|48th Governor of Kansas|
|Assumed office |
January 14, 2019
|Preceded by||Jeff Colyer|
|Member of the Kansas Senate|
from the 18th district
January 10, 2005 – January 14, 2019
|Preceded by||Dave Jackson|
|Succeeded by||Vic Miller|
|Born||January 24, 1950|
New York City, New York, U.S.
|Education||Bradley University (BS)|
Indiana University Bloomington (MS)
Laura J. Kelly (born January 24, 1950) is an American politician serving since 2019 as the 48th governor of Kansas. A member of the Democratic Party, she represented the 18th district in the Kansas Senate from 2005 to 2019. Kelly ran for governor in the 2018 election and defeated the Republican nominee, Kris Kobach.
Early life and education
Kelly was born in New York City to a military family that moved often and was stationed overseas. She studied at Bradley University, earning a Bachelor of Science in psychology, and at Indiana University, earning a Master of Science in therapeutic recreation. Kelly was the executive director of the Kansas Recreation and Park Association.
Early political career
Kelly was elected to the Kansas Senate in November 2004, later serving as Minority Whip. In 2007, she was asked to serve as the Ranking Minority member of the Kansas Ways and Means Committee. Kelly helped to establish the Early Childhood Development Block Grants program in the State of Kansas.
Governor of Kansas
2018 gubernatorial election
On December 15, 2017, Kelly announced her intention to run for governor of Kansas. In the Democratic primary she ran against former mayor of Wichita Carl Brewer and former Kansas Secretary of Agriculture Josh Svaty.
On May 24, 2018, Kelly announced State Senator Lynn Rogers as her running mate. On August 7, she defeated Brewer and Svaty, receiving 51.5% of the vote. On November 6, Kelly defeated the Republican nominee, Secretary of State Kris Kobach, receiving 47.8% of the vote.
2022 gubernatorial election
In 2018, Kelly was endorsed by former Kansas Governor and U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius. She was also endorsed by 28 current or former Republican government officials, including Kansas Governor Bill Graves; former State Senator, Lt. Governor and U.S. Senator Sheila Frahm, Lt. Gov. Gary Sherrer, Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger, Senate President Dick Bond, Senate President Dave Kerr, Senate Vice President John Vratil, Senate Majority Leaders Tim Emert and Lana Oleen; Senators Barbara Allen, David Wysong, Wint Winter, Jr., Pete Brungardt, Ruth Teichman, Barbara Bollier, Audrey Langworthy, Terrie Huntington, Bob VanCrum, and Alicia Salisbury; Representatives JoAnn Pottorff, Ginger Barr, Jim Yonally, Jim Lowther, Fred Lorentz, and Representative and Republican Party Chairperson Rochelle Chronister; Republican National Delegate Don Johnston; and Representatives Joy Koesten and Charles Roth.
Graves said, "Laura Kelly is the only Democrat I have ever endorsed for public office. And the reason I'm doing that now is because I believe so much is at stake in the state of Kansas. I have known Laura for over 30 years. She has all the qualities and all the capabilities that we are looking for to lead the state during this difficult time and to reestablish the state to what it once was. ... Laura has integrity, and I know she will bring Kansans together regardless of party to solve problems." Former Republican state senator Tim Owens was the campaign treasurer for Kansas independent candidate Greg Orman, but he stepped down from that post on October 30 and endorsed Kelly, believing only she could beat Kobach.
Kelly described her candidacy as aimed at reversing the fiscal, educational and other "disasters" of Sam Brownback's governance. She characterized her opponent, who had been noted for his broad disenfranchisement of voters and legal strategies against immigrants, as "Sam Brownback on steroids".
Tenure and political positions
Budget and economic issues
Kelly was critical of the Kansas experiment, the experimental Kansas budget of her predecessor Sam Brownback that led to cuts in schools, roads, and public safety. She would like to reverse those changes and pointed out that after there were major budget shortages she led a bipartisan effort to successfully balance the budget without increasing taxes.
In 2019, Kelly vetoed two Republican bills that would have cut state income taxes in Kansas. She said that the state could not afford the cuts, and that the Republican bill, which would have cut revenues by an estimated $245 million over a three-year period, would have precipitated a "senseless fiscal crisis" and created a budget deficit. Kelly's decision, as well as higher-than-expected state revenue intakes, led to the state beginning its 2020 budget year with $1.1 billion in cash reserves. She sought to use some of the reserves to pay down debt and make payments to the state pension system.
