Traditionally red Kansas swings blue as state elects Kelly as next governor

Laura Kelly waves farewell to her supporters after her victory speech. In the speech she detailed a plan to work across the aisle and bring common sense to Kansas. (Rowan Jones | Collegian Media Group)

Democrat Laura Kelly of Topeka will be Kansas’s next governor.

Kelly’s election to the top spot in the state follows a long, contentious debate that saw national figures, including President Donald Trump, come to campaign on behalf of the candidates.

In the polls, Kelly took an early lead that Kobach was not able to surmount.

Jo Ella Hoye, chapter leader for Kansas’s Moms Demand Action, said she jumped up and screamed when it was announced Kelly would be the next governor of Kansas.

The moment Kelly walked in, the crowd erupted into a symphony of cheers.

Kelly’s speech was filled with thanks for her supporter, young voters and the people of Kansas.

“Today Kansans voted for change — it’s a change that brings the priorities and the spirit of Kansas back to Topeka,” Kelly said. “You know, Kansans look out for each other. We cooperate, whether on the farm, or in school, or church or the workplace. We’re all part of the same community, and today voters across Kansas came together. We decided to put people before politics.”

After the Associated Press called the election for Kelly at about 10:30 p.m., Kobach conceded the race a half hour later.

“We had a strong fight, but it just wasn’t in God’s will for this year,” Kobach said. “Although for the governor’s race we didn’t turn out on top, we still had more voters reported than in years past.”

Kelly is the third woman to hold the governorship in Kansas history, following former governors Kathleen Sebelius and Joan Finney.

At the state level, attorney general Derek Schmidt kept his seat for a third consecutive term. At the Secretary of State spot, Republican state representative Scott Schwab will succeed Kobach as the state’s top election official. Republican Vicki Schmidt will be the state’s next commissioner of insurance.

Elsewhere across the state, history was made as Democrat Sharice Davids defeated incumbent Republican Rep. Kevin Yoder and was elected to Kansas’s 3rd Congressional District seat.

Davids is Kansas’s first LGBTQ representative, and together with Deb Haaland, who was elected to New Mexico’s 1st Congressional District seat, the pair will be the first Native American women in the House of Representatives.

In the western part of the state, Republican Rep. Roger Marshall held his 1st Congressional District seat against challenger Democrat Alan LaPolice.

In Kansas’s 4th District, Republican Rep. Ron Estes held off a second challenge from Democrat James Thompson to hold GOP control of the district, which encompasses most of south-central Kansas.

After having narrowly lost a short-notice special election to Estes in 2017, Thompson had hoped to build-off of the momentum of a longer campaign that saw Sen. Bernie Sanders visit Wichita to campaign on behalf of Thompson.

On the east end of the state in Kansas’s 2nd District, Republican Steve Watkins edged over opponent Democrat Paul Davis with 48 percent of the vote compared to Davis’s 46 percent.