To rise above her record, Kansas Governor Laura Kelly needs more than a suitcase

Elevating Governor Laura Kelly out of the mucky incompetence of economic shutdowns, school closures and unemployment fraud that’s come to characterize her governorship is going to take a bigger suitcase than the one she stood on at the Kansas State Fair gubernatorial debate last week.

Seeking some kind of apparent “equity” with her opponent Republican Derek Schmidt, who’s 6-foot 5 inches tall, organizers of the first governor candidate debate of this year’s election decided to perch the more vertically challenged Kelly on an equipment case to raise her profile onstage. The move was no doubt to escape the kind of imagery that fueled the classic 1988 Saturday Night Live spoof of the Bush/Dukakis presidential debate. In that classic, the diminutive Dukakis (Jon Lovitz) climbed aboard some unseen elevation contraption at the podium, and to the sound effect grind of electric motors, hoists himself first taller than Dana Carvey’s George Bush, then back to parity.

The scene made those in attendance at Hutchinson wonder: What’s next? Put Kelly in a camouflage helmet and perch her in a Kansas National Guard tank for her next television commercial?

Unfortunately that extra foot of prosthetic stature doesn’t allow Kelly to rise above her record as governor, nor does her whiny refrain of “Sam Brownback” every time Schmidt talks about leadership, ideas, policy and common sense decision making.

The fact is that now ending her first term, Kelly’s boots are irretrievably stuck in the mess she made and the values she tried to hide in her first election four years ago. She’s been revealed as just another Blue State Joe Biden order follower, emulating Democrat policy in lockstep with failed national dictums and hoping Kansas voters will stay drunk with borrowed Covid money long enough to get her reelected.

Like Joe Biden, Kelly’s hits just keep coming. The latest is the revelation that on Kelly’s watch hackers bilked more than $400 million in Kansas unemployment funds from Kansas employers’ accounts – no one’s exactly sure of the real number even yet. This is money that comes right out of the unemployment accounts funded from the pockets of small businesses and other employers of all sizes to protect Kansas workers in the event they lose their jobs. Now not only is the money gone, but hundreds of thousands of Kansas workers have to worry that their social security numbers – a hot commodity on the black market – are now likely being sold to illegal immigrants, criminals or others for use in other identity theft scams. 

The breach of Kansas DOL information that Kelly’s lack of oversight allowed to happen may end up costing billions – and may even cost lives – before it’s all said and done.

But that’s just the latest. Kelly’s legacy of throwing the state’s businesses and school children on the Covid hand grenade in 2020 is inescapable, even when she tries to deflect to the topic of the never-ending addiction to more school funding. 

“Fully funding schools can only work if you don’t lock the kids out of them after they’re fully funded,” Schmidt quipped onstage.

And to Kelly, that great education is more reserved for men who say they’re women than it is for everybody else. If some boy goes all Shania Twain and says he really “feels like a woman” and beats your daughter in the 200 meter hurdles at Beloit High School or even at the University of Kansas and bumps her out of a scholarship, Kelly thinks that perfectly fine. She vetoed – twice – legislation that would have banned transgender competition in female sports in Kansas. So much for “equity.”

That boys and girls are different should be pretty easy fact, but Kelly doesn’t even recognize facts when the numbers are right in front of her. So eager was she to deflect from the fact that she piloted an asteroid into the Kansas economy, she outright lied about the state’s jobs recovery a few weeks ago. No big deal, unless you’re one of the 18 percent of Kansas workers still out of work because she scuttled the state’s economy two years ago and it’s yet to come back.

Like other Democrat governors and mayors, Kelly’s mantra has been to follow the lead of the worst big-government thinkers in our country and to ignore the outcome of those policies. Now at election time, raising Laura Kelly up out of her own awful leadership is going to be some heavy lifting indeed.

– Dane Hicks is the publisher of The Anderson County Review in Garnett, Kan. His 2003 Kansas-based novel “The Skinning Tree” turns 20 years old next year.