Guest Commentary

Spoiler in Kansas governor’s race wasn’t me — it was voters who stayed home

Tyler Ruzich
Tyler Ruzich

Think of 2,276 votes — 2,276 Kansans who felt so disheartened by the Kansas political system that they felt it was necessary to vote for a radical change in the politics of the Heartland by voting for me, a 17-year-old.

Then think of 343 votes — 343 Kansans who could have single-handedly changed the results of the Kansas Republican primary by advancing incumbent Gov. Jeff Colyer to the general election over Secretary of State Kris Kobach.

With these two numbers alone, many of us want to ask “Which candidate was the spoiler?” or “Who is responsible?

It is clear that there are many questions that remain unanswered and many factors that remain unconsidered. Yet many who have jumped to conclusions have made specious claims that frame me as an adolescent Ralph Nader.

Maybe it’s time to clear the air and hear both sides of the story. So, without bitterness or petulance; here are my two cents.

From day one, I wanted to make it clear that I was the alternative to Kobach and Colyer, and that I would stand for a moderate and centrist approach to the politics of the state of Kansas. It was clear from the beginning that I was going to have a hard time convincing ultra-conservatives to get behind my more moderate campaign.

For example, unlike Colyer who has been called the “victim” of my “election spoiling,” I had received an F rating from the National Rifle Association, while he received not only an A rating but the full endorsement of the NRA.

So did my presence in the primary take away the votes of staunch Second Amendment supporters from Colyer? Probably not.

On abortion, I was open in my support of a woman’s right to choose in most circumstances. Had I taken a much more conservative approach to abortion and other issues, I would have definitely made a bigger impact. But instead I believed in putting people before party.

Additionally, while one could suggest that I would have been better off supporting the more moderate Jim Barnett, if I gave all of my votes to Barnett, it still would not have had an impact on the winner. So if it was so important to stop Kobach, why did The Star’s editorial board endorse Barnett instead of Colyer?

But to be honest, it will always be easy to place the blame on me, despite the fact that the primary turnout was only 27 percent. While some would consider that 27 percent turnout great news, they don’t pay enough attention to the fact that it means 73 percent of Kansans were silent on election night.

So who’s the real difference maker: me or the almost three-quarters of Kansans who didn’t even vote?

While we could spend days pointing fingers and expressing our frustrations over the primary results, there is still a general election in less than 100 days. So instead of creating even more division and telling thousands of Kansans that they made the wrong choice in August, let’s shift our dialogue to something more positive and optimistic.

Because who knows? Maybe state Sen. Laura Kelly can get Kansas growing again. Maybe Kobach could bring much needed leadership back to Topeka, or maybe independent candidate Greg Orman could be a much-needed a breath of fresh air.

We all must keep an open mind in every election and consider both sides of the issues. We shouldn’t focus solely on who someone should or should not vote for, or who does or does not deserve to be on the ballot. Rather, we should encourage all people to participate in the political process, whether as a voter or even as a candidate.

Tyler Ruzich is senior at Shawnee Mission North. He ran in the 2018 primary for the Republican nomination for Kansas governor.