Democrat Kelly narrowly beats Kobach in Kansas gubernatorial race

Democrat Kelly narrowly beats Kobach in Kansas gubernatorial race
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Democratic state Sen. Laura Kelly narrowly defeated Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach in the state's closely watched gubernatorial race.

Kelly is the first Democrat to be elected governor of Kansas since 2009. She is the first woman to be elected to the state's highest office since 2003.

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The race was one of the tightest in the country, with polls consistently showing a virtual dead heat between the two candidates. Nonpartisan elections forecaster The Cook Political Report rated the contest as a “toss up.”

Kelly touted her ability to work with both sides of the political aisle and got a boost from the endorsements of three prominent former state GOP officials, including Govs. Mike Hayden and Bill Graves.

She has served in the Kansas state Senate since 2005, representing the district that includes the state capital.

Kobach had the backing of President Trump, who endorsed the secretary of state late before his primary victory over incumbent Republican Gov. Jeff Colyer. Kobach served as vice chairman of the Trump administration’s Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity that was designed to investigate claims of voter fraud. The Commission was disbanded in January after finding no evidence of widespread voter fraud in the 2016 election. 

Kelly's victory makes it more likely that Kansas will expand Medicaid coverage. The Republican-dominated legislature previously advanced legislation to expand Medicaid under ObamaCare, but it was vetoed by GOP Gov. Sam Brownback.

-Updated 10:20 p.m.