Looking ahead at 2018 candidates

It's getting crowded. As we get closer to 2018, with the vacant seat in the Governor's mansion, U.S. Congressional seats up for re-election, and every seat in the Kansas House of Representatives open, candidates are starting to knock elbows. We thought it would be helpful to take a look at how those races are shaping up, with less than a year until Kansas' annual primary election day on Aug 7, 2018.

Governor of Kansas

Whether Governor Brownback actually vacates his seat early to become President Trump's Religious Freedom Ambassador or not, he will not be able to run again in 2018. Kansas Governors can only serve two terms.

Nature abhors a vacuum, and there are now at least ten candidates that have declared for the position.

On the Republican side, the list is headlined by Kris Kobachcurrently Kansas Secretary of Stateauthor of numerous anti-immigration and voter suppression lawsdefender of last week's pardoning of former Sheriff Joe Arpaioradio show hosterstwhile hoarder of nationwide voter information, and Breitbart contributor.

Also on the list are current Lieutenant Governor of Kansas Dr. Jeff Colyer, and current Kansas Insurance Commissioner Ken Selzer. The field is rounded out by Wink Hartman, businessman, and Jim Barnett, former state senator. In the wings remain several potential candidates, including Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt, former state representative Ed O'Malley, and still undeclared for his own seat, U.S. Rep. Kevin Yoder.

On the Democratic side, the biggest name to enter the race did so just recently, with Jim Ward, state representative and minority leader in Topeka, adding his name to the hat. Also running are Josh Svaty, former state representative, and Carl Brewer, former mayor of Wichita.

While the field will continue to change, we have a clear mission to ensure that a Brownback-style (or worse) candidate does not become Governor of Kansas.

Kansas U.S. Congressional District 2

This is the seat currently held by U.S. Representative Lynn Jenkins, who has declared that she will not seek another term. The district covers all of eastern Kansas with the exception of the Kansas City metro (see below), and includes Topeka and Lawrence.

It is fair to say that the recent swing against ultra conservatives in Topeka has sent them scurrying for higher ground. Among the Republicans declared for this seat are state Sen. Steve Fitzgerald, state Sen. Caryn Tyson, and state Rep. Kevin Jones. Jones and Fitzgerald are lifetime 0% scorers on MainStream's vote count scorecards. Tyson voted 0% in 2017, bringing her lifetime score down to 10%, hardly better than the other two.

On the Democratic side, former state Representative and 2014 candidate for Governor of Kansas Paul Davis has declared for the seat.

Kansas U.S. Congressional District 3

This seat, covering Johnson and Wyandotte Counties, is currently held by U.S. Representative Kevin Yoderwho held his first town hall in a year last week, a carefully orchestrated event. While he has not officially declared his candidacy to remain in the seat, his most likely alternative, a run for Kansas Governor, is filling up fast (see above). Any opposition to Yoder is still forming up, with no candidates even rumored on his side of the ticket. On the Democratic side, two candidates have declared recently. Andrea Ramsey, a Leawood attorney, announced in June. Tom Niermann, a Prairie Village teacher, declared in July. They join a field of others (Reggie MarselusBrent Welder, and Chris Haulmark) that presumably includes Jay Sidie, who lost in a 2016 bid against Yoder, but has expressed his intent to run again.


The elephant in the room in most discussions of Kansas politics is the undecided/undeclared Greg Orman, a businessman who ran in 2014 against Sen. Pat Roberts as an Independent candidate, and nearly pulled the upset. His entry into the Governor's race, or any other race, could change the calculus.

So, what does it all mean?

Not much, yet, as the candidates, and potential candidates, are still working for funding and gauging the potential of their campaigns. But it does mean that 2018 will be an active, expensive, and consequential election year.

At MainStream, we are getting ready for it, making plans for next summer, and raising money at events like Walk the Vote and Stand Up, Speak Out, to educate, advocate, and work to make Kansas better for all Kansans.

What can you do? Remember to do more than vote. Get informed, get involved, make a difference.

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