Dozens of Schmidts endorsed the reelection of Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly rather than election of Attorney General Derek Schmidt, the leading Republican in the 2022 governor’s race. (Photos by Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)
TOPEKA — Former state Rep. Jan Kessinger added his name Wednesday to a list of about 60 Republicans endorsing re-election of Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly.
Kessinger, who represented an Overland Park district in the House, followed in footsteps of his father and grandfather, who also served in the state House. In his youth, Kessinger was an intern for GOP U.S. Sen. Bob Dole in Washington, D.C.
Kessinger said he was impressed with the governor’s bipartisan work on securing funding for public schools and making investments in transportation infrastructure.
“She’s consistently brought together lawmakers, regardless of political party, proving she’s the bipartisan governor we need to rise to the occasion and continue to build on the successes and achievements of the last four years. We cannot afford to go backward,” he said.
“It’s been very hard for me to be able to say, ‘Okay, I’m going to endorse a Democrat for the highest office in the state.’ I am a lifelong Republican and I believe in the traditional Republican values,” he said.
Kessinger said it was important Kansas be led by a governor such as Kelly who concentrated on advancing solid public policy, including expansion of eligibility for Medicaid and reduction in the state’s 6.5% sales tax on groceries. A food sales tax cut also was recommended by Attorney General Derek Schmidt, the presumptive Republican Party nominee for governor.
Former President Donald Trump offered a “complete and total” endorsement of Schmidt’s campaign for governor, pointing to the attorney general’s views on the gun rights, border security and crime.
While Schmidt’s campaign hasn’t emphasized eagerness of Democrats to endorse his gubernatorial effort, the Kelly campaign’s strategy has been to highlight Republicans publicly supporting her re-election. This sense of bipartisanship was part of Kelly’s successful campaign in 2018 against GOP nominee Kris Kobach, who lost the general election after a narrow primary victory over Gov. Jeff Colyer.
Kessinger was defeated in the GOP primary in 2020 by Jane Dirks, who subsequently lost the general election to Democratic candidate Mari-Lynn Poskin.
He joined five other former Republican legislators who have endorsed Kelly’s re-election. In Kelly’s previous gubernatorial campaign, she was helped by former Republican Gov. Bill Graves and former GOP U.S. Sen. Nancy Kassebaum.
“Together,” Kelly said, “we are building a coalition that will continue to build off of the enormous, bipartisan progress we’ve made these past few years in order to continue delivering a better future in 2022.”
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