TOPEKA (KSNT) – 2022 is a year full of historic political moments in Kansas. That includes primary votes on abortion rights that garner national attention, and midterm elections that test Democrats and Republicans.
Here are 10 key political moments in the state in 2022.
Kansans stand up for abortion rights
Abortion took center stage this year following the loss of Roe v. Wade. Kansas is the first state to hold a pivotal vote that will determine the future of abortion rights.
Nearly 60 percent of Kansas voters voted against a constitutional amendment in the primary ballot that would have given lawmakers the power to potentially pass more restricted or restricted procedures.
The primary vote was confirmed after backlash from amendment supporters and a last-minute recount, upholding the state’s constitutional right to abortion.
Another Amendment: Sheriff Strikes Back
The lengthy and sometimes confusing ballot questions don’t end with the primaries. The amendments that came up on the November ballot also left some voters wondering what their vote really meant.
One of the amendments passed this year is HCR 5022. It comes down to who has the power to remove an elected sheriff, and whether local counties can choose to have a sheriff.
Riley County, the only county in the state without a sheriff, has one law enforcement agency, the Riley County Police Department, after it merged with the city of Manhattan. In the state’s other 104 counties, sheriffs are elected by the people.
The amendment prevents counties from eliminating their sheriff’s offices entirely or merging them with another law enforcement agency, such as a local police department. It also prevents district attorneys from removing sheriffs, leaving the process to the attorney general’s office or a public vote. A majority of Kansas voters approved the amendment in November.
Kelly-Schmidt State Fair Debate
The race to become the next governor of Kansas has reached a fever pitch in the first debate of the election season.
Democratic incumbent Laura Kelly faced off against Republican nominee Derek Schmidt at the Kansas State Fair in what turned out to be one of the most bitter encounters between the two candidates.
Schmidt lashed out at Kelly’s handling of the pandemic and the state of the state’s economy. However, Kelly fired back, touting a string of accomplishments that included “trophy after trophy” for economic development.
Kelly’s rebuttal, which ended in applause, came after she asked Schmidt what he thought of Sam Brownback’s leadership, hinting at a failed tax experiment.she delivered, which later became infamous catchphrase.
Political slurs, drag shows, trans athletes, and more
In an election year, political slurs sometimes crop up, and the 2022 midterms are no different.
Campaigns and political parties have found new ways to use creative political advertising to attack each other.
Democrats are targeting Republican gubernatorial nominee Derek Schmidt, launching an interactive website ahead of the primary. The party has doubled down on efforts to link the two figures to inadequacies in former Gov. Sam Brownback’s government, citing his failed tax experiments.
National and state Republican groups also attacked Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly for refusing to pass a bill that would ban transgender athletes from women’s sports. The governor later released an ad saying “men shouldn’t be in girls’ sports,” which some Republicans pointed out suggested the governor was backtracking on her previous stance and lying about her record.
Towards the end of the campaign season, Schmidt called a news conference to accuse the governor’s administration of sponsoring drag shows with taxpayer money. The governor, her government and her campaign said the claims were “untrue”.
Kelly wins re-election, Kobach makes comeback
After a whirlwind election season, some highly contentious races in the state have yielded some surprise victories. Republican Kris Kobach has made a political comeback, securing the seat to be the next attorney general.
Democratic incumbent Laura Kelly also won a second term, beating Republican Derek Schmidt in a close race.
Both Kobach and Kelly narrowly beat their opponents. For one of the state’s most closely watched congressional races, however, the gap is wider.
Despite having to contest in a new congressional district, U.S. Democratic Representative Sharri Davis defeated Republican Amanda Adkins by nearly 12 percentage points.
Based on the 2022 midterm results, some political experts believe the state may lean more toward “purple” than “red.”
Sports Betting Legalized, Controversy Continues
Kansas has taken a major step towards legalizing sports betting and has quickly got the system up and running in just a few months.
However, a New York Times investigation published in November sheds light on how the state’s sports betting legislation was passed. The investigation suggested that lawmakers may have been influenced by the sports gambling lobby to pass a plan that may not be in the best interest of the country.
Under the current plan, the state’s 10 percent tax cut for sports betting generates far less revenue than states such as New York, which set a 51 percent tax cut.
Some state leaders have discussed revisiting the plan and determining whether the state has struck a good deal.
Medical marijuana is making a comeback
Kansas lawmakers could take a major step toward marijuana reform in 2023.
Democrats and Republicans formed a select committee to work on a medical marijuana bill ahead of the 2023 legislative session.
While the bill has passed the House in the past, Republican Senate President Ty Masterson has said medical marijuana is not a legislative priority.
Senator Rob Olson, who spearheaded the drafting of the bill, said he [doesn’t know] Where the bill will end up, but he does intend to come up with a plan.
DCF Opposition Growing
The Kansas Department of Children and Families has been under the spotlight after receiving multiple complaints from foster families.
One of the incidents involving Gardner’s foster home prompted lawmakers from the state’s Child Welfare Commission to hold a news conference to denounce “lies” and “inconsistencies” in the state’s foster care system.
The controversy revolves around the Gardner family’s ongoing battle with Cornerstones of Care, a Kansas City-area nonprofit.
Nicole and John Dehaven, who signed up as foster parents through Cornerstones of Care, describe the hurdles they faced in adopting their three-year-old adopted daughter, who has been with them since she was a few days old.
DeHaven’s daughter is one of eight siblings.
Another foster parent, Jackie Schooler of Tonganoxie, made similar complaints in an interview with the Kansas Capitol Bureau. Schooler detailed her struggles defending her foster children, who were also part of a sibling group.
Sullen Tropp to step down
Kansas Sen. Gene Suellentrop, who made headlines in 2021 after being caught speeding on the wrong side of the highway, will not return to the legislature in 2023.
The Wichita Republican was sentenced to two days in prison and 12 months of probation for DUI and reckless driving but was released early, according to records obtained by the Kansas Capitol Bureau.
A leadership spokesman confirmed that Suellentrop, who has served in the Senate since 2017, emailed Senate leadership in November that he planned to leave on Jan. 2, 2023.
KHP lawsuit, govt backs leader
Multiple lawsuits against the Kansas Highway Patrol moved forward earlier this year. Former soldiers have broken their silence after claiming they were wrongfully fired by the agency.
Sean McCauley, an attorney representing several soldiers who filed a lawsuit calling for retaliation by the department, said it was a “common theme” in previous cases where soldiers had been “outspoken” against Superintendent Colonel Herman Jones.
The Kansas Soldiers Association is calling on Gov. Laura Kelly to relieve Colonel Herman Jones of his leadership.
However, in an exclusive television interview with the Kansas Capitol Bureau, Kelly defended Jones’ job as superintendent.