The race among Kansas Republicans to see who will challenge Democrat Laura Kelly in the 2022 governor’s race is heating up.
State Attorney General Derek Schmidt announced Tuesday that he will run for governor. He has criticized Kelly's handling of the pandemic and recently pushed legislation to give the attorney general a check on the governor's power during future emergencies.
"Governor Kelly’s administration keeps disappointing," Schmidt said in a campaign video he released. "We can do better."
Former Gov. Jeff Colyer signaled his plans to run last week when he hired a campaign treasurer. In a statement shortly after Schmidt’s announcement, Colyer said he welcomed Schmidt to the race and called himself "the authentic conservative in this race."
"Derek Schmidt … has spent over 20 years carrying water for the most liberal elements of the Kansas Republican Party," Colyer said in a statement.
Schmidt, who grew up in Independence, was a state senator for 10 years before being elected attorney general in 2010. He has easily won re-election twice.
He most recently criticized Kelly following reports that the Kansas Department of Labor paid out hundreds of millions of dollars in fraudulent unemployment claims. Schmidt also criticized her decision to vaccinate inmates in state prisons ahead of other vulnerable groups.
Schmidt called himself a "common sense, conservative voice."
Last Friday, Colyer named Mary Eisenhower as his campaign treasurer. She is the granddaughter of former President Dwight Eisenhower.
State law says a candidate must appoint a treasurer to accept campaign contributions.
Colyer was governor for a little less than a year after serving seven years as Sam Brownback’s lieutenant governor, the longest tenure for a lieutenant governor in state history. Colyer lost a close election in the 2018 GOP primary to Kris Kobach.
Kobach went on to lose the general election to Kelly. She announced last December that she plans to seek a second term.