Former Republican Gov. Bill Graves endorses Democrat Laura Kelly

photo by: Richard Gwin

In this file photo from Jan. 10, 2011, former Kansas Gov. Bill Graves is pictured in the Kansas House chamber at the Statehouse in Topeka.

TOPEKA – Former Republican Gov. Bill Graves on Tuesday formally endorsed Democrat Laura Kelly in the 2018 race for Kansas governor.

“Laura Kelly is the only Democrat I have ever endorsed for public office,” Graves said in a statement released by the Kelly campaign. “And the reason I’m doing that now is because I believe so much is at stake in the state of Kansas. I have known Laura for over thirty years. She has all the qualities and all the capabilities that we are looking for to lead the state during this difficult time and to reestablish the state to what it once was.”

Independent candidate Greg Orman’s campaign was quick to point out, however, that Graves had in fact endorsed at least four Democratic candidates for the Kansas House in 2016.

Graves, 65, was known as a moderate Republican when he served as governor from 1995 to 2003. Before that he served two four-year terms as secretary of state.

His endorsement of Kelly was an indicator of just how divided the Kansas GOP could be this year over its nominee, current Secretary of State Kris Kobach, an ardent conservative who has built a national profile for his hard-line views against illegal immigration and his endorsement of restrictive voting laws.

photo by: Associated Press

Kansas state Sen. Laura Kelly, D-Topeka, speaks to reporters outside her home polling place after voting in the Democratic primary, Tuesday, Aug. 7, 2018, in Topeka, Kan. (AP Photo/John Hanna)

Republicans have been trying hard to keep moderate Republican voters from crossing party lines in protest over Kobach’s nomination. Incumbent Gov. Jeff Colyer, who lost narrowly to Kobach in the Aug. 7 GOP primary, has publicly endorsed Kobach and issued several calls for party unity.

That, however, hasn’t stopped a number of prominent moderate Republicans from endorsing Kelly, including Sen. Barbara Bollier, R-Mission Hills, and Rep. Joy Koesten, R-Leawood.

Those endorsements, however, have come with consequences. Bollier was removed from her position as vice chair of the Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee because of her support for Kelly and a Democratic candidate in the 3rd District congressional race, while Koesten lost her bid for another term in the House when she was defeated in the GOP primary.

Meanwhile, House Majority Leader Don Hineman, R-Dighton, has even warned fellow GOP House members not to publicly endorse anyone other than Republican candidates.

Other moderate Republicans endorsing Kelly include former Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger, of Lawrence, and former Senate President Dick Bond, of Overland Park.


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