KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Decisions are already being made with next year’s midterm elections in mind.

Sam Zeff from KCUR Morning Edition joins FOX4’s John Holt and Dave Helling from the Kansas City Star to see how what’s happening right now may have lasting implications in both Jefferson City and Topeka,

Several unexpected things happened in Topeka leading up to the Thanksgiving weekend, starting with the Special Session to discuss COVID-19 and vaccine mandates.

“The most surprising thing of the week was not necessarily what the legislature did, for me anyway, but for what Gov. Laura Kelly did, which is to sign the bill,” Helling said.

Many political experts believe the move is more of a compromise in Kelly’s mind and that she is gearing up for next year’s election.

“She is moving back towards the center,” Zeff said.

“Getting out in front of this legislation, getting rid of Dr. Lee Norman as the Secretary of Health in Kansas, certainly looks like she is positioning herself for sort of that middle ground when she runs for re-election,” Zeff said.

The other surprising move that happened prior to Thanksgiving was that forced resignation of Dr. Norman.

“I also have to say that watching all of those briefings that he did for state health reporters, he seemed to know what was going on. He didn’t seem to be too far out there, at least at the beginning, talking as a public health official, it certainly felt that way,” Zeff said.

Zeff theorized that Norman may have become a little more “militant” as he watched other health leaders forced from their positions over the handling of COVID-19. Zeff said Norman may not have been more polarizing and not as appealing to Gov. Kelly as she plans her re-election campaign.

“That concern seemed to be emanating from her Chief of Staff who basically pulled the rug out from him saying ‘No more policy comments for you’ and banned him from the University of Kansas Health System daily briefings,” Holt said.

The question now is how much of an issue will COVID-19 be in next year’s election. Or will voters make their decisions on the economy and more traditional issues? It will have been 18-months since schools were closed and a year since many mask mandates were lifted, unless they are reinstated. Will voters head to the polls and reflect on 2021 or look ahead to 2022?

“It depends on how COVID is doing at the time, whether it can be a political event,” Zeff said. “If in fact things kinda say the way they are now she’s [Gov. Kelly] gonna run on economics.”

That changes if COVID-19 takes another turn and things regress.

The same issue faces candidates and voters across the state line in Missouri.

Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt also faces the reality that a judge freed Kevin Strickland, a man who spent 43 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit, after Schmitt fought to keep him behind bars.

“There will be no blowback for Eric Schmitt,” Zeff said. “I think that he played to the people who are his voters. Even his statement after exoneration was, I thought, somewhat coldhearted.”

There is a possibility that Missouri lawmakers could revisit the issue of compensating those who are wrongfully convicted, something that Strickland will not receive, but Zeff said it’s not likely.

“I also don’t see a big groundswell among lawmakers to go in that direction,” Zeff said. “It’s a very odd law where you say that you must have DNA evidence to receive that sort of compensation, which kind of hints that you should have DNA evidence to convict. If you need it to exonerate, it seems to me why wouldn’t you need it to convict?”

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