In Kansas, where one of the nation’s closest gubernatorial contests is taking place, the incumbent Democrat is emphasizing her record against a Republican trying to link her to President Biden.
To win re-election in a state where Donald Trump defeated Joe Biden 56% to 41% in 2020, Governor Laura Kelly hopes to reproduce the coalition of Democrats, independents, and defecting Republicans she attracted four years ago. She is one of four Democratic governors in states where Mr. Trump won the election.
As part of a larger rejection of Democrats, her Republican opponent, Attorney General Derek Schmidt, is attempting to rally the state’s conservatives to vote for him. In a race that pundits regard as a tossup, the contenders’ divergent strategies have caused them to mainly ignore one another.
Professor of political science at Washburn University in Topeka, Bob Beatty, remarked, “Two races are occurring.” Laura Kelly wants people to think of her as they go in on Election Day, and Republicans desire that these voters consider Joe Biden. Emerson College issued a survey in September that showed Ms. Kelly winning by a margin of error-compliant 45% to 43%.
This year, Kansas voters have demonstrated a readiness to move away from the right. A month after the U.S. Supreme Court overruled Roe v. Wade, a proposed state constitutional amendment to abolish safeguards for abortion rights failed 59% to 41% in August.
Last week, when early voting began, Ms. Kelly joined in a discussion at the National Guard installation in Topeka to examine measures to alleviate the difficulties faced by military families traveling between states.
After the event, she stated that since her first run for governor, she has been laser-focused on particular subjects, like education and infrastructure. She adds that she does not disregard national concerns but believes Kansans wants her to focus on what she can truly influence.
She has prioritized economic development initiatives, school financing, and the repeal of the state sales tax on food, which she signed into law in May after the Republican-controlled legislature approved it.
Mr. Schmidt, who has concentrated on campaigning in rural regions, has pushed to convince Republicans and moderates that his opponent is too liberal for the state of 3 million. Friday, he stated, we have a Joe Biden Democrat in the governor’s office. It is the mentality behind excessive expenditure, excessive regulation, a failure to support law enforcement, and a heavy-handed approach to resolving situations.
Mr. Schmidt has attacked Ms. Kelly for shutting down schools at the onset of the epidemic and failing to reduce taxes more in the face of high inflation. In his advertisements, he supports tougher border security and is against the transgender agenda. He has campaigned alongside Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and tweeted video support from President Trump.
Ms. Kelly has boasted support from both parties, including two former Republican governors. One of her campaign advertisements depicts her meeting with President Trump.
Others have her standing amid roads and sipping coffee at diner counters while proclaiming, “The middle is the best place to be.”
While Mr. Schmidt has attempted to link Ms. Kelly to Mr. Biden, she has linked him to former unpopular Republican governor Sam Brownback, who was in office in 2018.
Several registered Republicans said they had voted for Ms. Kelly in Johnson County, the most populated county in the state, which contains the politically contested suburbs of Kansas City.
“She has had to negotiate to bring people together, and I believe that is a valuable talent,” said Charles Bartlow, a former federal government administrator. His entire life has been dedicated to finding a patriot.
Some Kelly backers mentioned the budget cuts that preceded Mr. Brownback’s tax cuts as an issue they do not wish to rehash.
Mike Mann, a restaurant-operations company manager in Lawrence, Kansas, voted for Mr. Schmidt due to the status of the economy and his belief that Ms. Kelly should have loosened pandemic limitations on schools sooner.
Several people stated they supported Mr. Schmidt based purely on their opposition to abortion. “I admire the governor but disagree with her position on abortion. Otherwise, I would have voted for her,” said Lawrence nurse practitioner William Sherrill. His wife, Regina Sherrill, stated that the outcomes of the August election prompted the couple to vote in this election.
The race’s outcome may hinge on the number of votes cast for Dennis Pyle, an independent state senator widely regarded as one of the most conservative legislators in Kansas. He got 3% support in the Emerson survey, which might erode Mr. Schmidt’s support on the right.
Mr. Pyle said he did not expect to be liable for Ms. Kelly’s victory. He stated He was responsible for Dennis Pyle’s victory. He also claims he is the lone conservative candidate in the contest.