Federal, state GOP politicians pledge support for Schmidt in governor’s race

Withdrawal of former Gov. Colyer opens clearer path for attorney general

By: - September 1, 2021 2:31 pm
New polling shows Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly with a slight edge over Attorney General Derek Schmidt, left, in a likely 2022 gubernatorial showdown following former Gov. Jeff Colyer's withdrawal from the GOP primary. (Screen capture/Kansas Reflector)

New polling shows Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly with a slight edge over Attorney General Derek Schmidt, left, in a likely 2022 gubernatorial showdown following former Gov. Jeff Colyer’s withdrawal from the GOP primary. (Screen capture/Kansas Reflector)

TOPEKA — U.S. Rep. Tracey Mann was an enthusiastic early supporter of former Gov. Jeff Colyer’s campaign for the Republican Party’s nomination for governor.

Mann, who was handpicked three years ago to serve as Colyer’s lieutenant governor, declared in June that Colyer was the type of conservative fighter to put Kansas in the “best position to get a conservative” elected to replace Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly. His expression of loyalty meant he didn’t back Attorney General Derek Schmidt, who was Colyer’s primary rival for the GOP nomination.

Then, Colyer ended his campaign Monday to focus on treatment of prostate cancer.

U.S. Rep. Tracey Mann, the 1st District Republican, switched his 2022 gubernatorial endorsement to Attorney General Derek Schmidt after former Gov. Jeff Colyer dropped out of the race. (Tim Carpenter/Kansas Reflector)
U.S. Rep. Tracey Mann, 1st District Republican, switched his 2022 gubernatorial endorsement to Attorney General Derek Schmidt after former Gov. Jeff Colyer dropped out. (Tim Carpenter/Kansas Reflector)

Mann pragmatically responded by endorsing Schmidt along with U.S. Reps. Ron Estes and Jake LaTurner, all Republicans. A collection of GOP members of the Kansas Legislature also have jumped on the Schmidt bandwagon.

“The sunflower state needs Derek Schmidt — a proven leader who has successfully fought for Kansas values in court and held liberal administrations in Washington accountable for their gross overreach,” said Mann in a statement joined by LaTurner and Estes. “He’s rightfully earned the support of law enforcement, pro-life advocates and everyday citizens across Kansas.”

U.S. Sen. Roger Marshall, who was elected to the Senate in 2020, endorsed Colyer in April. In the 2020 Senate campaign, Colyer was among well-known Republicans siding with Marshall.

Schmidt, who bagged gubernatorial endorsements from Republican stalwarts Bob Dole and Pat Roberts, responded to Marshall’s maneuver by declaring respect for the senator’s decision to abide by a reciprocal endorsement-for-endorsement deal with Colyer. He also referred to Colyer’s loss to Kris Kobach in the GOP primary for governor in 2018. In the general election, Kobach was defeated by Kelly.

Gov. Laura Kelly said she hoped former Gov. Jeff Colyer had a swift recovery from a bout with cancer than prompted him to drop out of the 2022 governor's race. (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)
Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly said she hoped former Gov. Jeff Colyer made a swift recovery from a diagnosis of cancer that led him to leave the 2022 GOP primary contest for governor. (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)

“But Kansas Republicans need to move forward,” Schmidt said, “not return to the failures of 2018 when our incumbent governor (Colyer) was too weak to keep the nomination of our own party much less stop Laura Kelly.”

Meanwhile, Kansas Senate President Ty Masterson, of Andover, said Wednesday he would place faith in Schmidt’s campaign. Masterson said Schmidt worked as attorney general to defend conservative principals and the rule of law.

“As governor, I trust he will continue to fight for our freedoms and put Kansans first,” Masterson said.

House Majority Leader Dan Hawkins, a Wichita Republican, said he appreciated Schmidt’s perspective on values and individual liberties. He said Schmidt demonstrated that sentiment by challenging Kelly during the COVID-19 pandemic and standing up to former President Barack Obama.

“Derek has been the leader we’ve needed. Now is the time for all Republicans to rally behind Derek and defeat Laura Kelly,” Hawkins said.

In terms of Colyer’s exit from the 2022 campaign for governor, Kelly said she had policy differences with Colyer but was thinking primarily about his health.

“Dr. Colyer and I may have our disagreements,” Kelly said. “But one thing we can all agree on — the need to defeat cancer. Wishing him a quick recovery.”

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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.

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