TOPEKA — Gov. Sam Brownback will join an exclusive club Wednesday composed of three Republicans and one Democrat who resigned before completing a term as governor of Kansas since statehood.
Brownback’s resignation follows his narrow confirmation by the U.S. Senate as ambassador of religious freedom in the administration of President Donald Trump. Formal transfer of power in Kansas is to occur at 3 p.m. with Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer taking the oath during a ceremony in the Capitol rotunda.
Kansas’ roster of early exits and the point of departure: Republican Gov. Samuel Crawford, 1868; Republican Gov. Frank Carlson, 1950; Republican Gov. Fred Hall, 1957; and Democratic Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, 2009.
“Brownback’s early exit means each of Kansas’ last two elected governors left office via resignation,” said Eric Ostermeier, a research fellow at the Center for the Study of Politics and Governance at the University of Minnesota. “This political oddity has occurred only nine other times since 1900″ across the United States.
Lt. Gov. Mark Parkinson filled the role as governor between Sebelius and Brownback, but was never elected to the position.
Ostermeier said an analysis by Smart Politics, a nonpartisan political site, showed more than 105 elected governors had resigned from office in the past 118 years, with 50 doing so to take a seat in the U.S. Senate. Eight of the departing governors earned U.S. ambassadorships. A dozen stepped down due to scandal, he said.
The only states to avoid a premature departure since 1900 have been Hawaii, Maryland, Missouri, Mississippi, North Carolina, Virginia, and Washington.
In Kansas, Sebelius resigned in the third year of her second term to serve as secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. She was in that role for initiation of the Affordable Care Act.
In January 1957, Hall resigned 11 days before the end of his term in a complicated maneuver to become a justice on the Kansas Supreme Court. He had been defeated for re-election in the GOP primary, but coordinated the retirement of Chief Justice Bill Smith and orchestrated “triple-play” deal with Lt. Gov. John McCuish.
Smith retired in December 1956 and Hall resigned in January 1957 with the knowledge McCuish, once governor, would appoint Hall to the Supreme Court. The objective was to complete the transition before Democrat George Docking was sworn in as governor in 1956.
Carlson stepped aside six weeks early in November 1950 after winning a special election for U.S. Senate. He served in the Senate until 1969.
In the post-Civil War era, Crawford departed the governorship several months before conclusion of his second term to take command of the 19th Kansas Volunteer Regiment.