Former Gov. Colyer takes step toward launching 2022 campaign for Kansas governor

Democrats pounce, denounce legacy of Brownback and Colyer

By: - March 5, 2021 11:42 am
Former Gov. Jeff Colyer, a Republican candidate for governor in 2022, denounced Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly's veto of $500,000 for stem-cell research into potential treatments for COVID-19. (Tim Carpenter/Kansas Reflector)

Former Gov. Jeff Colyer, a Republican candidate for governor in 2022, denounced Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly’s veto of $500,000 for stem-cell research into potential treatments for COVID-19. (Tim Carpenter/Kansas Reflector)

TOPEKA — Former Gov. Jeff Colyer moved closer Friday to declaring a candidacy for the Republican Party’s nomination for governor in 2022 in what could be a competitive race against three-term Attorney General Derek Schmidt.

Colyer assumed the governorship after resignation of Sam Brownback, but failed in August 2018 to win the GOP nomination in an extremely close race against Kris Kobach. Voters in the deep red state of Kansas elected Democrat Laura Kelly, snubbing the firebrand Republican secretary of state. Kelly has opened her re-election effort, while Schmidt has made statements openly critical of Kelly and more indicative of a GOP candidate for governor.

Colyer, a surgeon who served about half a year as governor and more than seven years as lieutenant governor to Brownback, has started raising campaign contributions with the assistance of Mary Eisenhower, the granddaughter of President Dwight Eisenhower. Mary Eisenhower, who will serve as Colyer’s campaign treasurer, said in a statement it was time to address the mistake made by Kansas voters in 2018.

“Jeff has solved problems in Kansas and across the world,” Mary Eisenhower said. “He is the ideal candidate to lead us past this pandemic and into a new era of prosperity and Kansas excellence.”

Letterhead with “Jeff Colyer Governor” declared Kansas required an “authentic, effective conservative.” Colyer served in the state’s House and Senate before selected in 2010 as Brownback’s running mate.

In response to movement by Colyer, a spokesperson for Kelly said the governor was focusing on “restoring and growing Kansas’ economy after the damage done by COVID and the Brownback-Coyler administration — not on an election that’s two years away.”

Despite running against Kobach in 2018, Kelly focused much of her campaign on denouncing education, health care, tax and budget decisions by Brownback and Colyer. She portrayed Kobach as someone who would double down on ideology embraced by the state’s two previous GOP governors. In December, Kelly opened her re-election campaign to complete work on education and economic development issues.

Colyer has labeled Kelly as the “shutdown governor” in regards to her executive decisions during the COVID-19 pandemic. He also pointed to a report that Kansas was among the bottom one-third of states in terms of economic performance.

Colyer jumped on social media to praise passage by the 2021 Legislature of a proposed amendment to the Kansas Constitution declaring women didn’t have a fundamental right to abortion in Kansas. He also said “only a Republican governor can ensure the will of Kansas voters is respected and there is an effective check” on President Joe Biden and Democrats leading the U.S. House and Senate.

Vicki Hiatt, chairwoman of the Kansas Democratic Party, offered an additional layer of criticism by describing the Brownback and Colyer years as a “disasters.”

“It was a disaster for our economy, a disaster for our schools, a disaster for our roads and infrastructure, and a disaster for our foster care system,” Hiatt said. “The last thing Kansans want, or need, is a return to the disastrous leadership that brought our state to its knees.”

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site.

Tim Carpenter
Tim Carpenter

Tim Carpenter has reported on Kansas for 35 years. He covered the Capitol for 16 years at the Topeka Capital-Journal and previously worked for the Lawrence Journal-World and United Press International. He has been recognized for investigative reporting on Kansas government and politics. He won the Kansas Press Association's Victor Murdock Award six times. The William Allen White Foundation honored him four times with its Burton Marvin News Enterprise Award. The Kansas City Press Club twice presented him its Journalist of the Year Award and more recently its Lifetime Achievement Award. He earned an agriculture degree at Kansas State University and grew up on a small dairy and beef cattle farm in Missouri. He is an amateur woodworker and drives Studebaker cars.