KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Gov. Laura Kelly and challenger Derek Schmidt will advance to the November general election in Kansas’ gubernatorial race.
Results are still rolling in from across the state, but the Associated Press called both the Republican and Democratic primaries around 8 p.m. when early numbers showed Kelly and Schmidt with large leads.
Kelly, the state’s incumbent Democratic governor, is projected to easily beat challenger Richard Karnowski; Schmidt, the state’s Republican attorney general, is also expected to handily defeat opponent Arlyn Briggs.
Kelly is hoping to earn another term as Kansas’ top state official, but now she’ll face some tough competition before voters decide this fall.
Multiple outlets have deemed Kansas’ gubernatorial race a toss-up, considering a Democrat is hoping to defend her seat in a traditionally red state after a turbulent COVID-19 pandemic.
Additionally, Schmidt has already been endorsed by former President Donald Trump, who won the state in 2020 with just over 56% of Kansans’ votes.
Kelly, Schmidt and their supporters have been focused on November for weeks, and campaign spending shows that.
The Topeka Capital-Journal reports the Kansas governor’s race could be the most expensive in state history. Campaign finance reports released last week show Kelly and Schmidt’s campaign’s have already spent more than $3.7 million in this election cycle.
There’s also one Libertarian candidate, Seth Cordell, and one Independent candidate, State Sen. Dennis Pyle, in the Kansas gubernatorial race.
Just this week, Pyle submitted more than the necessary signatures to get his name on the ballot; now they’ll need to be verified. Pyle was a Republican until just a few months ago, but after clashing with GOP leaders in the legislature, he announced he’s running as an Independent candidate for governor.
Pyle’s bid could complicate Schmidt’s efforts to unseat Kelly. Some Democrats hope Pyle and Schmidt would split conservative Republican votes just enough for Kelly to win a second term. Pyle has already raised nearly $36,000, according to campaign finance reports.