OVERLAND PARK, Kan. – Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly declared a victory in the Kansas governor’s race, winning her second term in Republican-leaning Kansas, narrowly defeating challenger Derek Schmidt.

Schmidt conceded to Kelly Wednesday afternoon.

Late Wednesday morning, Kelly sent out a victory statement. The Associated Press called the race for Kelly early Wednesday afternoon and shortly after that, Schmidt conceded. Even though he did that, there are still votes unaccounted for. The Secretary of State’s Office says there are about 29,000 votes still out statewide. 

“I can say unofficially we’ve seen approximately 975,000 votes counted,” Bryan Caskey, Deputy Assistant Kansas Secretary of State of Elections, said Wednesday morning. “That still leaves tens of thousands of votes that haven’t been counted yet, provisional ballots and so, that 975,000 number is the floor, and it will continue to go up.”

The Associated Press affirmed that declaration, calling the race at 12:24 p.m. as she held a 49.2% to 47.7% lead over challenger Derek Schmidt.

Regardless of that, Schmidt said on Facebook, …”it seems unlikely those will be sufficient to close the remaining gap, so absent any unexpected development it appears this race is over…I congratulate Governor Kelly on her apparent reelection and wish the best for our beloved state during the next four years.”

The people of Kansas sent a very clear message at the polls yesterday. Kansans said we will keep moving forward as a state, full steam ahead – there will be no turning backward.  

I want to thank Attorney General Derek Schmidt for his service to the state. We had strong, healthy disagreements on the issues, but I do believe he cares about this state, and that we stand united in our commitment to Kansas and its future success.

Kansans voted for strong public schools, for economic growth, for balanced budgets, and for protecting individual rights – including a woman’s right to make her own healthcare decisions.

Perhaps above all, I believe Kansans voted today for civility, for cooperation, for listening to one another, and for a spirit of bi-partisan problem-solving, that’s become all too rare in our politics today.

I spoke a lot in this campaign about my middle-of-the-road approach, because governing from the middle is important. Everyone is tired of hyper-partisanship and vitriol in our politics – and everyone’s tired of being at each other’s throats. That’s why those nasty, negative, divisive ads against us backfired.

When you look at the successes we’ve achieved these first 4 years, we’ve done it by working together – from fully funding our schools, to eliminating the food tax, reinvesting in infrastructure, recruiting businesses to Kansas from around the world, and creating and retaining 53,000 jobs.

I’m excited about the future of Kansas.

These first four years were, in large part, about getting our state back on track.

These next four years are about taking Kansas to the next level. These next four years are about making sure Kansas lives up to its potential as the very best place in America to raise a family. These next four years are where the boundless optimism of Kansans will be met with the boundless opportunities they deserve.

That means high-speed Internet for all our communities and families, and affordable health care for every Kansan. We will expand Medicaid once and for all.

That means new job opportunities, but also new career opportunities, and we’ll speed up the elimination of the food tax – so that Kansans see those savings immediately.  And that means we will have the most comprehensive, robust, early childhood education system in the country.

I know the future is very bright for Kansas.

I thank the people of Kansas for the honor to continue serving you and the state we love.

Now, we get back to work.

Governor Laura Kelly

Kelly was the only Democratic governor running for reelection this year in a state carried by former President Donald Trump in 2020.

She won her first term in 2018 by 5 percentage points against Republican Kris Kobach, but key groups that either stayed neutral in the last election or endorsed Kelly backed Schmidt this time.

Schmidt, the state’s three-term attorney general, has repeatedly tried to tie Kelly to President Joe Biden and high inflation. Schmidt’s campaign was hurt, however, by a third-party bid from a conservative state lawmaker.

A FOX4/Emerson College poll released earlier this month showed slim margins between Kelly and Schmidt. The two were separated by just 3 percentage points, according to the poll.

That same poll showed Pyle, who left the Republican Party in June to run for governor as an Independent, garnering about 5% of support, which could have been a factor in such a close race. 

Schmidt, Kelly and their supporters have been focused on this race since well before the primary election, and campaign spending shows that.

Kelly’s fundraising for her reelection campaign approached $8 million, while Schmidt raised about $4 million in cash contributions, though in late October the Kansas GOP was paying for mailings for him. Spending on television ads by the candidates and outside groups exceeded $40 million.

Kelly ran as the self-described “education governor,” touting higher spending on public schools, the state’s improved finances and efforts to lure businesses to the state.

Democrats tried to link Schmidt to former Kansas GOP Gov. Sam Brownback, whose tax cuts in 2012 and 2013 were followed by huge budget shortfalls.

But Schmidt has chided Kelly for what he called her “unhealthy obsession” with Brownback. He also sought to turn education against her by highlighting her March 2020 pandemic-related decision to close K-12 school buildings.