Candidates remain hopeful as voting begins in Kansas

photo by: Peter Hancock

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Laura Kelly speaks with reporters after voting at her polling place in Topeka on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018.

TOPEKA – Candidates in two close races on Tuesday’s ballot expressed cautious optimism as they went into the polls to cast their own ballots.

Laura Kelly, the Democratic candidate for governor, cast her vote in central Topeka around 9 a.m., while Steve Watkins, the Republican candidate in the 2nd District congressional race, voted in southeast Topeka about an hour later.

“I think we’ve gotten our message out loud and clear, and I think from the crowds we’ve been attracting all over the state that it’s resonated and people are ready for a change,” Kelly told reporters outside the Topeka Civic Theater, where she voted.

Kelly is locked in a tight race with Republican Kris Kobach, who also voted around 9 a.m. in Lecompton. Also in the race, though, is independent candidate Greg Orman who, although low in recent polls, could end up being a significant factor in the race.

“I’m not particularly concerned about it,” Kelly said about Orman’s potential impact. “We factored that in before I got into the race, and we realized there was a path to victory whether Greg Orman was on the ballot or not.”

photo by: Peter Hancock

Steve Watkins, Republican candidate in the 2nd District congressional race, speaks with reporters after voting at his polling place in Topeka on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018.

Watkins, meanwhile, is competing against Democrat Paul Davis, a former state lawmaker from Lawrence, in a tight race that could help determine which political party controls Congress in January.

Watkins, an Army veteran and engineer, had never run for public office before. He told reporters after voting that he knew the campaign would be challenging, but he was proud of the work his campaign staff had done.

“I’m so proud of them. We’ve done everything that we can, and come 7 o’clock this evening, we will collapse, exhausted, and we will let the voters decide,” Watkins said.

Election officials across the country are expecting historically high voter turnout for a midterm election.

In Kansas, in addition to the races for Congress and governor, voters are also casting ballots for statewide offices, the Kansas House, judicial retentions, some county offices and a number of local ballot initiatives.


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