Secretary of State-elect Scott Schwab intends to make Kansas' nerve center of election supervision and business filings more closely resemble an episode of "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" than the sitcom "Roseanne."
Schwab, an Olathe Republican serving in the Kansas House, was elected Tuesday to replace Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a national political figure who honed a hyper-partisan reputation and enjoyed broadcasting his opinions to the largest possible audience.
Schwab said Kansans would notice a difference in style after he settled into the secretary of state's office in mid-January.
"Quieter. Down the middle," Schwab said in an interview Friday. "You know, I can't make policy. I can't regulate anybody. I'm not going to make it more complicated than that."
In terms of elections, Schwab said he would focus on enforcing existing Kansas law on elections. He professed no interest in making use of legal authority secured by Kobach to directly prosecute alleged election fraud. He said he wouldn't mirror Kobach's dedication to influencing U.S. policy on immigration.
Schwab, 45, said he supported an appeal of a U.S. District Court judge's decision striking down Kansas statute requiring proof of citizenship to register for voting.
Gov.-elect Laura Kelly, a Topeka state senator who defeated Kobach in the gubernatorial race, said she would set a new tone in the governor's office exemplified by inviting input from Republicans, Democrats and independents.
It is a best-idea approach that reflected the endorsement of Kelly's campaign by four former Kansas governors — two Republicans and two Democrats. Gov. Jeff Colyer occasionally reached across the aisle, most prominently on school finance legislation. Former Gov. Sam Brownback openly ignored Democrats to huddle with GOP allies.
Kelly, 68, said her top legislative priority would be to adjust state aid to K-12 education to reflect inflation, which would reflect an order of the Kansas Supreme Court. She plans to develop a bipartisan plan to expand eligibility for Medicaid.
She will work on the agenda with Lt. Gov.-elect Lynn Rogers, a Democratic state senator from Wichita.
The 2019 Legislature will remain under the control of Republicans, but membership of the chamber could tilt a bit more conservative. The GOP will have the partisan roster in the House and Senate to override any veto by the first Democrat to serve as Kansas governor since Mark Parkinson, who preceded Brownback in 2011.
House Speaker Ron Ryckman, R-Olathe, said he looked forward to conferring with Kelly to get a broader sense of her legislative agenda beyond pledges made in the campaign.
"She ran on fiscal conservatism — no new taxes," Ryckman said. "We are going to hold her to that promise, and we know voters will, too."
On the tax front, The Associated Press reported a survey of nearly 4,000 voters in Kansas showed 58 percent either strongly supported or somewhat supported raising taxes to elevate state aid to public education. A tax hike may not be necessary after Friday's revision of the state revenue forecast added $300 million to the current fiscal year projection.
Senate Majority Leader Jim Denning, R-Overland Park, said he assumed Kelly would continue to strengthen the financial footing of the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System and to seek reduction in diversion of tax dollars previously earmarked for projects of the Kansas Department of Transportation. Legislative withdrawals have been so steady and so large the agency became known as the "Bank of KDOT."
"Ninety percent of her agenda appears, just from what you've been reporting in the news, is things that we've been working on for many years," Denning said.
Sen. Vicki Schmidt, a 62-year-old Republican, won election for state insurance commissioner. Schmidt, a Topeka pharmacist, replaces Commissioner Ken Selzer, who finished third in the GOP primary for governor.
She said the office would place emphasis on the high cost of insurance in Kansas and make certain state regulations fostered a competitive market for consumers. She expressed support for expansion of Medicaid to help thousands of Kansans without access to affordable health insurance.
"Kansas is long overdue for a discussion about why insurance costs so much and what we can do to lower costs," Schmidt said. "I plan to facilitate that discussion and work with stakeholders to identify changes that could result in consumer savings."
In other statewide races, Attorney General Derek Schmidt, a 50-year-old Republican, was re-elected to a four-year term. Republican Treasurer Jake LaTurner, 30, was appointed by then-Gov. Sam Brownback in 2017 and was elected to a full term.