KC Star: Laura Kelly is showing her crossover appeal. Kris Kobach and Greg Orman? Not so much

Kansas City Star: Laura Kelly is showing her crossover appeal. Kris Kobach and Greg Orman? Not so much

The parade of names began last month with the news that state Sen. Barbara Bollier, a moderate Republican from Mission Hills, was endorsing Democrat Laura Kelly for governor.

Then on Sept. 4 came the announcement that former two-term Kansas Gov. Bill Graves, a Republican, was backing Kelly. On Tuesday, it was former Republican Sen. Nancy Kassebaum, whose father was the 1936 GOP nominee for president.

“Laura Kelly studies the issues and is willing to work with others for solutions to real problems,” Kassebaum said.Other Republicans have come to a similar conclusion. A few days ago, Kelly’s campaign announced another 27 prominent Republicans who publicly back her in this intensifying three-way race featuring Kelly, Republican Kris Kobach and independent Greg Orman.

The names of many of Kelly’s endorsers may not be recognizable to folks who don’t follow Kansas government closely. But to insiders, this was a formidable list of Republicans. Among them: Sheila Frahm, who succeeded Bob Dole in the U.S. Senate; former Lt. Gov. Gary Sherrer; former Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger; former Senate Presidents Dick Bond and Dave Kerr; former Senate Majority Leaders Lana Oleen and Tim Emert; and former Senate Vice President John Vratil. On and on it went.

“Laura Kelly is a strong, experienced, moderate leader who has a record of bringing people together to solve problems with bipartisan solutions,” Bond said in a statement.

This isn’t the first time many in this group had crossed party lines. In fact, Democrat Paul Davis gained the support of many of them in his close fight with Gov. Sam Brownback in 2014.

The threat of Republicans abandoning Kobach was so predictable that the Kansas House majority leader felt compelled to issue a warning. Endorsing a Democrat, he cautioned, “could well be a career-ending move.”

What’s especially striking about all these endorsements is what’s missing here. There is no lengthy list of prominent Democrats for Kobach. In fact, there’s no list at all.

There’s also no list of prominent Republicans or Democrats backing Orman either, although the former chairman of Republican Gov. Jeff Colyer’s campaign has signed up with the independent candidate.

These Republicans who are backing Kelly are skipping right past Orman in a manner that suggests that few, if any, are taking him seriously. They clearly have decided that a vote for Orman could wind up helping Kobach, and that’s the last thing these folks want.

All this party jumping says something important: Kelly has crossover appeal. She has the ability to work with Republicans and build coalitions. Last time we checked, that’s what government is supposed to be about, isn’t it?

Americans say it loud and clear every chance they get: They want the two parties to work together. They want compromise. They want an end to the needless bickering and the never-ending political one-upmanship that Democrats and Republicans engage in at every opportunity.

Kelly, say these leaders who have long toiled in Topeka’s trenches, is the person to do that.Don’t underestimate the guts it takes to hop across party lines in this highly polarized era, either. The House majority leader’s warning is evidence of that. Bollier already has been stripped of her leadership role on the Senate health committee.

Listen to the words of these leaders. Kelly “is a level-headed problem solver, capable of bringing people to the table to get things done,” Sherrer noted.

That’s worth considering.

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