How a key endorsement could impact a top Kansas political race

Capitol Bureau

TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) — Former President Donald Trump announced that he’s endorsing Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt in the upcoming gubernatorial election. However, political experts say the endorsement could go “either way” as Schmidt prepares to face off against incumbent Governor Laura Kelly.

Dr. Bob Beatty, a political analyst in Topeka, told Kansas Capitol Bureau that the endorsement could appeal to more conservative groups in western Kansas. Still, it may not sway many voters in the eastern part of the state.

“Northeast Kansas, Johnson County, a lot of voters, a lot of Republican moderate voters. We know they’re not big Trump fans,” Beatty said. “On the other hand, we know that western Kansas has a lot of big Trump supporters. Derek Schmidt has to do that balancing act.”

A spokesperson for Gov. Kelly’s campaign responded to the endorsement in an email Monday, saying they’re not surprised and recalling the time the governor met with the former president to keep the state’s meatpacking plants open during the early days of the pandemic.

“[She’s] proud of the work she did with President Trump to keep Kansas meatpacking plants open during the pandemic’s early days … Governor Kelly will work with leaders whether they endorse her political campaign or not — and that’s what Kansans appreciate about her.”

Lauren Fitzgerald, Gov. Kelly campaign spokesperson

Both candidates have promised change. The Attorney General pointed to moving the state “forward” in an interview with KSNT News shortly after the announcement of his political run. And, both have also pushed for a stronger economy for the state. Just last year, the governor promised to eliminate the state’s hefty food sales tax, saving money for low-income families.

Beatty said the upcoming trace could be a tossup, with pretty slim margins even with Trump’s endorsement. He said the race would come down to Kansas-based issues and the economy.

Trump’s endorsement didn’t go far for former Republican gubernatorial candidate Kris Kobach. In the last general election, Gov. Kelly won with a 5% lead, and third party candidate Greg Orman took a decent portion of the vote, with 6.5%.

“Where will those voters go? The voters that voted for Greg Orman could be decisive. I think it will be close,” Beatty said.

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