In the wake of Sam Brownback’s consequential tenure as governor, Kansas stands at a crucial juncture.
Here are our picks for the state in Tuesday’s midterm election:
Governor: Laura Kelly. The Star enthusiastically endorses the Democrat over Republican Kris Kobach and independent Greg Orman. Kansas faces a difficult road back from Brownback’s seven years in office that resulted in deep cuts to vital state programs as the then-governor pursued his much-ballyhooed tax “experiment.”
Kelly, a veteran state senator from Topeka, would be a welcome respite from those ruinous years. She is measured and thoughtful, and that means she’s the opposite of today’s flame-throwing politicians. She also is experienced in the legislative process with a track record of working across the aisle. That’s precisely the skill set she’ll need to be a successful governor.
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Kelly’s priorities make sense: funding public schools to satisfy the state Supreme Court order and ensuring that state services designed to protect vulnerable children are adequately funded.
Kobach’s candidacy is easily dismissed. He represents another four years of Brownback’s policies with his promises of tax cuts and more reductions in services to pay for those cuts. Sound familiar? He’d also bring Trumpian-style politics to the state with his relentless pursuit of those who immigrated to this country illegally, whom he demeaningly refers to as “aliens.”
Orman can be impressive, and we appreciate his efforts to chart a third way forward for Kansas. That said, the state can ill afford to gamble at such a pivotal time on the uncertain politics of an independent governor who has never held elective office.
3rd District Congress: Sharice Davids. The Star endorses the Democrat in this pivotal race in part because she will help provide a check on President Donald Trump, who continues to defy democratic norms. Incumbent Republican Kevin Yoder has failed to speak out against the president on anything close to a regular basis.
Yes, Davids lacks political experience, but she is focused on developing pragmatic policy solutions. She’s also intelligent and thoughtful, and she doesn’t pretend to have all the answers to the nation’s problems. That’s not a bad thing.
2nd District Congress: Paul Davis. This may have been the easiest call the editorial board made this season. Davis is a former Kansas House minority leader who made an impressive run for governor in 2014, coming close to knocking off Brownback.
That legislative experience will serve him well as he seeks to represent a massive district that stretches from the Nebraska border through Topeka and into southeast Kansas. He takes a centrist approach to policy-making, which is a good fit for this district.
Republican Steve Watkins is a train wreck of a candidate whose claims about some key aspects of his career appear false and whose candidacy has been bankrolled largely by his father.
Secretary of state: Brian McClendon. Kansas’ next secretary of state will follow Kobach in this important office. As we pointed out, the state is lucky to have a candidate of McClendon’s caliber. He is a Lawrence native, a KU electrical engineering grad and Google Earth software designer.
McClendon is committed to making voting easier and more efficient. To show just what he can do, he developed the online voter registration site KSvotes.org where voters can register online with their cellphones — and order advance ballots to boot. McClendon is committed to using the office to actually promote voter registration and voting. That seems obvious, but it would be a huge upgrade.
Republican Scott Schwab pledges to continue doing job the way Kobach has done it.
Insurance commissioner: Vicki Schmidt. As a respected 14-year state senator, Schmidt is the choice over political newcomer Nathaniel McLaughlin.
Schmidt, a moderate, has a reputation for working across the aisle and has served on a bipartisan committee overseeing Kansas’ health care program for the poor. She supports expanding Medicaid, which Kansas has unwisely refused to do.