As governor, Kelly pushed the Republican-controlled Kansas Legislature to accept the Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act, to provide health care coverage to up to 150,000 Kansans. A Medicaid expansion plan had passed the Kansas Legislature in 2017, but Brownback vetoed it. In January 2020, after years of Republican opposition, Kelly struck a bipartisan compromise deal with Republican Senate Majority Leader Jim Denning that made Kansas the 38th state to accept the Medicaid expansion. Under the agreement, on January 1, 2021, Medicaid coverage will be expanded to Kansas residents earning up to 138% of the federal poverty level. In 2021, Kelly called for further expansion of Medicaid, proposing to pay for it with the revenue from the legalization of medical marijuana.
Kelly has also supported reforming KanCare so that more citizens have access to health insurance.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States, Kelly, like other governors, took steps to halt the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). She declared a state of emergency on March 12 following the state's first COVID-19 death, and issued a 60-day ban on public gatherings of 50 or more people and a moratorium on utility shutoffs on March 16. On March 18, citing the unprecedented crisis, Kelly directed the end to all in-person K-12 classes for the remainder of the school year, making Kansas the first state to take that step. On March 23, to combat the virus's spread, she limited public gatherings to ten people. On March 28, amid increasing deaths and illnesses, Kelly issued a "stay at home" order that directed all residents to remain at home, except for travel for essential work, essential business (such as traveling to obtain medical care or groceries), and outdoor exercise with social distancing measures. Almost two dozen states had already issued similar orders, and almost 75% of Kansas's population were already affected by similar orders from local orders, since 25 Kansas counties, including the most populous ones, already had a stay-at-home order in place. Kelly strongly criticized the Trump administration's slow response to the crisis and the federal failure to provide Kansas and other states with adequate supplies of personal protective equipment (such as masks, gloves, and gowns) and testing kits.
The Kansas City Star criticized Kelly's rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine in an editorial lamenting that "Kansas seems to be uniquely underperforming, a recurring issue for Kelly and the administration she leads", citing CDC data showing Kansas near the bottom of vaccinations per 100,000 residents. Members of the Kansas congressional delegation, including fellow Democrat Sharice Davids, have called on Kelly to do more to address backlog of claimants at the Department of Labor seeking unemployment payments from federal programs aimed to help residents out of work due to the pandemic.
On November 16, Kelly renewed her call for the legislature to join her in the issuance of masking orders.
Executive order on religious gatherings
Because Kelly's orders on public gatherings applied to Easter Sunday celebrations in churches, the Republican-majority Legislative Coordinating Council (LCC), a group of leaders of the Kansas Legislature, voted to revoke her order on a 5–2 party-line vote on April 9, 2020, asserting that the order violated the free exercise of religion. Republican Attorney General Derek Schmidt opposed Kelly's order, issuing a memorandum calling it a violation of the Kansas state law, and urged law enforcement not to enforce it. Kelly called this "shockingly irresponsible"; at the time, there had been more than a thousand confirmed COVID-19 cases, and dozens of confirmed COVID-19 deaths, in Kansas, and of 11 identified sources of contagion, three had come from recent religious gatherings. She challenged the LCC's decision in the Kansas Supreme Court. Following an expedited oral argument (conducted remotely via Zoom teleconference), the state Supreme Court unanimously reinstated Kelly's orders, concluding that her executive order was valid and that the LCC lacked the authority to overturn it.
A week later, in a separate case, U.S. District Judge John W. Broomes in Wichita issued a temporary restraining order blocking enforcement of Kelly's order as to two churches (one in Junction City, the other in Dodge City). contending that the restriction violated religious freedom and free speech rights. That case became moot after Kelly issued a new executive order with less restrictive COVID-19 rules effective on May 4, 2020, under an agreement that allowed the churches to hold larger in-person services but required social distancing.
Kelly combined the Department of Children and Family Services with the Department of Aging and Disability Services into a consolidated, integrated Department of Human Services.
