The gubernatorial races in Kansas are virtual mirror images. On both sides there’s a two way race between a rather mundane establishment candidate and a more unconventional and charismatic opponent.
On the Democrat side State Senator Laura Kelly has the backing of former governor Kathleen Sebelius (and her army of donors) and she is primarily running against Josh Svaty a former state rep and Kansas Ag Commissioner. Former Wichita mayor Carl Brewer is also running, but he does not appear to have either the levels of support in terms of either volunteers, or finances to be a viable candidate.
Ironically, both Kelly and Svaty were elected from Republican leaning districts and as a result of representing their constituents both are suspect in the eyes of the party’s left-wing factions. Kelly’s sin was co-sponsoring SB 45, establishing Constitutional Carry in Kansas, a fact that sat well with her then 2nd-Amendment-supporting constituency, but at strong odds with the party’s current anti-gun agenda. She has backtracked on that position during the campaign and now claims that the legislation she helped write went too far and needs to be toned down with some “common sense” revisions.
Svaty’s sin was even greater. He is/was pro-life, offending Demorats who leave no room in their support of abortion on demand. Svaty has answered critiques of his pro-life voting record by stating that he was simply representing his constituents. To reinforce that he may not be all that pro-life, Svaty has appointed a pro-abortion activist with little other political experience to be his Lt. Governor running mate. He has also promised to veto any legislation that would negatively impact the abortion industry. Kelly is a hardline abortion proponent. That said, given their “centrist” backgrounds either Kelly or Svaty could be a formidable opponent in the general election.
Normally I vote early. At my age I don’t buy green bananas and so I want to make sure I get my vote in while the voting’s good. However, this time I’m waiting until the last minute while I continue to struggle with the gubernatorial primary. My problem is that I know and like both Jeff Colyer and Kris Kobach. Indeed, at one point I used to guest host Kobach’s radio show in Kansas City. As a result, none of the current gibberish being thrown around in attack ads convinces me to abandon the other.
For instance, Colyer’s consultant had the great thought to remind people that at one point in his political career Kobach was “pro-choice.” I’m sorry, I’ve been around long enough in the movement to recall that many of the most stalwart pro-life champions were at one point pro-abortion. (I’m not going to list names here (Reagan) because the transformation once one sees the light is so complete that it would accomplish nothing). However, I’ve also been around long enough to have talked to several friends each of whom assured me that their personal pastor was the one who convinced Colyer’s former boss, Sam Brownback, to become pro-life. And I can also remember vividly during my first conversations with Colyer that he was not forthcoming with what exactly his position was on the issue. Sort of a private matter, but then again it was harder to get elected if you were pro-life back then because lots of folks hadn’t seen the light. So spare me the drama about ancient history. Both are undeniably pro-life and both have been embraced by Kansans For Life.
Let me also share something none of the media are interested in. Both men are compassionate about helping those in need. Jeff Colyer has risked life and limb to go to war torn areas to perform reconstructive surgery on the children who were victims of the fighting and Kris has been on mission trips to Africa.
Colyer has been accused of collaborating with the ACLU in trying to trash Kobach. Once again, I find it hard to get excited about these allegations. First, it’s been suggested that Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley was responsible for raising the issue but who cares? The notion that the ACLU loves Jeff Colyer is laughable. The second he won the primary they would hate him just as much as they allegedly hate Kobach now and the same holds for the media. The same media that attack Kris now would change Colyer’s first name to Brownback the second he won the primary and they would revisit every ounce of misinformation they printed over the past years of Sam’s administration.
Bottom line, both guys are conservatives and that’s why they struggle to try and differentiate themselves and wind up using nonsensical and meaningless issues in their ads.
So let’s turn to the real issues and never mind the polls since the press coverage will change as soon as the primary current polls are also irrelevant. Just as I am not convinced by the silly season rhetoric that others have spewed trying to make one or the other a monster, I also struggle with the real flaws both candidates bring to the table.
Real problem number one for a Kobach candidacy is that he doesn’t raise money very well. His positions on immigration do not sit well with the business community that funds political campaigns. Plus, his efforts to expand his focus into 2nd Amendment issues has not been helpful. The second issue is that he has been too narrowly focused on immigration and illegal voting and that will not serve him well unless he plans on resigning as soon as he wins to take a job as a bureaucratic functionary in the Trump administration.
On the positive side, Kris Kobach is a charismatic speaker. He’s energetic and he will attempt to fulfill his campaign promises. One of those is to stand up to the Kansas State Supreme Court as it continues to try to legislate by court order. If you like what he says, he is serious about doing what he’s saying.
As for Jeff Colyer, he can raise money (and he’ll need it) but, unfortunately, he is not a good campaigner. One on one you won’t find a nicer guy, but impressive on the stump he’s not. Secondly, where Kris is strong on dealing with the courts, Jeff is not and that is what has kept me from going down to pull the switch.
Positives are that he will probably have a broader, if less enthusiastic, base to work from. His negatives are not as high as Kris’ but then again the media have not focused on him yet to the extent they are trying to destroy Kris Kobach.
On the one hand both of them give me many reasons to go pull their lever in the general, but I have a feeling my decision will not be made until I hit the booth on Tuesday.
Oh, there are a few others running, two have minor roles in being spoilers of sorts. Jim Barnett was irrelevant even when he ran against Kathleen Sebelius over a decade ago. His irrelevancy was underlined when apparently the only running mate he could find was his wife. Then there’s Ken Selzer whose decision to abandon his position as Insurance Commissioner and run for governor is inexplicable. They’re polling around 13% and 9% respectively.
–By John Altevogt | Metro Voice Contributor