Former U.S. Sen. Kassebaum endorses Democrat Kelly in Kansas governor’s race

Three-term GOP senator declines to back former assistant Schmidt

By: - October 3, 2022 12:12 pm
Former U.S. Sen. Nancy Kassebaum of Kansas endorsed for reelection Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly rather than Republican gubernatorial nominee Derek Schmidt, who previously worked for Kassebaum. (Thad Allton for Kansas Reflector)

Former U.S. Sen. Nancy Kassebaum of Kansas endorsed for reelection Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly rather than Republican gubernatorial nominee Derek Schmidt, who previously worked for Kassebaum. (Thad Allton for Kansas Reflector)

TOPEKA — Republican Nancy Kassebaum, the first woman to represent Kansas in the U.S. Senate and the daughter of GOP presidential nominee Alf Landon, endorsed Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly’s campaign for reelection.

On Monday, Kassebaum said Kelly’s bipartisanship and commitment to “solutions to real problems” of state government made her the better choice over Republican gubernatorial nominee Derek Schmidt or independent candidate Dennis Pyle.

“She continues to rise above partisan politics to do what is right for Kansas. She has the leadership qualities needed to continue leading the state,” Kassebaum said.

Schmidt, who serves as the state’s attorney general, worked as a legislative assistant to Kassebaum for six years in the 1990s when she was in the U.S. Senate. Kassebaum also was a co-chair of Schmidt’s initial campaign for attorney general in 2010.

Schmidt spokesman C.J. Grover said Schmidt was grateful for the opportunities afforded him by Kassebaum to engage in public service.

He admires her personally, despite their political differences, but has been disappointed with the fact that she has not supported a Republican nominee for Governor of Kansas during this century,” Grover said

Kassebaum also endorsed Kelly in her successful 2018 campaign against Republican candidate Kris Kobach. In terms of endorsing Kelly, Kassebaum’s 2022 pledge followed those of former Kansas GOP Govs. Bill Graves and Mike Hayden as well as former Republican U.S. Sen. Sheila Frahm.

Kelly said she appreciated backing of Kassebaum, who was in the U.S. Senate from 1979 to 1997. Landon, her father, served as Kansas governor and was nominated in 1936 by the Republican Party to challenge President Franklin Roosevelt.

Kassebaum was married to the late Republican U.S. Sen. Howard Baker, who was appointed U.S. ambassador to Japan by President George W. Bush. She was the first woman ever elected to a full term in the U.S. Senate without her husband having previously served in Congress

“Senator Kassebaum dedicated her entire career to serving the people of Kansas, and she’s a great role model to me,” Kelly said. “It’s an honor to have her on the team as we continue to grow our state and make Kansas the best place to live, work and raise a family.”

Schmidt’s endorsements include former President Donald Trump, former U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts, U.S. Sen. Roger Marshall, former U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and former Gov. Jeff Colyer. The late U.S. Sen. Bob Dole endorsed Schmidt prior to his death in December 2021.

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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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