With nearly all the votes counted—some being recounted—the 2018 Kansas election season comes to an end. The big story was the victory by Kansas State Senator Laura Kelly over Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach. The unofficial tally has Kelly defeating Kobach 48%-43%. Independent candidate Greg Orman fell way behind with only 7 percent. This is the first time since 2009 that a Democrat has held the Kansas governor’s office, but it does stick to the tradition of power changing hands from Republican to Democrat. Another interesting point is that the last three democrats to win statewide elected office were women. Kelly won the urban centers convincingly, outpacing Kobach by 43,000 votes in Johnson County, 16,000 votes in Shawnee and 8,000 in Sedgwick.
The same can not be said for the other statewide Democratic candidates, who all lost bids for higher office.
Attorney General’s Office will be retained by incumbent Derek Schmidt. This will be AG Schmidt’s third term; Schmidt won easily over Lawrence lawyer Sarah Swain 59% - 41%.
Insurance Commissioner Vicki Schmidt defeated Nathaniel McLaughlin 63% - 37%. Vicki Schmidt received the most votes among all Republican candidates. Her state senate seat will need to be filled via precinct committee person vote in the near future.
Secretary of State was won by Scott Schwab. Schwab is a former state representative and previous speaker pro tem. Schwab won by a 53% - 44% margin.
State Treasurer will be retained by incumbent Jake LaTurner who defeated Sen. Marci Francisco 58% - 42%. LaTurner was previously appointed to fill the seat left when U.S. Rep. Ron Estes was elected.
The Kansas House of Representatives will look similar in numbers; the GOP increased its advantage by one: 86-39. The philosophical bent of that 86 is where the differences lie, and they are significant. Republican conservatives grew their numbers this election cycle by winning several seats held by moderates in the primary, and then by beating some rural Democrats in the general. Democrats did their fair share of beating moderates, but in urban areas—namely Johnson County—where Laura Kelly helped democratic candidates in favorable districts.
The 2019 House of Representatives will see 28 new faces and 15 legislators with legal experience or education. The new lawyer/legislators include Rep.-elect Mark Samsel, R-5th District; and Rep. -elect Kellie Warren, R-28th District.
Members of the Kansas Senate were not on the ballot this season but there was one election race featuring Sen. Richard Hilderbrand who was appointed to the seat. Hilderbrand won the race by 14 points. Due to the general election results, the Senate will also need to fill Gov.-elect Laura Kelly’s seat, along with Lynn Rodgers’ and Vicki Schmidt’s seats.
The 2019 session will be interesting knowing there is a Democratic on the 2nd floor. There will be a push to expand Medicaid, finish up the school finance issue and reduce waiting periods for services. These issues still require legislative approval which may be more difficult to achieve given the new composition of the Kansas House. What the governor has stated she will do and what she can do may be two different things.