Editorial: Laura Kelly for governor

photo by: Journal-World Photo Illustration

Lawrence Journal-World Editorial

Kansas voters should elect Democrat Laura Kelly of Topeka as their next governor.

Kelly offers the pragmatic, bipartisan approach the state needs in its highest office, especially if it is to continue its course of economic recovery.

What Kansas doesn’t need is a return to the tenure of former Gov. Sam Brownback, whose tax-cuts experiment pushed the state to the brink of financial collapse before a coalition of moderate lawmakers, including Kelly, banded together to repeal the policies in the spring of 2017.

During the five years the tax cuts were in place, Kansas income and job growth lagged well behind other states. The state ran a deficit of more than $1 billion and tax receipts fell below expectations for a record number of consecutive months. Services such as Moody’s and S&P Global downgraded the state’s credit ratings. A report by the Pew Foundation showed Kansas had the smallest cash reserves — two days’ worth — of any state.

By any objective measure, the tax-cut experiment failed. Yet, Kelly’s Republican opponent, Secretary of State Kris Kobach, supports re-implementing the Brownback tax cuts, only this time with deeper reductions in funding for K-12 education, higher education, transportation, health care and more.

Kelly offers a vision more in line with the centrist governors who preceded Brownback — Democrat Kathleen Sebelius and Republican Bill Graves, both of whom have endorsed her.

Kelly has pledged to increase investment in K-12 and higher education. She plans to spur growth in rural areas of the state through infrastructure improvements, including increased investment in transportation and broadband access. She supports greater government transparency and would work to lower the cost to access open records in Kansas.

Kelly supports expanding Medicaid to extend coverage to 150,000 uninsured Kansans, with reimbursement from the federal government under the Affordable Care Act, reversing the stance taken by Brownback and current Gov. Jeff Colyer.

Kelly would reinstate the Equal Protection Clause put in place by Sebelius to protect LGBTQ state employees from discrimination. She would repeal a law giving adoption agencies the freedom to discriminate against families, particularly same-sex couples.

Kelly has served in the Senate for nearly 14 years. For most of her tenure, Democrats have accounted for fewer than 10 of the 40 senators, forcing Kelly to forge alliances and work across the aisle with moderate Republicans to be effective. Her record of bipartisanship is underscored by the more than two dozen current and former Republican lawmakers who have endorsed her.

Her legislative experience gives Kelly a decisive nod over independent candidate Greg Orman of Olathe, whose 2018 gubernatorial campaign hasn’t gained traction despite a strong run as an independent for the U.S. Senate in 2014. Polling shows Orman running a distant third to Kelly and Kobach, who are locked in a dead heat.

Kelly is a veteran lawmaker who knows how to build coalitions to act on behalf of Kansans. Kobach is a far-right ideologue who has risen to prominence by advocating voter suppression tactics and stoking false fears about immigration.

This decision shouldn’t be as close as polling suggests. Kelly is the crystal clear choice to be Kansas’ next governor.


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