Colyer still undecided about future after leaving Kansas governor’s office

photo by: Associated Press

Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer, along with his running mate Tracey Mann, talk to reporters in Topeka, Kan., Wednesday, Aug. 8, 2018, a day after his primary race against Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach. (Travis Heying/The Wichita Eagle via AP)

TOPEKA — Gov. Jeff Colyer said Tuesday that he plans to spend Thanksgiving with his entire family at the governor’s mansion in Topeka this week. But beyond that, he said he is still undecided about what his own future holds.

“Don’t know yet. Really don’t,” Colyer said, speaking to reporters after receiving the official Cedar Crest Christmas tree and wreath on Tuesday.

Colyer, 58, has been in office less than a year. He inherited the job when former Gov. Sam Brownback resigned in January. Before that, he had been the longest-serving lieutenant governor in state history, coming into office as Brownback’s running mate in January 2011.

But Colyer lost his bid in the Aug. 7 primary for the Republican nomination to run for a full term of his own, which means on Jan. 14, he will hand over the keys to the governor’s office to Democratic Gov.-elect Laura Kelly.

Outside of politics, Colyer is a plastic surgeon with a practice in Johnson County. In that role, he has also volunteered on several missions with the International Medical Corps, a group that sends doctors and health care workers into war zones and refugee camps around the world.

“I will continue working on my international work, working in war zones. I have always done that and will continue to do that,” Colyer said.

“I’ll still be involved in politics in Kansas, and we’ll see what happens,” he added.

Even before he was elected lieutenant governor, Colyer had been a major player in Kansas Republican politics for years.

In 2002, he ran unsuccessfully for the GOP nomination in the 3rd District congressional race, losing to Adam Taff who went on to lose to the incumbent at the time, Democrat Dennis Moore.

Four years later, he was elected to the Kansas House where he served one term and was then elected to the Kansas Senate. He had served only half a term in the Senate, though, when he was tapped to be Brownback’s running mate in 2010.

As lieutenant governor, Colyer was the architect of the Brownback administration’s plan to overhaul the state’s Medicaid program into a privatized managed care system now known as KanCare.

But by the time he inherited the governor’s office this year, many believed he was handicapped politically by the leftover baggage of the Brownback administration, whose controversial tax policies — later repealed by the Legislature — had resulted in years of revenue shortfalls that prompted massive spending cuts for education, highways, the state pension system and other programs.

Still, looking back at his brief tenure as governor, Colyer said he was proud of what the state had accomplished in that time.

“One is, the economy is completely different than when we started,” he said. “We have a 3.3 percent unemployment rate. More Kansans are working today than at any time in history.”

Beyond that, Colyer pointed to the state’s improved budget condition and increased funding for public schools as major accomplishments during his administration, even though that was largely due to the Legislature’s reversal of the Brownback-era tax policies.

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