelly touts her opposition to former governor Sam Brownback's tax policies she blames for causing financial difficulties for Kansas. She opposes Kobach on several key issues, but has ran her campaign largely tying Kobach with Brownback and warning that the former governor's policies will continue to damage the state if Kobach becomes governor.
"I think I made it clear from the day I got into this campaign that I will be a governor for all Kansans," she says.
As an Independent, Orman's overall message is that Kansas needs to break from the status quo to move forward. He's highlighted his success as a businessman and compares being governor to CEO of Kansas. With this view, he's indicated neither Kelly nor Kobach are right for the job.
"I don't want big government and high taxes and I don't want to shrink the government," he says. "I want better government and I believe I'm the person who can deliver this to the people of Kansas."
Polls close at 7 p.m. Tuesday. Voters have until that time to get in line to vote.
Stick with KWCH 12 on air and online as results start to roll in. You can keep up with live election results across Kansas through the KWCH 12 app.