The Emporia Gazette
Kansas Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly held a narrow lead over Republican state Attorney General Derek Schmidt in final unofficial results. She declared victory in a message to supporters Wednesday morning, with Schmidt admitting the race was unlikely to change Wednesday afternoon.
Kelly, who is seeking a second term, led Schmidt 49% to 48% Wednesday morning with all precincts reporting.
“The people of Kansas sent a very clear message at the polls yesterday,” Kelly said. “Kansans said we will keep moving forward as a state, full steam ahead — there will be no turning backward.
“I want to thank Attorney General Derek Schmidt for his service to the state. We had strong, healthy disagreements on the issues, but I do believe he cares about this state, and that we stand united in our commitment to Kansas and its future success.”
Schmidt offered his congratulations to Kelly in a release Wednesday afternoon.
“I congratulate Governor Kelly on her apparent reelection and wish the best for our beloved state during the next four years,” Schmidt said. “It has been a tremendous honor to be the nominee of the Republican Party for governor of Kansas ... This journey has truly been a blessing, and for that I will always be thankful.”
Kelly said Kansans voted for “strong public schools, for economic growth, for balanced budgets, and for protecting individual rights — including a woman’s right to make her own healthcare decisions.”
Her victory comes after Kansas voters in August overwhelmingly rejected an amendment that would have eliminated abortion rights to the state constitution just weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. The outcome energized Democrats in an otherwise favorable year for Republicans.
Kelly took a “middle-of-the-road approach” during her campaign.
“Everyone is tired of hyper-partisanship and vitriol in our politics — and everyone’s tired of being at each other’s throats,” she said. “That’s why those nasty, negative, divisive ads against us backfired.
“When you look at the successes we’ve achieved these first four years, we’ve done it by working together — from fully funding our schools, to eliminating the food tax, reinvesting in infrastructure, recruiting businesses to Kansas from around the world, and creating and retaining 53,000 jobs.”
Kelly won the state’s two largest counties — Johnson and Sedgwick — even as counting in rural areas, likely to be areas supportive of Schmidt, continued.
Kelly also won Lyon County by 53-44%, while Schmidt was dominant in Chase and Greenwood Counties.
Though Republicans were expected to perform well nationwide, Kansas stood the chance of being an outlier. Kelly, the only Democratic governor running for reelection in a state carried by former President Donald Trump in 2020, had been a relatively popular governor in her first term.
Polls had predicted the race would be exceedingly close. A week before the election, a survey from Emerson College Polling and Nexstar Media Group gave Kelly a lead of 3 percentage points, a statistical tie as it fell within the margin of error.
Schmidt, who has been the state attorney general for over a decade, had sought to tie Kelly to discontent with Democrats across the country. His messaging hinged on inflation, President Joe Biden and Kelly’s decisions early in the pandemic to shut down schools and businesses.
Schmidt also repeatedly highlighted his support for banning transgender athletes from girls’ sports, a position that put him at odds with Kelly, who twice vetoed a ban passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature. Schmidt promised to sign a ban if elected.