Editorial: Is Kris Kobach what Kansas wants in its next governor?

The race to replace Gov. Sam Brownback is officially on. Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach said Thursday he’s running for the state’s top job in 2018.

Other candidates have announced plans to run, and there are likely to be more entrants into the race, but Kobach’s decision is a clear inflection point: He’ll be an early favorite.

There will be plenty of time to judge Kobach’s candidacy. For now, the announcement provides an opportunity for Kansans to think about the challenges awaiting the new governor and the standards all candidates should be held to in the months ahead.

▪ Kansans will want a problem-solving governor, not a hyper-partisan ideologue.

Brownback is by far the most polarizing governor in modern Kansas history. His far-right worldview has influenced every decision he has made.

That hasn’t served Kansas well. For most of the state’s history, governors have pursued compromise and bipartisanship: Gov. Bill Graves, a Republican, is a good example. Gov. John Carlin, a Democrat, worked with Republican legislators during his time in office.

Some governors have struggled, of course, including Gov. Mike Hayden and Gov. Joan Finney. Even their problems, though, were less about Washington-based partisan ideology than practical concerns such as property valuation and school finance.

Kansans have had quite enough of my-way-or-the-highway thinking. In 2018, candidates must display a willingness to compromise.

▪ Kansans will want a governor focused on their concerns, not on a national audience.

Brownback’s presidential aspirations were evident early on and quickly became a distraction.

Many Kansans believe his unwavering devotion to the state’s failed tax experiment was based more on his White House dreams than the needs of his home state.

Voters should reject any candidate who prefers airtime on Fox News or MSNBC to face time with constituents at the Olathe Rotary Club or the Kansas State Fair.

▪ Public schools must remain a primary focus.

In 2016, voters spoke clearly: Quality public schools are essential. Kansans will not support a gubernatorial candidate who wants to dismantle public schools.

▪ Voters will reject any appeal to prejudice or exclusion.

Commonsense Kansans know the state will grow only if it’s viewed as a place that embraces diversity. They’ll want a governor who understands the 21st century, not one who seeks to return the state to the 1800s.

Arguments over guns and bathrooms will distract Kansans from more urgent issues such as growth, taxes and safety. Kansas voters also know that immigration is largely a national issue.

▪ Above all else, Kansans will want candidates to show they have a firm grasp on reality.

For the past five years, the state has drawn national headlines for its budget problems. It has endured lengthy legislative sessions and two major tax increases, along with credit downgrades, mediocre job growth and political dysfunction.

No one will want to go through this again. Candidates for governor — especially Kris Kobach — should keep that in mind.