Elections

Another former GOP governor of Kansas just endorsed Dem Laura Kelly over Kris Kobach

A second former Republican governor of Kansas is spurning Kris Kobach’s run for the office in favor of Democrat Laura Kelly’s candidacy.

Former Kansas Gov. Mike Hayden, who served from 1987 to 1991, announced on Thursday that he is endorsing Kelly’s run for governor. He becomes the latest major GOP official along with former Gov. Bill Graves and former U.S. Sen. Nancy Kassebaum to support the state senator from Topeka.

Every living ex-governor of Kansas — except for Republican Sam Brownback — now supports Kelly over Kobach.

“After eight years of crisis, we cannot elect someone who wants to repeat the disasters of the past,” Hayden said in a statement. “Kris Kobach has promised to do just that — risking the future of our great state.”

Kelly is running against Kobach, the Republican secretary of state, and independent Greg Orman in the November election.

“This is a critical year for the state of Kansas,” Hayden said. “No one can sit on the sidelines in this election.”

Hayden said “after much thought and analyzing” he felt that Orman could not win the governor’s race.

“While he may have something to offer the state of Kansas, this is not the year. This year, we must come together to support Laura Kelly,” Hayden said. “I’ve been a registered Republican for over 50 years. I seldom vote for Democratic candidates, but in this race, I strongly support Laura Kelly.”

Kobach’s campaign has been critical of former GOP officials announcing their opposition to his candidacy since he narrowly beat Gov. Jeff Colyer in the August GOP primary. Some elected GOP officials have also been reluctant to say they support Kobach, while other more conservative members are ardent supporters.

Kobach criticized Hayden in a statement Friday morning.

“Hayden was a tax and spend liberal who was defeated by a Democrat who wanted to cut his high taxes,” Kobach said. “I would not want Hayden’s endorsement. It would contradict my message of reducing taxes.”

A spokeswoman for Brownback did not respond to an email about whether the former governor, who now serves in President Donald Trump’s administration, plans to make an endorsement in the race.

Kelly has support from all of the living Democrats to hold the governor’s office.

Former Democratic Gov. Kathleen Sebelius helped recruit Kelly into the race and has been one of her most vocal supporters. Former Democratic Gov. Mark Parkinson contributed $2,000 to her campaign in June.

And while former Democratic Gov. John Carlin backed Kelly’s Democratic rival Josh Svaty ahead of the primary, the former governor published a piece on his blog Tuesday endorsing Kelly over Kobach and Orman for the general election.

A leading Kansas GOP official pointed to Hayden’s close ties to Sebelius in reaction to the endorsement. Hayden served as Wildlife and Parks secretary under both Graves and Sebelius.

“A Sebelius cabinet member endorses Sebelius’s choice for governor,” Kansas GOP executive director Jim Joice said in a text message. “This is news?”

The Star’s Bryan Lowry contributed to this report.
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