With less than a year to go before the 2022 elections and as one of the most vulnerable governors in the country seeking another term in office, it’s notable how Governor Laura Kelly recently appears to be “reddening.”
As in turning more Republican…as in suddenly trying to convince Kansans after three years as a lockdown, lockstep follower of Democrat-inspired liberal policy that she’s really just a centrist at heart after all.
Alas, Kansans have longer memories.
Kelly appeared almost Reaganesque in her opposition to President Biden’s ill-fated vaccine mandates. This of course against the background rumble of members of the Kansas House and Senate rummaging in their desks for a pen to sign the petition to convene a special session of the legislature to wiggle Kansas out from underneath them. With the groundswell of public opinion to such edicts more than apparent in Kansas and Joe Biden about as popular in the state as ringworm, the heretofore rule-loving Kelly appeared all on board with the majority GOP.
It all worked in concert with Kelly first minimizing and then showing the door to white-coated Lee Norman, the nouveau pandemic Colonel Sanders stunt double who headed the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, and the most identifiable image of Kelly’s Covid lockdown and mask mandate attempts. The more Norman pressed government power over Kansans’ belief in their pesky civil rights, the more Covid baggage Kelly had to carry into November 2022.
The timing was perfect. Kelly cartwheeled to the podium to sign Republican initiated special session bills refuting Biden’s vaccine mandates, and then raised the ante by handing Norman his pink slip.
With Kelly now presenting as an individual rights team player practically deserving of her own MAGA hat, she and Allen County’s grant-wrangling boy wonder-turned Lieutenant Governor, David Toland, last week lassoed nearly every investment made by private businesses in the state of late to paint themselves as the Batman and Robin of state economic development. While the pandemic raged, Toland said, the duo’s meticulous attention and savvy negotiating put a strong and comforting arm around beleaguered businesses and brought bounty to the Kansas economy, for which we should all rejoice.
It was indeed a staggering turnaround, especially considering one of Kelly’s first moves as governor was to retain the tax refunds due Kansas residents, businesses and corporations that should have been ours due to Trump’s early revisions of the federal tax code. Kelly kept money that was ours to begin with, then claimed credit for the financial risks taken by every company that sought to expand in Kansas, while vetoing several additional tax cut measures forwarded by Republicans in 2019 that would have put more of your own money back into your own pocket or to reinvest in your own business.
Interestingly, the press release touting the Kelly/Toland team’s new economic empire neglected to mention their piece de resistance – the months-long lockdown and restrictions of mainstreet small businesses across the state that did nothing to stop Covid but did manage to financially strangle local commerce and the people who depend on it. The final tally of that economic damage in lost sales, wages and residual economic activity may never be totaled. The damage dwarfs that done by Kelly’s pal and fellow Democrat Governor Kathleen Sebelius when she canned the $3 billion Holcomb power plant project years ago.
But those aren’t the only bitter memories that inch into this vision of the reddening, election-bound Governor. There was her veto of a bill that would have protected female athletes in Kansas’ high schools and colleges from having to compete against boys who say they’re girls; there was the continual effort to expand Medicaid benefits to more able bodied Kansans regardless of the damaging cost implications; there was her creation of a preferred class of Kansans by granting LGBTQ state workers employment rights which their straight co-workers don’t have.
Headed into the election amid what will be 2022’s Red Tusunami, Governor Kelly would like to be remembered for a handful of recent actions that make her look anything other than the leftist policy groupee who worked to turn Kansas into another Blue State disaster. But Kansas voters next November will see Kelly’s recent turnaround for what it is – a ruse of rouge.
– Dane Hicks is publisher of The Anderson County Review in Garnett, Ks.