In January 2020, Kelly called for major changes to the Osawatomie State Hospital, the long-troubled state psychiatric hospital that has faced scrutiny from federal regulators over security, safety, and treatment lapses. She has supported a plan for state funding for mental health crisis centers in the state.
Kelly has stated that she would like to ensure Kansas schools are funded and focus on improving the performance of Kansas students to be competitive with other parts of the country. For example, she would address the statewide teacher shortage and improve pay for educators. She would also like to expand early childhood programs and increase options for students pursuing higher education.
In her first official act as governor, Kelly signed an executive order reinstating the employment discrimination protections for LGBT state workers that Governor Sam Brownback had eliminated in 2015.
Kelly opposed a Republican-proposed anti-abortion amendment to the Kansas Constitution in early 2020, saying it would return Kansas to the "dark ages." Amid acrimonious debate, the state House fell four votes short of the two-thirds majority required to put it on the state ballot. In January 2021, the Kansas legislature voted along party lines to place the proposed amendment to the state constitution on the August 2022 primary election ballot.
Kelly has been married to physician Ted Daughety, a specialist in pulmonary and sleep disorders, since 1979. They moved to Topeka in 1986. They have two adult daughters, Kathleen and Molly Daughety.
|Democratic gain from Republican||Swing||+1.7%|
|Democratic||Laura Kelly (incumbent)||15,007||51.6|
|Democratic||Laura Kelly (incumbent)||14,813||51.7|
|Democratic||Laura Kelly (incumbent)||18,009||58.1|
|Democratic||D. Kent Hurn||1,793||28.2|
|Republican||Dave Jackson (incumbent)||15,290||49.9|
|Democratic gain from Republican|
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- "Official Profile: Kansas (KS) State Senator Laura Kelly". Archived from the original on February 19, 2012. Retrieved January 24, 2019.
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- "Gov. Kelly gears up for challenging re-election campaign in 2022: 'I'm not done yet'". Kansas Reflector. 2020-12-23. Retrieved 2021-03-11.
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- "Laura Kelly touts growing list of Republican support". WIBW. September 14, 2018. Retrieved October 18, 2018.
- Carpenter, Tim. "Two dozen GOP lawmakers endorse Democrat Kelly for governor". The Topeka Capital Journal. Retrieved September 21, 2018.
- Shorman, Jonathan (October 31, 2018). "Orman treasurer resigns, endorses Kelly in Kansas governor race". Wichita Eagle. Retrieved October 31, 2018.
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- "'I've been there, done that': Laura Kelly navigates GOP skepticism to score early wins". Retrieved 30 January 2021.
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- John Hanna, Rising Kansas revenues fuel GOP anger over lack of tax cuts, Associated Press (February 3, 2020).
- Dion Lefler, Gov. Kelly vetoes Republican tax bill, says it would bring 'senseless fiscal crisis', Wichita Eagle (May 17, 2019).
- Kansas Governor Seeks to Use Cash Reserves to Pay off Debt, Associated Press (January 16, 2020).
- Phil McCausland, Kansas governor, top Republican reach deal to expand Medicaid, NBC News (January 9, 2020).
- John Hanna, New Kansas proposal breaks impasse on expanding Medicaid, Associated Press (January 9, 2020).
- "Missouri Republicans block funds for voter-approved Medicaid expansion". Kansas City Star. 2021.
- John Hanna & Heather Hollingsworth, Kansas reports COVID-19 death; governor declares emergency, Associated Press (March 12, 2020).
- John Hanna, Kansas bans gatherings of 50; Kansas City area goes further, Associated Press (March 16, 2020).
- Colin Dwyer, Kansas Becomes The First State To End In-Person Classes For The Year, NPR (March 18, 2020).
- Nicole Asbury, Kelly restricts public gatherings to no more than 10 to combat coronavirus spread, Kansas City Star (March 23, 2020).
- Kansas governor orders residents to stay home to curb virus, Associated Press (March 28, 2020).
- John Hanna & Heather Hollingsworth, Kansas governor calls US officials unprepared for COVID-19, Associated Press (April 2, 2020).
- Editorial Board (January 8, 2021). "Gov. Laura Kelly knew the COVID vaccine was coming. Why wasn't Kansas better prepared?". Kansas City Star.
