It’s all but certain that Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer will be the next governor of Kansas. Last week, President Donald Trump named Gov. Sam Brownback his ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom — an appointment that still has to be confirmed by the Senate. But Brownback has already stated that he intends to accept the job. …

While there are significant questions about how Colyer will govern, there’s no denying that he aligned with Brownback on a range of critical issues. As House Minority Leader Jim Ward recently put it, “I don’t expect much different with the new governor. Jeff Colyer has walked in lock step with Sam Brownback for the last six and a half years.” However, Colyer is reportedly considering a gubernatorial bid after his abbreviated time in office comes to an end, and this gives him a strong incentive to break with Brownback on a few key issues.

… According to the most recent Kansas Speaks survey conducted by Fort Hays State University, being part of the Brownback administration doesn’t do much for your popularity. Out of 10 politicians who were “specifically identified as potential gubernatorial candidates in 2018,” respondents ranked Colyer second-lowest — only Secretary of State Kris Kobach had a worse rating. …

If Colyer decides not to run, he’ll have the freedom to govern as he sees fit. But if he declares his candidacy, he’ll want to avoid the perception that he’s Brownback’s clone.

Brownback may think the “decline of the family” is the most serious problem facing Kansas, but the Supreme Court is about to make a pivotal decision on school finance and the state may be forced to confront even more budget problems next session. While we don’t expect Colyer to push for an expansion of Medicaid any time soon (he was a key architect of KanCare and he has been a strong opponent of expansion under the Affordable Care Act), he may want to consider cooperating with lawmakers on the budget and the economy — the areas where Brownback was at his worst. …

During a news conference about Trump’s appointment and his governorship last Thursday, Brownback emphasized Colyer’s independence: “He’s his own man, his own person.” Let’s hope this is true.

— The Topeka Capital-Journal