Major Kansas Republicans cross party lines to back Democrat for governor

Former Sen. Nancy Kassebaum is the latest to voice her support for Kris Kobach's opponent, Laura Kelly.

Former Sen. Nancy Kassebaum (R-KS) at the 2015 Kansas Sate Fair .
Former Sen. Nancy Kassebaum (R-KS) has endorsed Democratic gubernatorial candidate Laura Kelly over her own party's nominee, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach. (PHOTO CREDIT: Mark Reinstein/Corbis via Getty Images)

Former Sen. Nancy Kassebaum (R-KS) on Tuesday endorsed Democratic gubernatorial candidate Laura Kelly over her own party’s nominee, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach.

“It seems to me that Kobach has developed a record that shows a focus on ways and how to accomplish his end goals that I think are not the best for Kansas,” she said, according to the Kansas City Star.

Kassebaum has Republican bonafides few can match. She served three terms in the United States Senate as a Republican — the first woman ever elected to a full term in the Senate without following her husband to the job. Her late father, Alf Landon, was the 1936 GOP nominee for president. Her late husband, Howard Baker of Tennessee, was the Senate Republican Leader and Ronald Reagan’s White House Chief of Staff. 

Her endorsement, then, carries significant weight.

Kassebaum isn’t the only prominent Kansas Republican to choose Kelly over Kobach — who is perhaps best known for leading President Trump’s aborted voter suppression effort and his xenophobic anti-immigrant advocacy — since his bare win over Gov. Jeff Colyer in last month’s GOP gubernatorial primary.

Two-term former Kansas Gov. Bill Graves (R) crossed party lines to endorse Kelly earlier this month — his first ever statewide endorsement of a Democrat.  Last week, former Kansas U.S. Senator and Lt. Gov Sheila Frahm and former state Senate President Dick Bond also joined more than two dozen former prominent GOP elected officials backing Kelly over their own party’s nominee. Frahm said that Kelly would “bring Kansans together to rebuild our state” and “slam the door on the failed policies of Sam Brownback and stop Kris Kobach.”


A Kobach spokesperson dismissed the first batch of endorsements as “Republicans in name only who always support Democrats in major races,” claiming they were “Topeka insiders who are worried that the Kobach administration will end the culture of corruption that has been so profitable to them.”

The same spokeswoman gave a similar response to the news about Kassebaum, suggesting that the GOP stalwart is not really even a Republican. “Democrats trot out these same tired has-beens clinging to the past, pretending to be Republicans when they so clearly left the party a long time ago. Pro-abortion? Check. Anti-gun? Check. Pro-Obamacare? Check. Republican? Yeah, right.”

Kelly faces Kobach and Independent Greg Orman in November.