- Bahl, Andrew. "Gov. Laura Kelly announces KDOL changes as sweeping modernization effort moves on". The Topeka Capital-Journal. Retrieved 2021-03-11.
- Kansas Governor Laura Kelly renews push for mask mandate, Wichita Eagle, Laura Kelly, via Facebook, October 21, 2020.
- War over Easter: Kansas lawmakers revoke Gov. Kelly’s order limiting church gatherings, Wichita Eagle, Jonathan Shorman, Amy Renee Leiker and Michael Stavola, April 8, 2020. Retrieved April 9, 2020.
- Sherman Smith, Kansas coronavirus update: Supreme Court sides with Gov. Laura Kelly in fight over church crowds, Leavenworth Times (April 11, 2020).
- Conner Mitchell, Governor blasts Kansas lawmakers' vote to rescind limits on in-person religious gatherings, Lawrence Journal-World (April 8, 2020).
- Kansas has 3 church-related COVID-19 clusters, state says amid scramble for supplies, Wichita Eagle, Jonathan Shorman, April 6, 2020. Retrieved April 9, 2020.
- Kelly v. Legislative Coordinating Counsel, Kansas Supreme Court (April 11, 2020).
- Kansas Supreme Court says executive order banning religious service of more than 10 people stands, KMBC, April 11, 2020. Retrieved April 12, 2020.
- Jason Breslow, Kansas Supreme Court Upholds Governor's Order Limiting The Size Of Easter Services, NPR (April 12, 2020).
- Conner Mitchell, Kansas Supreme Court says legislative panel didn't have authority to revoke governor's order, Lawrence Journal-World (April 11, 2020).
- "Judge doubts Kansas COVID-19 rule, blocks it for 2 churches". AP NEWS. 2020-04-18. Retrieved 2021-02-13.
- Shorman, Jonathan (April 26, 2020). "Kansas governor to issue less restrictive coronavirus rules beginning May 4".
- Carylynn Stark & Jonathan Shorman, Kansas governor to issue less restrictive coronavirus rules beginning May 4, Kansas City Star (April 25, 2020).
- Laura Howard, Together for stronger, more effective human services agency, Hutchison News, February 8, 2020. Retrieved February 11, 2020.
- Gov. Kelly: Kansas psychiatric hospital unit needs changes, Associated Press (January 3, 2020).
- Shorman, Jonathan (January 15, 2019). "Kelly reinstates protections for LGBT state workers in Kansas eliminated by Brownback". The Wichita Eagle. Retrieved May 16, 2019.
- Jonathan Shorman, Kelly accused of pressuring 'her own Catholic people' on abortion vote as tempers flare, Wichita Eagle (February 11, 2020).
- John Hanna (January 28, 2021). "Kansas lawmakers put anti-abortion measure on 2022 ballot". Associated Press – via ABC News.
- Almukhtar, Sarah; Bloch, Matthew; Lee, Jasmine C. (August 7, 2018). "Kansas Primary Election Results". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved December 29, 2018.
- "Kansas Election Results". The New York Times. November 6, 2018. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved December 28, 2018.
- "Kansas Secretary of State 2016 General Election Official Vote Totals" (PDF). kssos.org. Retrieved March 27, 2019.
- "Kansas Secretary of State 2012 General Election Official Vote Totals" (PDF). kssos.org. Retrieved March 27, 2019.
- "Kansas Secretary of State 2008 General Election Official Vote Totals" (PDF). kssos.org. Retrieved March 27, 2019.
- "Kansas Secretary of State 2004 Primary Election Official Vote Totals" (PDF). kssos.org. Retrieved March 27, 2019.
- "Kansas Secretary of State 2004 General Election Official Vote Totals" (PDF). kssos.org. Retrieved March 27, 2019.
- Profile at Vote Smart
- Follow the Money - Laura Kelly
- Publications concerning Kansas Governor Kelly's administration available via the KGI Online Library
- Appearances on C-SPAN
| Member of the Kansas Senate
from the 18th district
|Party political offices|
| Democratic nominee for Governor of Kansas
| Governor of Kansas
|U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)|
as Vice President
| Order of precedence of the United States
Mayor of city in which event is held
Otherwise Nancy Pelosi
as Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives
as Governor of Oregon
| Order of precedence of the United States
as Governor of West Virginia