Republican Kris Kobach claims victory in the Kansas attorney general’s race over Democrat Chris Mann. The race was close and remained within a few thousand votes the day after the election. Laura Kelly defeated Derek Schmidt to serve a second term as governor. (Miranda Moore/The Beacon)

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A contentious — and expensive — election cycle in Kansas has mostly come to a close, with few changes to major offices to show for it. 

Most incumbents on the ballot won back their seats, though the race for attorney general is still close enough that the one losing candidate has not yet conceded. 

Laura Kelly wins reelection

Gov. Laura Kelly won reelection over challenger and three-term Kansas attorney general Derek Schmidt, according to projected outcomes from The Associated Press. The race remained too close to call until midday Wednesday, with polling leading up to Election Day showing a neck-and-neck contest. 

Kelly thanked Schmidt in a statement for his work as attorney general, and for their “strong, healthy disagreements” on many key issues.

“…I believe Kansans voted today for civility, for cooperation, for listening to one another, and for a spirit of bi-partisan problem-solving, that’s become all too rare in our politics today,” Kelly said.

Schmidt did not concede the race on election night, instead telling supporters that more ballots had yet to be counted. He then issued a statement Wednesday afternoon congratulating Kelly, saying the race appeared over despite the thousands of ballots waiting to be counted.

“I congratulate Governor Laura Kelly on her apparent reelection and wish the best for our beloved state during the next four years,” Schmidt wrote.

Delayed election result for Laura Kelly

As of midday on Nov. 9, Kelly led Schmidt by about 14,000 votes out of more than 975,000 counted. But there are more than 29,000 ballots mailed to voters but not returned, and no estimate yet on provisional ballots, which could number in the thousands, said Bryan Caskey, the state’s elections supervisor.

Results are preliminary. Secretary of State Scott Schwab told reporters Tuesday results will not be certified until late this month. State law requires a buffer of three business days after the election for ballots to make their way through the mail, but because of Veterans Day, that deadline was extended until Monday, Schwab said.

Schmidt campaigned on policies that would restrict the rights of some transgender youth, part of a national trend of conservative politicians using anti-LGBTQ language to garner support from conservative voters. Twice in the past two years, Kelly’s veto was the only thing that stopped anti-trans policies from becoming law in Kansas. 

Chris Mann not yet conceding AG race

Kris Kobach narrowly won the race for attorney general according to AP projections, resurrecting a political career once thought dead after back-to-back electoral defeats in 2018 and 2020. 

Cheered on by supporters holding signs with the message “Sue Joe Biden,” Kobach celebrated his return to public office on election night, citing none of the hesitations Schmidt mentioned moments before in declaring the race over.

“I don’t care who you are or where you come from, you gotta love a comeback story,” Kobach told supporters at the GOP election night watch party in Topeka.

Though his race through the general election was comparatively more sedate than past election cycles, Kobach’s speech at the watch party showed that he has not scaled back his ambitions.

“Tomorrow we begin the process of taking America back, and the Kansas attorney general’s office is going to be very directly involved in the process,” Kobach said. “(If) Joe Biden continues to violate the law, Kansas will lead the charge in taking him to court.”

Kobach said he would prioritize the same anti-trans policies Schmidt campaigned on, as well as judicial selection and addressing the fentanyl crisis.

As of Wednesday morning, challenger Chris Mann tweeted that the race was too close to call.

Mann labeled Kobach as a threat to democracy, citing Kobach’s history of pursuing unfounded and unproven claims of voter fraud and enforcement of laws that restricted voter access in ways later determined to be unconstitutional

As of midday Wednesday, Mann trailed Kobach by more than 22,000 votes out of more than 965,000 counted.

There is no automatic recount in Kansas in the event of a close race, Caskey said Wednesday, but any candidate may request a recount — if they can afford it. Campaigns usually cover the cost of a recount, unless it falls within 0.5%, when the state may reimburse counties for recount costs. No candidates on the ballot currently face that close of a race, Caskey said. 

The deadline to request a recount is Nov. 18.

All Kansas congressional delegates reelected

All five of Kansas’ congressional delegates who appeared on the ballot were reelected, including Republicans Sen. Jerry Moran, Rep. Jake LaTurner and Rep. Ron Estes. 

Rep. Sharice Davids, a Democrat from Roeland Park, kept her seat after her district was redrawn to exclude the northern part of Wyandotte County, a Democratic stronghold. The redistricting process drew accusations of gerrymandering from Democrats and voting rights advocates, who unsuccessfully sued to have the districts redrawn

The race received national attention as northeast Kansas — Johnson County in particular — has become more politically competitive in recent years. 

Further downballot: Amendments and judges

A constitutional amendment that restricts the options counties have to select sheriffs — or remove them from office — passed with more than 60% of the vote. Another amendment that would change checks and balances by giving the legislature the ability to overrule regulations issued by the executive branch is too close to call. As of midday Wednesday, “no” votes outnumbered “yes” votes by less than 6,000, before remaining provisional or mailed ballots could be counted.

All six of the state’s Supreme Court justices who appeared on the ballot were retained, keeping with years of precedent in which no judges have been ousted by voters since the system was implemented more than 60 years ago. Misleading mailers sent ahead of the election urged voters to vote against judges. 

Preliminary numbers for state appellate court judges are not gathered by the secretary of state’s office, Caskey said. Those results will be available once certified results start to come in later this month.

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Miranda Moore covers the Kansas Statehouse and state government for The Wichita Beacon.