Where Kansas gubernatorial candidates Laura Kelly and Derek Schmidt stand on the issues | KCUR 89.3

Kansas — a deeply Republican state that became a darling of national liberals by rejecting a potential abortion ban in August — heads into the Nov. 8 gubernatorial election with a fairly stark choice.

Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly is seeking re-election, arguing that she has led the state out of a stubborn budget crisis that followed tax cuts and cuts to government services by her Republican predecessors, Sam Brownback and Jeff Colyer.

It presents itself as a moderate middle class so business-friendly and forward-looking that it lured Panasonic’s $4 billion electric vehicle battery factory to the state.

Her main challenger, Republican Attorney General Derek Schmidt, portrays her as a liberal in step with President Joe Biden and blames inflation on their policies. He insists Kelly should have done more to make life more affordable for Kansans amid rising prices.

Libertarian Seth Cordell and independent candidate Dennis Pyle, a conservative state senator, are also running for governor. But polls suggest a close race between Kelly and Schmidt.

Both differ on the economy, education and abortion. They have different visions for the future of Kansas.

Here’s how the two leading candidates stand on the key issues:


  • Kelly: The Kansas Legislature passed a The food sales tax will be abolished in the spring, but according to the timetable, slower than Kelly wanted. She said she will call for a full cut when the Legislature returns in January, eliminating the sales tax on necessities like diapers and feminine hygiene products. He also proposes a tax holiday for school supplies in August. And finally, he wants to provide up to $50 million in tax credits over three years to seniors who make less than $100,000 a year.
  • Schmidt: Also targeting seniors, Schmidt wants to enact a tax plan that exempts pensions, Social Security and private pensions from state income tax. Schmidt estimates that the Social Security relief would provide up to $112 million a year by 2025, and the Private Retirement Relief plan would reduce taxes by up to $236 million by 2025. He also wants to eliminate the sales tax on necessities like diapers and feminine hygiene products.


  • Kelly: Wants to expand options for students after high school through trade schools and technical colleges. He also wants to reduce the cost of tuition at state universities. To address mental health issues, Kelly also calls for more psychologists and social workers to be added to public schools.
Republican Derek Schmidt addresses the crowd at the Kansas Chamber of Commerce Candidate Forum.

Dylan Lysen


Kansas News Service

Republican Derek Schmidt said he would quickly sign legislation banning transgender girls from girls’ sports.

Public Safety

  • Kelly: Kelly calls for several gun control measures. These include requiring background checks on gun sales, banning bump stocks and restricting access to certain assault weapons intended for combat. He also wants to increase funding for the Kansas Highway Patrol to fill vacancies.
  • Schmidt: Schmidt calls for a focus on school safety increase in funds for the Safe and Safe Schools state subsidy program pay to reinforce school entrances and security cameras. He also wants to put more police officers in the schools that want them. For gun violence, Schmidt is proposing legislation that stiffens the penalties for criminals who illegally use firearms.

Health care

  • Kelly: Throughout her tenure, Kelly has pushed to expand Medicaid to provide health insurance to more lower-income Kansans. She said she would continue to call for his extension in a second term.
  • Schmidt: With the Republican supermajority in the Kansas Legislature opposed to the idea, Schmidt said the state is not looking to expand Medicaid anytime soon. He said he wants to improve the current health care system by offering more student loan payments to doctors and medical specialists who work in underserved rural areas.
Kansas Governor Laura Kelly addresses the crowd during a debate at the Kansas State Fair in Hutchinson.

Dylan Lysen


Kansas News Service

Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly has called for Medicaid expansion in Kansas every year of her term to provide health insurance to more low-income residents. She said she would continue to push for expansion if re-elected.


  • Kelly: Knowing that the voters of Kansas overwhelmingly refused amendment to the state constitution that would eliminate abortion rights, Kelly says her position on abortion rights is in line with the majority of state voters. They say it should be left to women and their doctors.
  • Schmidt: Opposing abortion rights, Schmidt tells voters he wants a Kansas with fewer abortions. But he also said the state’s August vote “must be respected.” If elected, he plans to defend current abortion restrictions, arguing that they are at risk of being struck down by state courts. His campaign has not said whether it will support the new restrictions.

Election day is November 8.

Dylan Lysen reports on politics for the Kansas News Service. You can follow him on Twitter @DylanLysen or email him at dlysen (at) kcur (dot) org.

Kansas News Service is a collaboration of KCUR, Kansas Public Radio, KMUW and High Plains Public Radio focusing on health, the social determinants of health and their connection to public policy.

Kansas News Service stories and photos may be republished by news media free of charge with proper attribution and a link to www.ksnewsservice.org.


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