Kansas ads in governor’s race: Often misleading, disparaging with a partisan dash of truth

Kelly, Schmidt loyalists post dozens of commercials — and Pyle piles on

by Tim Carpenter, Kansas Reflecor

Topeka — The battle between distortion and nuance rages in the Kansas gubernatorial race as dozens of commercials flood television and the internet in a quest to influence voters’ views of Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly and Republican challenger Derek Schmidt.

In the last few days, independent governor candidate Dennis Pyle added his voice to the electronic dialogue with his first piece of campaign advertising. It predictably attacked both Schmidt and Kelly as “two peas in a pod.”

Schmidt, the state’s attorney general, has joined allies in taking swings at Kelly by asserting the governor cavalierly closed public schools in response to the COVID-19 national emergency. It’s as if Schmidt wanted voters to imagine Kelly personally padlocking chains to school doors.

These ads don’t remind Kansans of life-or-death uncertainty about COVID-19 that existed in March 2020 when Kelly directed local and state officials to transition the education system to online instruction. In that moment, there was no testing, no personal protection equipment and no vaccine to counter a lethal virus easily spread at mass gatherings.

In response to criticism of being the first governor to suspend in-school classes, Kelly said she would “never apologize for protecting the lives of our children.”

Throughout the campaign, Kelly and her allies have worked to tattoo Schmidt as a clone of former Gov. Sam Brownback, an unpopular Republican who derailed the state budget with a fantasy quest to eliminate Kansas’ income tax. Brownback’s strangulation of state government’s revenue stream led to years of budget problems, deep spending cuts and, ironically, tax hikes.

Kansas Values Institute’s PAC, which backs Kelly, has produced no less than eight commercials devoted to affirming a Brownback-Schmidt ideological alliance.

A comparable guilt-by-association approach was used four years ago in Kelly’s successful campaign against Republican nominee Kris Kobach. The messaging was given a boost by Kobach, who promised to surpass Brownback’s zeal for slashing taxes and spending.

Schmidt, of course, hasn’t promised to recharge Brownback’s disproven tax agenda, which was repealed in 2017 by the GOP-led Legislature after a dismal five-year experiment.

Transgender feud

Advertising wordsmiths have dedicated themselves to interpreting positions of Schmidt and Kelly on whether transgender women or girls in elementary, middle school, high school and college should be banned by Kansas law from sports programs.

Schmidt said as governor he would sign legislation requiring participation to be based on a person’s gender at birth, which would disregard rights of Kansans who transitioned.

The Republican Governor’s Association PAC put it a different way, declaring Kelly opposed reasonable “efforts to ban men from competing against girls in high school sports.”

Kelly said Schmidt and his allies were distorting her veto of two “discriminatory” transgender sports bills and her belief athletic associations, including the NCAA, should set policy on student participation in sports.

“You may have seen my opponent’s attacks,” Kelly said in her latest campaign commercial. “So, let me just say it. Of course, men should not play girls sports.”

Schmidt’s campaign howled and the GOP nominee declared “she’s wrong to mislead Kansans about her real position.”

Packing a punch

The Republican Governor’s Association PAC has contributed to the Kansas conversation with seven commercials. The roster featured a piece blaming Kelly for rising crime. The ad was problematic because it relied on alarming footage of a smash-and-grab store robbery in California — not Kansas.

The Kansas Democratic Party posted to Twitter a video of Schmidt declaring: “What good does it do to fully fund schools?” That endless loop snippet didn’t contain the rest of Schmidt’s sentence: “… if you turn around and lock the children out of them?”

C.J. Grover, spokesman for the Schmidt campaign, said the Twitter item should be considered “misinformation” and reflected a “flailing and desperate” campaign.

He said the GOP nominee pledged to fund public education as required by the Kansas Constitution. However, Republicans in the state Legislature have eagerly sought election of a GOP governor who would be more friendly to reform in state financing of public schools, including diversion of tax dollars to private schools.

Emma O’Brien, spokesperson for the state Democratic Party, said there was good reason Schmidt didn’t want a spotlight directed at his record of supporting reductions in state aid to K-12 public school districts.

“It’s no surprise that Derek Schmidt and his team are panicking about Kansans learning the truth about his record,” O’Brien said. “After supporting a bill that underfunded schools in the state Senate and defending Brownback’s tax cuts to public schools as attorney general, he’s already proven that he can’t be trusted when it comes to fully funding public education. He can say whatever he wants during an election year, but the facts don’t lie.”

