Republican Gov. Jeff Colyer won the endorsement of the Kansas Livestock Association and the political arm of the Kansas Farm Bureau in the primary election, but after Colyer lost, the groups opted not to endorse any gubernatorial ticket in the Nov. 6 election.
“It’s fairly unusual,” said Cory Saunders, public policy manager for Kansas Farm Bureau, of the absence of an endorsement by Voters Organized to Elect Farm Bureau Friends.
It’s not unusual for the Kansas Livestock Association, said its chief executive officer Matt Teagarden. He said they endorsed Republican Sam Brownback in his two successful races for governor and Republican Bill Graves’ winning re-election race in 1998, but made no gubernatorial endorsement in 1986, 1990, 1994, 2002, and 2006.
After the August primary, Democratic nominee State Sen. Laura Kelly, Republican nominee Secretary of State Kris Kobach, and independent Greg Orman were invited to meet with some members of the KLA’s political action committee and the KLA board of directors. The candidates were asked a number of questions to get their general philosophy on agricultural-related issues.
An analysis of those answers, along with voting record data, led the KLA to conclude it would be able to work with any of those candidates if they were elected, according to Teagarden.
“There were aspects of each candidate that matched up with KLA policy,” Teagarden said. “There was no clear separation among the three,” he said.
Members decided to let the election happen and then go to work to solidify a relationship with the winner after the election, Teagarden said.
Input from members across the state, combined with voting records of incumbents, help shape endorsements. The KLA’s PAC members forward endorsement recommendations to the KLA board of directors, which makes the ultimate decision.
The KLA added an endorsement after its initial list for the general election - 2nd Congressional District GOP candidate Steve Watkins, Topeka. The KLA board decided Watkins aligned better than Democrat Paul Davis with the KLA on various issues, including tax policy and the elimination of the death tax, federal water policy, and reform of the Endangered Species Act, Teagarden said.
In the other Congressional contests, the two farm organizations are backing the Republican incumbents: U.S. Reps. Roger Marshall, Great Bend; Ron Estes, Wichita; and Kevin Yoder, Overland Park.
Kansas Farm Bureau
Saunders said endorsement input comes from the grassroots level. Kansas Farm Bureau members in counties offer feedback to the 10-member board for the PAC, he said. Those 10 members are drawn from 10 districts across the state.
For state offices, the Kansas Livestock Association has endorsed three Republicans: Scott Schwab for Secretary of State, Derek Schmidt for Attorney General, and Vicki Schmidt for Insurance Commissioner. Kansas Farm Bureau typically doesn’t endorse in all those state offices but has endorsed the re-election of Attorney General Schmidt.
After the primary, Saunders said, the PAC members went back to the counties in their districts for input.
“Their response was no recommendation,” Saunders said of the gubernatorial race. Either they said they didn’t know enough about the candidates, Saunders said, or there was no single candidate viewed as a particularly strong advocate for agricultural issues.
Both farm groups lean Republican although they both are endorsing some Democrats for the State House.
Kobach advocates a firm stand against people in the U.S. illegally, while Orman has said deporting undocumented workers would deal a blow to the farm economy.
Saunders personally thinks there was a “hesitancy” among Kansas Farm Bureau members about how Kobach would govern and whether he would be good for agriculture.
In the 2nd Congressional race, Saunders said, Kansas Farm Bureau favored Republican State Sen. Caryn Tyson, but she lost to Watkins. There was not enough feedback from members living in the 2nd District to make an endorsement for Watkins in the general election, Saunders said.
After Kansas Farm Bureau’s VOTE FBF endorses a candidate, it generally contributes to the candidate, particularly in Congressional and gubernatorial races. It’s “all hands on deck, try to get that candidate elected,” Saunders said.