TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly spent 18 months sparring with Kansas’ legislative Republicans over COVID-19 measures. In the early days of the pandemic she imposed and then extended a stay-at-home order, issued a brief statewide mask mandate and tried to limit in-person worship services – all while meeting growls of GOP protest.
Then in November, two days after Republican Glenn Youngkin defeated Democrat Terry McAuliffe to become governor of reliably blue Virginia, Kelly expressed her first opposition to Democratic President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandates. A couple weeks later, she signed a bill aimed at helping Kansas workers resist vaccine mandates, a proposal that even the GOP-friendly Kansas Chamber of Commerce opposed.
As Democrats shook their heads, Kelly’s moves signaled her efforts to appeal to moderate Republican and GOP-leaning independent voters who she will need to win a tough reelection race in a heavily Republican state next year.