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Politics, Elections and Government

Governor-Elect Laura Kelly Wants To Put Kansas 'Back On Track'

Luke X. Martin
KCUR 89.3

A few days after the election, Kansas' next governor is beginning to spell out what she'll do in office. 

On Thursday, governor-elect Laura Kelly said she'd reinstate an executive order to protect LGBTQ state workers from discrimination. The order was first put in place by then-Gov. Kathleen Sebelius in 2007, but that was rescinded in 2015 by then-Gov. Sam Brownback.

Kelly told KCUR’s Steve Kraske Friday she thinks the move will send a clear message.

"That Kansas is back. Folks that thought, 'Never Kansas' can now put us back on the radar screen," she said.

Kelly said she didn't go into Tuesday's midterm with any expectations. 

"I'm Irish Catholic," Kelly said, "so I always assume the worst."

The Democratic state senator won with 48 percent of the vote, to Republican Secretary of State Kris Kobach's 43 percent. Pre-election polls had suggested the race was a toss-up.

She said Kansas is ready to embrace moderate politics, and she thinks that helped her win.

"It was clear after 2016 that Kansans really wanted to go back to being Kansans," she said.

Throughout her campaign, she promised she would put partisanship aside. She told KCUR she has spent the past few days working closely with former governors — Sebelius and two Republicans who endorsed her, Mike Hayden and Bill Graves.

And she has already begun "taking names" and compiling lists of potential candidates for the bipartisan cabinet she wants to build. 

"An administration that looks like Kansans, so that every Kansan can feel like they have a voice at the table," Kelly said. "There are a lot of things that are not working particularly well in the state of Kansas right now. It's going to take an extraordinary set of people who work together to put this all back on track."

Restoring school spending is a priority for Kelly, who told KCUR she wants to increase state aid for public school districts by $70 to $100 million. She said she's confident that will not require a tax hike.

"We've had revenues coming in overestimates for the last 17 months," she said.

She's also made expanding Medicaid addressing chronic problems in the Kansas foster care system, which she calls a "life and death emergency situation." 

Andrea Tudhope is a reporter for KCUR 89.3. Email her at andreat@kcur.org, and follow her on Twitter @andreatudhope.

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