TOPEKA — Former Gov. Bill Graves characterized Monday the public reaction to endorsement of Democratic gubernatorial candidate Laura Kelly by four previous Kansas chief executives — two Republicans and two Democrats — as 99 percent positive.

Graves, who completed two terms as governor before leading a national trucking association, said in an interview that he decided to be part of that contingent because Kelly was best positioned among the five candidates in 2018 to lead the state out an era dominated by misguided education, health and infrastructure policy driven by Gov. Sam Brownback, who led the state from 2011 to early 2018. 

"They say once a governor always a governor," Graves said in an interview. "You really do develop a passion about the state. You may share different ideas of what that ought to look like, but John Carlin, Mike Hayden, Gov. (Kathleen) Sebelius and myself care passionately about this state, and we're disappointed to see where the state found itself over the last eight years."

He said Kansas voters were asking fundamental questions about where the state should go and who should lead the government.

"To me, Laura is the answer," Graves said "Kris Kobach is not the answer and Greg Orman is not the answer."

Kobach, the Kansas secretary of state, is the Republican nominee. He's involved in what appears to be a two-person race with Kelly, a state senator from Topeka.

Orman is a Fairway businessman and an independent candidate who has been the subject of growing speculation because polling showed him hovering at 9 percent with Kobach and Kelly essentially tied with more than 40 percent.

In a campaign message to voters on Monday, Orman said he had no intention of suspending his campaign prior to the Nov. 6 election.

"The two major parties are doubling down on their scare tactics as they begin to feel their desperate grasp on power slip. Rest assured, we won't stop. Kansans cannot afford to leave our state in the hands of career politicians like Senator Kelly and Secretary Kobach," Orman said.

Two other candidates for governor are Libertarian Jeff Caldwell, of Leawood, and independent Rick Kloos, of Berryton.

Kloos, who helped start God's Storehouse, a combination thrift store and coffee shop in Topeka, said he wasn't surprised the political action committee of Kansans for Life endorsed Kobach. Kloos said he was disappointed the anti-abortion organization failed to acknowledge his pro-life credentials when announcing endorsements.

"Aside from Kobach, I am the only pro-life candidate that views life from conception to natural death,” Kloos said. “While we both value life, our policies differ greatly and pro-life Kansans need to know there is another option.”