Put your helmets on

The volume and variety of Kansas gubernatorial commercials — embedded with questionable claims, out-of-context conclusions and misleading statements — could escalate ahead of the Nov. 8 election. The objective would be to influence the cadre of undecided voters across Kansas who might be susceptible to a well-crafted, timely attack ad.

The latest polling indicated Kelly held a small edge over Schmidt, but the gap was within the margin of error. Such a competitive race could convince organizations invested in the governor’s race to continue spending in a bid to move the needle.

More than 40 campaign ads tied to the Kansas governor’s contest have surfaced so far. In addition to the big spenders, contributors included the Democratic Governor’s Association PAC and groups known as Our Way of Life and Get Back to Work. Others that haven’t revealed themselves could break through in the final weeks of the race.

Schmidt and Kelly have released 15 commercials, and Pyle, the independent candidate for governor, last week dropped his first ad.

The conservative state senator from Hiawatha took a swipe at voting records of Schmidt and Kelly, who both served in the Kansas Senate, on a series of bills proponents believed useful in cracking down on illegal immigration.

“Derek Schmidt thinks he has you fooled,” Pyle’s spot says. “He doesn’t want you to know his bad votes on illegal immigration. No surprise, he voted every time with his buddy — Democrat Laura Kelly. Two peas in a pod.”

Kansas Reflector stories, www.kansasreflector.com, may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0.
See more at https://kansasreflector.com/2022/09/26/kansas-ads-in-governors-race-often-misleading-disparaging-with-a-partisan-dash-of-truth/

Kansas poll: Gov. Laura Kelly holds narrow lead in gubernatorial race against Derek Schmidt

Economy top issue in the campaign followed by abortion rights

by Tim Carpenter, Kansas Reflector

Topeka — A new poll of likely Kansas voters released Wednesday indicated Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly held a narrow lead over Republican nominee Derek Schmidt in a heated contest to be decided in less than two months.

Kelly, who is seeking a second term as governor, was favored by 44.6% of those participating in the survey, while Schmidt was the preference of 43.1%. Independent candidate Dennis Pyle, a lifelong member of the GOP until launching his bid, had 3%. Eight percent of those polled were undecided.

The 1.5 percentage point gap between Schmidt and Kelly in the FOX4 survey by Emerson College Polling was within the margin of error. In earlier polling in Kansas’ gubernatorial contest done by different organizations, Schmidt was ahead in two polls and Kelly in one poll. One of those polls had Pyle at 2%.

Spencer Kimball, executive director for Emerson College Polling, said the latest assessment revealed men in Kansas favored Schmidt over Kelly by a margin of 51% to 38%. At the same time, he said, women were breaking for Kelly over Schmidt 51% to 37%.

Meanwhile, the poll by Emerson College put Republican Kris Kobach ahead of Democratic nominee Chris Mann. It had Kobach at 41% and Mann at 39%.

U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran, a Republican, had a lead of 45% to 33% over Democratic candidate Mark Holland, a former mayor of the Unified Government in Kansas City, Kansas.

The Emerson College poll found 48.4% Kansas voters in the survey were most concerned about the economy, but abortion rights was the second-most important issue at 16%.

Kansas Reflector stories, www.kansasreflector.com, may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0.

See more at https://kansasreflector.com/2022/09/21/kansas-poll-gov-kelly-holds-narrow-lead-in-gubernatorial-race-against-gops-schmidt/

Governor visits Wyandotte County

Gov. Laura Kelly visited Wyandotte County on Saturday morning and spoke at the Wyandotte County Third Saturday Democratic Breakfast at Las Islas Sports Bar and Grill, 4929 State Ave., Kansas City, Kansas. Bill Hutton, left, is a candidate for state representative, 33rd District. (Photo by William Crum)
Chris Mann, Democratic candidate for attorney general, spoke to the Wyandotte County Third Saturday Democratic Breakfast Saturday at Las Islas Sports Bar and Grill, 4929 State Ave., Kansas City, Kansas. (Photo by William Crum)
Democratic candidates running for office gathered at the Wyandotte County Third Saturday Democratic Breakfast Saturday at Las Islas Sports Bar and Grill, 4929 State Ave., Kansas City, Kansas. (Photo by William Crum)
Speaking with Gov. Laura Kelly, right, was state Rep. Kathy Wolfe Moore, left. Rep. Wolfe Moore is retiring this year. (Photo by William Crum)