Who's running for Kansas governor (and more) in 2022? A look at what to expect in next year's election.
The 2022 election landscape in Kansas is beginning to take shape.
Democrat Gov. Laura Kelly will try to beat a strong challenge from Attorney General Derek Schmidt. U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran has already earned the backing of former President Donald Trump. And controversial former Secretary of State Kris Kobach is trying to make a comeback.
Here is a look at who is — and is not — running for office in 2022.
Laura Kelly embarking on re-election bid
Kelly announced her plans to seek a second term in December, although it is expected that holding on to the governor's mansion will an uphill battle. In the past two decades, a Kansas Democrat has never won a statewide election in a year where their party has held the White House.
A former state senator, Kelly prevailed in 2018 over Kobach, who had bested former Gov. Jeff Colyer in the Republican primary.
Kelly's first two years in office have been characterized by rebuilding state government after the austerity enacted by Gov. Sam Brownback’s administration, though she hasn't shied away from confronting the Republican-controlled Legislature, most notably during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The main change for Kelly is her running mate, after former Lt. Gov. Lynn Rogers was appointed as state treasurer. The governor tapped Commerce Secretary David Toland to take his place weeks later.
Attorney General Derek Schmidt will challenge in governor's race
Kelly's main foe will be Schmidt, who announced in March that he would seek the governor's mansion after three terms in office as attorney general.
"The big picture is we want Kansas to be a place of opportunity, where everybody can see their dreams — whatever that may be," Schmidt said in an interview shortly after announcing. "That requires, first and foremost, for government to operate effectively and efficiently and to not be in the way."
His campaign has already targeted the Kelly administration for its handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and has highlighted Schmidt's lawsuits against the Biden and Obama administrations.
Who isn't running for governor in 2022?
Schmidt's path to the nomination got significantly easier after Colyer, who served as governor in 2018 after Brownback stepped down for a job in the Trump administration, announced he was diagnosed with prostate cancer and dropped out of the 2022 race.
Experts say that development will be a major boost to Schmidt's odds of winning next year.
"This is momentous news in Kansas politics," Bob Beatty, professor of political science at Washburn University, said earlier this month. "It essentially restarts the governor's race from square one, and on that square is a huge front runner, which is Derek Schmidt."
Virtually every other major Republican figure has rallied around Schmidt. House Speaker Ron Ryckman, R-Olathe, passed on a run earlier this year and endorsed the attorney general. Wichita oilman Wink Hartman, who was rumored to be considering a bid after Colyer's exit, has also opted not to campaign.
And while former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is a constant source of intrigue, his sights appear to be set on the White House. Pompeo endorsed Schmidt earlier this month and has formed a political action committee ahead of a likely presidential bid.
What about Kris Kobach?
Kobach, the controversial former secretary of state, is again seeking statewide office — just not the governor's mansion. Instead, Kobach announced in April he would be running for attorney general, the latest campaign for the man who is perhaps Kansas' best known political figure.
It comes despite Kobach falling short, not just in his 2018 bid for governor but in a U.S. Senate campaign in 2020 for the seat eventually won by Roger Marshall.
Kobach isn't the only Republican running for attorney general. Kansas Sen. Kellie Warren, R-Lenexa, and former federal prosecutor Tony Mattivi have also announced campaigns of their own.
Jerry Moran likely to have smooth path to re-election
U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran will be running for re-election in 2022, though no Democrat has announced to challenge the two-term incumbent.
Moran earned a major boost to his campaign in February, when former President Donald Trump announced his endorsement. The move largely put to bed any rumors of a conservative primary challenger, which cropped up after Moran acknowledged Biden's victory in the 2020 election.
"Strong on Military, Vets, the Border, and our Second Amendment, Jerry has my Complete and Total Endorsement for his re-election in 2022," Trump said in the statement.
Jake LaTurner, Sharice Davids have challengers
At least two members of the state's U.S. House delegation will have competitive races in 2022.
Patrick Schmidt, a Democrat and former U.S. Navy intelligence officer, announced in July his intention to run against U.S. Rep. Jake LaTurner in the Second Congressional District.
LaTurner is in his first term representing the eastern Kansas district, beating Topeka Mayor Michelle De La Isla with relative ease in 2020. Barring a significant re-drawing of the boundaries during the redistricting process, he is not expected to have issues winning a second term.
A more competitive race will be in the Third Congressional District, as Republicans target Kansas' lone Democrat in Congress, U.S. Rep. Sharice Davids. Amanda Adkins, former chair of the Kansas Republican Party, will again run against Davids after losing by 10 points in 2020. It is possible GOP legislators may aim to splice Davids' district in a bid to toughen her re-election prospects.
U.S. Reps. Tracey Mann and Ron Estes, both Republicans, don't have opponents yet.
Andrew Bahl is a senior statehouse reporter for the Topeka Capital-Journal. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 443-979-6100.