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Equality Kansas’ political action committee, the Kansas Equality PAC, is today announcing its primary endorsements for Kansas Governor. Primary endorsements for US congressional candidates will be issued on Wednesday, July 10, and endorsements for the Kansas Legislature will be announced on July 11.
This year, the Democratic and Republican parties have contested primaries, which will be decided on August 7. Additionally, an independent candidate, Greg Orman, has also declared for governor, and is collecting petition signatures as required by law to be on the November ballot. The Libertarian Party earlier this year met in convention and selected Jeff Caldwell as their nominee.
Endorsement in the primary is not a guarantee of endorsement for the general election! General election endorsements depend on the outcome of the primary races, and will be re-evaluated and announced in September.
Equality Kansas is non‑partisan. Our advocacy work in the Kansas statehouse and city halls across the state requires us to work with elected officials of both parties. When considering candidates for elected office, Equality Kansas examines their public record on LGBT issues. We generally prioritize a candidate’s record in this order:
Last April, Equality Kansas began the process of developing candidate questionnaires for the 2018 election cycle. Questionnaires were then mailed to each declared primary candidate shortly after the June 1 filing deadline, and all candidates were given a June 30 deadline for their return. Questionnaires have not been provided to the independent or Libertarian candidates, who will be given an opportunity to share their views after the August primary election.
As has been our practice since our founding shortly before the 2006 election cycle, Equality Kansas considers a candidate’s voting record to be the most important indicator of their commitment to LGBT rights. Some candidates have 100% positive records, while others are utterly hostile to our community and our mission. Those are easy endorsement decisions to make. The difficult choices come when candidate voting records are mixed. Sometimes an incumbent votes with us, sometimes against. Some bills are worse than others. A candidate may have voted against us long ago, but has since come to understand the importance of LGBT equality and is now a supporter. If they are or have been in a leadership position, especially as a legislative committee chair, they may have used their position to help the LGBT community, or perhaps to harm us.
Our political action committee met this year on July 4, and spent several hours reviewing and debating the voting records, questionnaires, and public statements of the candidates. Our primary endorsements are Laura Kelly for the Democratic primary, and Jim Barnett for the Republican primary.
The choice of Barnett as the Republican candidate was fairly straightforward. While as state senator he voted to ban same‑sex marriage, he did not cast any more votes in favor of anti‑LGBT legislation. Additionally, as chairman of the Senate committee on Public Health and Welfare, his help was critical in stopping a 2010 bill that would have raised significant barriers to LGBT couples use of surrogacy and other medical means of starting families. His questionnaire score was 100%, and he has spent the last several months speaking out publicly in support of the LGBT community.
Other Republican candidates for governor have backed or previously voted for anti-LGBT legislation. Incumbent governor Jeff Colyer publicly supported this year’s adoption discrimination bill, signing it into law. He also ignored repeated requests to reinstate the Sebelius-era executive order banning discrimination in state employment based on sexual orientation. In previous years, he has used his former position as Lieutenant Governor to testify in favor of so-called “religious freedom” legislation, and has actively supported other anti‑LGBT legislation. Current Secretary of State Kris Kobach has a history of publicly disparaging LGBT Americans, equating us to prostitutes, pedophiles, and drug abusers. Other Republican candidates either do not have a public record on LGBT issues or did not return our questionnaire.
On the Democratic side, we choose State Senator Laura Kelly based on her 100% pro‑LGBT voting record, her advocacy for LGBT equality in legislative committees, on the Senate floor, and in her current campaign. Senator Kelly was first elected in November of 2004. Within four days of the Legislature convening in January 2005, she was faced with a vote on the same‑sex marriage ban. Despite enormous political pressure on the newly elected senator, Kelly voted against the ban. Her support for LGBT rights has been consistent. Her running mate, Senator Lynn Rogers, has in his two years as senator been a strong advocate for LGBT equality, leading the hours-long debate in opposition to this year’s adoption discrimination bill. While a member of the USD 259 Wichita Board of Education, Rogers moved the adoption of district policies adding sexual orientation as a protected class. The Kelly/Rogers campaign scored 100% on our 2018 questionnaire.
Although the Carl Brewer and Joshua Svaty campaigns both achieved 100% scores on their questionnaires and have been vocal advocates for LGBT equality on the campaign trail, their record while previously in public office is absent or mixed. Brewer, while mayor of Wichita, was twice approached by the Equality Kansas Wichita chapter with a request to pass a non‑discrimination ordinance inclusive of sexual orientation and gender identity. The first approach, in 2010, was made privately. In 2012, chapter leadership made a public presentation to Mayor Brewer and the Wichita City Council. Brewer did not act on either request, telling local media in 2012 he believed Wichita didn’t need such an ordinance. Joshua Svaty has a mixed voting record on LGBT issues. In March 2004, then‑State Representative Svaty voted in favor of the same‑sex marriage ban; in May of that year, he voted against a similar bill that, while banning same‑sex marriage, would have given legal recognition to civil unions. In 2005, he voted against the version of the marriage ban that eventually became part of the Kansas constitution. Other Democratic candidates for governor submitted questionnaires but lack a public record, and were not considered for endorsement.
A copy of our 2018 gubernatorial and legislative questionnaire is posted on our website at https://eqks.org/eqks-2018-gubernatorial-and-legislative-questionnaire/ . We do not publish completed questionnaires.
Please note that Equality Kansas evaluates candidates on LGBT‑specific issues. As an individual voter, a candidate’s record on equality may be only one among your priorities. Whether or not you agree with our assessments, we hope this information adds to your understanding of the candidates for Kansas governor. Even if you vote differently from our recommendations, get out and vote!