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Health Care Policy Could Set Apart Candidates for Kansas Governor

Photo by Stephen Koranda

There’s a crowded field of candidates running or considering the race for Kansas governor in 2018, and they’ll need to find ways to set themselves apart.
There are at least seven Republicans formally running, and at least four have statewide political experience in Kansas. They’ll agree on some issues, but Washburn University political Scientist Bob Beatty says health care policy will create divisions.
“The health care issue, specifically Medicaid expansion, will be one of the key issues as we go into forums and debates,” says Beatty.

Beatty points out that three of the GOP candidates have connections to the health care industry. Lieutenant Governor Jeff Colyer and former state Senator Jim Barnett are both physicians. Insurance Commissioner Ken Selzer heads the office that regulates the health care insurance industry in Kansas.

Barnett supports expanding the Medicaid program in Kansas, while Colyer and Selzer have been opposed.

"That may be an issue where they try to differentiate themselves from each other," says Beatty.

Medicaid provides health care for low-income, disabled and elderly people. Expanding the program would potentially offer health coverage for thousands of additional Kansans with limited incomes.

Expanding the program under Obamacare has been a divisive issue in Kansas. Lawmakers approved an expansion this year, but Governor Sam Brownback vetoed it. Lawmakers failed to muster the needed votes to override that veto.

There are also at least four Democrats running for governor who will need to carve out their own spaces in the race.

The slate of Republican candidates who have appointed treasurers includes:
- Former state Senator, and 2006 gubernatorial nominee, Jim Barnett
- Lieutenant Governor Jeff Colyer
- Wichita businessman Wink Hartman
- Secretary of State Kris Kobach
- Leawood businessman Patrick Kucera
- Former state Representative Ed O’Malley
- Insurance Commissioner Ken Selzer

The Democratic field includes:
- Olathe physician Arden Andersen
- Wichita high school student Jack Bergeson
- Former Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer
- Former state Agriculture Secretary Josh Svaty

Others who have expressed interest or are rumored to be considering the race include:
- Republican Senate President Susan Wagle
- House Democratic Leader Jim Ward

Stephen Koranda reports:


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