TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Democrat Laura Kelly won the Kansas governor’s race Tuesday, prevailing over Republican Kris Kobach after promising to slam the door on conservative budget and tax-cutting policies that were followed by persistent budget problems.
Kelly, a veteran state senator from Topeka, defeated Kobach, the Kansas secretary of state, even though Kobach is President Donald Trump’s closest ally in a state that Trump won handily in 2016. Independent candidate and Kansas City-area businessman Greg Orman trailed far behind.
The Democratic governor-elect made former Republican Gov. Sam Brownback and his ill-fated 2012-13 experiment in slashing state income taxes — not Trump — a key issue in her red state. Budget woes made Kansas a cautionary example of how not to do trickle-down economics, and Kelly was visible in the successful and bipartisan effort in 2017 that reversed most of the cuts.
Kelly’s message resonated with even Republican voters such as Kimberli Evans, a 43-year-old federal employee from Topeka, who voted for the Democratic nominee. She said fair funding for public schools is one of her big concerns.
“I believe that the Brownback experiment did not work and needs to be reversed,” Evans said after casting her ballot.
Kobach had criticized the $600 million-a-year income tax increase and campaigned on shrinking government so that the state could resume cutting taxes.
Kobach brought some celebrity to the race, having built a national profile as an advocate of tough immigration policies and strict voter identification laws. He has advised Trump and served as vice chairman of Trump’s since-disbanded commission on voter fraud.