Deep Red Kansas Reelects Democrat Governor

By John Haughey
John Haughey
John Haughey
John Haughey reports on public land use, natural resources, and energy policy for The Epoch Times. He has been a working journalist since 1978 with an extensive background in local government and state legislatures. He is a graduate of the University of Wyoming and a Navy veteran. He has reported for daily newspapers in California, Washington, Wyoming, New York, and Florida. You can reach John via email at
November 9, 2022Updated: November 9, 2022

Incumbent Kansas Democrat Gov. Laura Kelly has survived Republican Attorney General Derek Schmidt’s bid to unseat her and will move into her second term in Topeka.

Kelly collected 49 percent of the vote to Schmidt’s 48 percent, with an estimated 90 percent of the votes counted on Nov. 9. Throughout the summer and fall, polls showed Kelly and Schmidt in a neck-and-neck race.

The Kelly-Schmidt race was one of 36 gubernatorial elections nationwide this fall. Kelly was among 22 Democratic governors seeking re-election, but the only one doing so in a state that former President Donald Trump won in 2020.

Kelly served 14 years in the state Senate after a 16-year stint as executive director of the Kansas Recreation and Park Association. She defeated former Republican Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach by 5 percentage points in the 2018 gubernatorial race.

She touted bipartisan achievements during her campaign, claiming she “has brought together both parties to get things done for Kansas,” such as reducing taxes by $1 billion, attracting $14 billion in business investments, and retaining more than 48,000 jobs.

Schmidt, who served in the Senate with Kelly before being elected attorney general three times, maintained he was the conservative leader deep red Kansas needs to ensure individual freedoms and the Constitution are protected.

His campaign ripped into Kelly for her administrative orders during the COVID-19 pandemic that resulted in business and school closures, stating he would never impose her overreaching authority on Kansans.

Schmidt linked Kelly to President Joe Biden and inflation while Kelly tied Schmidt to former Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, whose massive tax cuts led to widespread budgetary distress in the state.

Schmidt also had to contend with a third-party sniper at his right flank in state Sen. Dennis Pyle (I-Hiawatha), whose independent campaign garnered 2 percent of the votes.

While support for Kelly and Schmidt remained static, the numbers backing Pyle grew in October by 50 percent with the conservative holding himself out as an alternative to Kelly’s alleged liberal leadership and Schmidt’s moderate stances.

American Center, a national democratic group, invested $92,000 in advertising to boost Pyle’s candidacy as the true conservative in the race.

Kelly’s campaign reported to the Kansas Elections Division (KED) on Oct. 31 that it had raised more than $7.7 million, a record for a Kansas gubernatorial campaign and approximately double what Schmidt collected.

During a Sept. 10 debate with Schmidt, Kelly discussed bipartisan achievements such as working with GOP-led legislature to balance the state budget, building a $1 billion rainy-day fund, fully funding public education, eliminating the state’s 6.5 percent grocery sales tax, securing a $4 billion Panasonic battery plant—the state’s largest-ever economic development project—and breaking ground on more than 1,000 infrastructure projects since 2019.

Schmidt said spending under Kelly has surged and that she would continue to increase Kansans’ tax burden by endorsing Biden’s policies.

“We must not adopt government policies that try to turn Kansas into California,” Schmidt said during their Sept. 10 debate. “Gov. Kelly is wrong in her philosophy.”

Schmidt during the campaign has doubled-down on his opposition to abortion, claiming the fact that Kansans on Aug. 2 shot down a proposed amendment eliminating access to abortion as a right by 165,000 votes, or by a 59-to-41 percent margin, doesn’t mean the state’s conservative voters support “unrestricted” access.

He said if elected governor, he would support the state’s Republican-controlled legislature if it imposed restrictions on abortion.