Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly, campaigning against Republican Attorney General Derek Schmidt, said her second-term agenda included end of state’s food sales tax, tax relief for the elderly and back-to-school sales tax holiday. (Photos by Sherman Smith and Thad Allton/Kansas Reflector)
TOPEKA — Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly and Republican challenger Derek Schmidt plan to take part in two campaign debates and a question-and-answer forum over the next five weeks.
The first on the calendar would be the election forum hosted by the Kansas Chamber Sept. 7 in Olathe, in which the candidates appear alone with a moderator on a stage to answer a series of questions.
The next would be the colorful debate Sept. 10 hosted by WIBW Radio and Kansas Radio Networks at the Kansas State Fair in Hutchinson.
The other appearance would be the debate broadcast by Kansas City PBS television and organized by the Johnson County Bar Association on Oct. 5.
Kelly, who was elected in 2018 and seeks reelection to another four-year term, said she would welcome participation by independent gubernatorial candidate Dennis Pyle, but it wasn’t clear if the conservative state senator from Hiawatha could be part of those three events.
Pyle, who has urged Kansans not to vote for Kelly or Schmidt, was expected to draw more support from the GOP nominee than the governor. Exclusion from the prominent campaign events would limit his ability to gain traction ahead of the November election.
“Debates are vital to the democratic process and every voter deserves to go to the polls knowing where the candidates stand on the issues,” said Lauren Fitzgerald, a spokeswoman for Kelly’s campaign.
She said Kelly looked forward to opportunities to speak to Kansans about funding of K-12 public schools, work on the state’s transportation infrastructure and “growing the Kansas economy and strengthening our workforce.”
C.J. Grover, spokesperson for Schmidt’s campaign, said the attorney general’s preference would be to engage in more one-on-one debates.
He indicated the Schmidt campaign would propose dates for joint appearances with Kelly, but didn’t mention potential of including Pyle. There is potential of gubernatorial debates hosted by Kansas television stations, the Schmidt campaign said.
“We challenge her to do more real debates where she will have to give an account for the policies that have made the lives of Kansans more difficult every single day,” Grover said. “Laura Kelly cannot run from Kansas voters’ questions.”
Schmidt, who has served Kansas as attorney general since 2011, previously was a member of the Kansas Senate with Kelly and Pyle.
Seth Cordell, the Libertarian Party’s nominee for governor, said he was interested in participating in forums and debates in the general election.
Kelly’s campaign referred to the Kansas Chamber event as a debate, but it takes the form of stand alone interview with Alan Cobb, president and chief executive officer of the state business lobbying organization. In those gatherings, candidates are given a series of questions about 10 minutes before taking the stage.
The Johnson County Bar Association and Kansas State Fair events would be conducted in debate formats.
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