Laura Kelly’s win for Governor and Sharice Davids’ win in Kansas 3rd Congressional District are both part of a larger pattern in the Sunflower State, according to an Emporia State University political scientist.
“I was thinking that Laura Kelly would make it by cutting into the Republican margin in rural counties,” said Michael Smith with ESU. “That didn’t happen. What Laura Kelly did is she flipped Johnson and Sedgwick counties. That made the difference. The rural county margin was similar as it has been in other recent elections. We’re really seeing Kansans and the nation sort themselves out by urban versus rural.”
Davids was able to do something in her race that previous Democrats who served in Congress had not done.
“The key to her victory was turnout in the suburbs,” said Smith. “Traditionally, when Democrats won in the 3rd District, like back when Dennis Moore was a Congressman from there in the 1990s and early 2000s, what they’d do is they’d lose by a very slim margin in Johnson County and then they would bring it home with Wyandotte County, which votes very heavily Democratic. Sharice Davids and Laura Kelly, too, won Johnson County outright. That is a big deal and it underscores this urban-rural shift.”
The Republicans did keep control of the down ballot statewide races, though, in spite of a real effort by Democrat Brian McClendon in the Secretary of State race.
“Down ballot races are very, very hard for Democrats in Kansas, because Kansans tend to default to the Republican label,” said Smith. “Democrats can win the governorship, they can sometimes win a Congressional seat, but those down ballot races are rough and McClendon did very, very well for a Democrat in a down ballot race.”
McClendon lost to Scott Schwab by just 9 points, 53 percent to 44 percent.