More than a year before Kansans will cast a vote in the 2022 gubernatorial race, Sen. Roger Marshall announced Monday he’d made his choice.
Marshall endorsed former Gov. Jeff Colyer at a press conference in Topeka as Colyer formally launched his campaign.
“Just like he’s been a loyal friend to me all these years, Jeff is the person we can count on to stay loyal to the traditional Kansas values,” Marshall said.
Colyer, 60, a former lieutenant governor who stepped up for a year after Gov. Sam Brownback took a position in the Trump administration, informally joined the race about six weeks ago when he named Mary Eisenhower as his campaign treasurer.
Days later, Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt announced his candidacy.
On Monday, Colyer made few references to Schmidt, instead aiming his criticism at Gov. Laura Kelly, a Democrat. He cast himself as “the conservative candidate in this race,” referring to his anti-abortion stance and opposition to Medicaid expansion.
Colyer, a Johnson County plastic surgeon, is attempting a comeback after losing the GOP primary to Kris Kobach by 343 votes in 2018.
“I’ve been here all along fighting for conservative values and actually getting them done,” Colyer said.
Though Colyer has not been a candidate since 2018, he has been active in Kansas politics.
Several candidates with Colyer’s endorsement won their 2020 races, including Marshall in his GOP Senate primary.
In a statement, Schmidt brushed off Marshall’s support of Colyer as nothing more than the freshman senator returning a favor.
“I respect Roger Marshall for keeping his pledge, made in the heat of last year’s U.S. Senate primary, to swap endorsements with Jeff,” Schmidt said. “After all, a deal’s a deal.”
“But Kansas Republicans need to move forward, not return to the failures of 2018 when our incumbent governor was too weak to keep the nomination of our own party, much less stop Laura Kelly.”
Colyer denied any deal, saying his support of Marshall was “absolutely not” contingent upon a later endorsement. Marshall said his decision came out of “loyalty to a close friend” with a “proven track record.”
After the event, Marshall was asked about President Joe Biden’s job approval rating, which stands just under 60%.
Marshall initially said Kansans don’t support Biden’s “moderate policy” before correcting himself to say Biden was pushing an “extreme socialist agenda.”
Marshall has become one of Washington’s most outspoken Republicans on culture war issues, such as whether transgender youth should have access to medical care for their transition.
Colyer said he would pay attention to those issues as governor but be focused on economic concerns.
“I’m here to talk about where I’m taking the state,” Colyer said. “We’re going to grow our economy. Low taxes, low regulation. We’re going to have pro-family values and I’m a pro-life governor.”
“As governor you have to deal with all those priorities and you don’t back down from the fight.”