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Red State Kansas Sees Some Changes In Power


The results are coming in from the 2018 midterm elections. Democrats have taken the House, while Republicans held onto the Senate. Now, Kansas is a deeply Republican state that saw some power shifts. Democrats flipped one House seat there. Sharice Davids beat the Republican incumbent Kevin Yoder. And Democrat Laura Kelly won the governorship over Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach last night. Here's Kelly.


LAURA KELLY: Today, Kansans voted for change.


KELLY: A change not only in the direction of our state, but a change in the tone in our state.

KING: Jim McLean of member station KCUR in Kansas joins me now. Good morning, Jim.

JIM MCLEAN, BYLINE: Hey. Good morning.

KING: All right. We heard from Laura Kelly just there, but I want to actually start with Sharice Davids because she is making history - has made history - in more ways than one, hasn't she?

MCLEAN: Absolutely. She's got quite a bio for a first - you know, a novice in the political arena. She's a Native American and Army veteran. She's the first openly gay member of Kansas' congressional delegation. She's a mixed martial arts fighter. And she's a law school graduate from Cornell, who then also served as a White House Fellow for both Presidents Obama and President Trump.

KING: Did her win come as a big surprise in this normally deeply Republican state?

MCLEAN: Really - not really. This is a suburban Kansas City district, the type that Democrats have been targeting all over the country. And it's a district that Hillary Clinton won in 2016, albeit only by a single percentage point. And Sharice Davids was leading really throughout the campaign.

KING: And then you have Laura Kelly, who beat out Republican Kris Kobach for the governorship. You heard her there talk about a change in the direction of our state. Why did Kobach lose this race?

MCLEAN: Well, in large part I think it's because Laura Kelly did her level best to tie Kris Kobach to former Republican Governor Sam Brownback. You may remember him. He cut income taxes deeply. That led to a budget crisis in the state. And I think there's still a Brownback hangover in the state. And I think Senator Kelly - she's a state senator - was successful in tying Kobach to Brownback because Kobach promised to cut state spending and also to revisit and reimpose the Brownback tax cuts.

KING: Worth noting in the couple seconds that we have left, we've heard a lot about women doing very well in these midterms. That's the case in Kansas so far.

MCLEAN: I think that has something to do with it, too. Exit polls suggested that there was - that women really turned out for both of these candidates.

KING: KCUR's Jim McLean. Thanks, Jim.

MCLEAN: Hey, you bet. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Jim McLean is an editor and reporter for KCUR 89.3. He is the managing director of KCUR's Kansas News Service, a collaboration between KCUR and other public media stations across Kansas.