Jeff Colyer diagnosed with prostate cancer, ends campaign for Kansas governor

By: - August 30, 2021 12:27 pm

Former Gov. Jeff Colyer says he was recently diagnosed with prostate cancer and is ending his campaign for the GOP nomination for governor in next year’s election. (Tim Carpenter/Kansas Reflector)

TOPEKA — Jeff Colyer announced Monday he was ending his campaign for Kansas governor and receiving treatment for prostate cancer.

Colyer’s departure from the race clears the way for Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt to win the GOP nomination for governor in next year’s primary election. Colyer endorsed Schmidt’s campaign.

“While I have always focused on helping others, for the next few weeks I am going to focus on my health,” Colyer said. “I was recently diagnosed with prostate cancer like my father and grandfather. After treatment, I am confident for a full recovery.”

Colyer, a former governor and state legislator, said Kansas for the past three years has “felt the pain” of Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly’s leadership, and that it was time for Republicans to rally behind Schmidt.

Schmidt said Colyer “is a longtime friend who has led an exemplary life of service.”

“I welcome and appreciate Gov. Colyer’s endorsement and agree that now is the time to come together to elect a Republican governor for Kansas next year,” Schmidt said.

Mike Kuckelman, chairman of the Kansas GOP, said Republicans are committed to restoring conservative leadership to the governor’s office.

“The Kansas Republican Party wishes Governor Jeff Colyer all the best as he and his family focus on his health,” Kuckelman said. “Governor Colyer has served Kansas well, and Kansas Republicans are very appreciative of his years of service.”

Colyer served as Sam Brownback’s lieutenant governor from 2011 to 2018 and took over the governor’s office when Brownback left for a position in the Trump administration. Former Secretary of State Kris Kobach defeated Colyer by 350 votes in the 2018 GOP primary, before losing to Kelly in the general election.

As governor, Colyer said, his accomplishments included increased transparency, paid parental leave for state employees, protecting religious liberties, advanced pro-life policies, mandated sexual harassment prevention, an upgraded credit outlook for the state, and transformation of the state-run Medicaid program.

“I am proud of what we have achieved,” Colyer said. “When I completed my term, we accomplished a lot: more Kansans working than ever before, record household income, record small business formation, and a budget surplus over $1.1 billion.”

Now that he has left the political battlefield, Colyer said, he will focus on his medical practice. He said he believes “God put us here to make a difference in people’s lives.” That includes providing medical services through an international nonprofit humanitarian organization.

“To my patients, I will continue to take care of you for years to come,” he said. “If I see you as a patient in the trauma bay, know that not only will I fight like hell for you but I also know first-hand how it feels to face adversity. I will continue my international work in warzones around the world.”

In a letter to campaign supporters, Colyer encouraged civic engagement.

“While some days it seems like the challenges we face are so daunting, we must continue to work towards new solutions,” he said. “What I have seen throughout my time in public service and this campaign is that there are more of us than you realize. In every community in this state, there are folks standing up and fighting for our values, for our state, and for Kansas’ future generations.

“Our best days are ahead of us. So don’t retreat. Stay involved, just like I’m going to, because our great country, our great state, and our great people are worth fighting for.”

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Sherman Smith
Sherman Smith

Sherman Smith is the Kansas Press Association’s journalist of the year. He has written award-winning news stories about the instability of the Kansas foster care system, misconduct by government officials, sexual abuse, technology, education, and the Legislature. He previously spent 16 years at the Topeka Capital-Journal. A lifelong Kansan, he graduated from Emporia State University in 2004 as a Shepherd Scholar with a degree in English.

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