Candidates make final pleas in advance of Election Day

photo by: Associated Press

Candidates in major races on the Kansas general election ballot are pictured in file photos from fall 2018. From left, top to bottom, they are: Republican Kris Kobach and Democrat Laura Kelly in the Kansas governor's race, Republican Steve Watkins and Democrat Paul Davis in the Kansas 2nd District congressional race, and Republican Scott Schwab and Democrat Brian McClendon in the Kansas secretary of state race.

TOPEKA – The major candidates in this week’s general election spent much of Monday crisscrossing Kansas as part of their last-minute get-out-the-vote drives.

Voters in Kansas are selecting a new governor and at least one new member of the U.S. House. Also on the ballot are all the other statewide offices, all 125 members of the Kansas House, and one state senator in a special election in southeast Kansas.

In addition, seven of the state’s Court of Appeals judges are up for retention, and in Douglas County, three district court judges are up for retention.

There are also numerous ballot initiatives in local communities throughout the state, including one in Douglas County where voters are being asked to approve a quarter-cent sales tax increase to fund mental health services in the county.

Voter turnout is expected to be high throughout the state. As of 8 a.m. Monday, more than 374,000 votes had already been cast, either by mail or at in-person advance polling locations, Bryan Caskey, the state’s director of elections, said in a tweet.

In the race for governor, Democrat Laura Kelly spent Monday campaigning with two former governors, Republican Bill Graves and Democrat Kathleen Sebelius, with stops in Salina, Hutchinson, Newton, Wichita and Andover.

Republican Kris Kobach, meanwhile, spent Monday focusing on the Wichita area, campaigning with his lieutenant governor running mate, Wichita businessman Willis “Wink” Hartman.

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Find more information about these candidates and more in the Journal-World’s voter guide.

Polls have shown an extremely tight contest. On Monday, the independent handicapping website Sabato’s Crystal Ball, a project of the University of Virginia, put it in the “leans Democrat” category, while other rating websites such as Cook’s Political Report were still calling it a toss-up.

Kelly is a state senator from Topeka who has made funding public schools, expanding Medicaid and investing in the state’s infrastructure her top priorities in the campaign.

Kobach is the current secretary of state. He has focused his campaign on promises to cut taxes and state spending and to clamp down on illegal immigration in Kansas.

In the 2nd District congressional race in eastern Kansas, which includes Lawrence, Democrat Paul Davis was scheduled to be in Leavenworth, Pittsburg and Topeka, with a final stop in Lawrence.

photo by: Peter Hancock

Kansas Secretary of State candidate Brian McClendon, left, and 2nd District congressional candidate Paul Davis, both Lawrence Democrats, meet up at the Shawnee County Democratic Party headquarters on Monday, Nov. 5, 2018, to make last-minute phone calls in advance of Tuesday’s general elections.

Davis is locked in a tight race with Republican Steve Watkins, a political newcomer who has received substantial support from GOP super PACs as well as personal campaign appearances by President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and U.S. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.

The race is seen as potentially pivotal nationally, as Democrats try to win back control of the U.S. House and Republicans work to hold onto their majority.

Watkins, a military veteran and engineer, has also received substantial support from the Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC with strong ties to U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan.

A spokesman for CLF said Monday that it spent $3.7 million on advertising in the 2nd District, and it has maintained a staff of interns and volunteers who have been running door-to-door and telephone campaigns to get Republican voters out to the polls.

The group also spent another $2.6 million in advertising in the neighboring 3rd District of Kansas City and its suburbs, where incumbent Republican Rep. Kevin Yoder is defending his seat against a strong challenge from Democrat Sharice Davids.

Davis, a Lawrence attorney, is a former Kansas House Minority Leader and the Democratic Party’s candidate for governor in 2014. He has also received substantial support from the Kansas Democratic Party and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

A DCCC spokeswoman said in an email that it spent about $5.85 million in the 2nd and 3rd districts combined.

Watkins has focused his campaign on promises to cut taxes and secure the U.S. border with Mexico; Davis has focused on promises to be bipartisan and protect access to health care, Social Security and Medicare.

Another closely watched race this year is for the office of secretary of state. Kansas hasn’t elected a non-Republican to that office since 1948, but Lawrence Democrat Brian McClendon has been running hard for the office. He faces stiff competition from Olathe Republican Scott Schwab, the current speaker pro tem of the Kansas House.

In the race for state treasurer, Sen. Marci Francisco, another Lawrence Democrat, is trying to unseat incumbent Republican Jake LaTurner, who was appointed to the position in 2017 after former Treasurer Ron Estes won a special election for the 4th District congressional seat.

There is also an open race for insurance commissioner, in which Republican Sen. Vicki Schmidt, of Topeka, is facing Democrat Nathaniel McLaughlin, of Kansas City, Kan.


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