Republican gubernatorial candidate Ken Selzer on Monday cast campaign operatives of political rival Jeff Colyer as instigators of potentially damaging rumors that failure to land an endorsement from the Kansas Farm Bureau would prompt Selzer to suspend his campaign.
Selzer, who is Kansas’ insurance commissioner, said he had no intention of prematurely ending his bid for the GOP nomination against Gov. Colyer, Secretary of State Kris Kobach, former Sen. Jim Barnett and three others.
The Farm Bureau, an advocacy organization with deep roots throughout the state, revealed June 29 that Colyer was the candidate “with the most solid commitment to the needs of our agricultural and farming community.” After banking that endorsement, the Johnson County surgeon could make a stronger case for tapping the deep reservoir of Republican votes in rural Kansas.
Selzer said he was dedicated to the rigorous campaign leading to the Aug. 7 primary. He expressed frustration Colyer’s campaign was trafficking in gossip.
“We are in the race for governor,” Selzer said. “We do not appreciate the governor’s campaign creating rumors otherwise. We know a majority of Farm Bureau members and county boards as well as many ag producers and ag businesses are supporting our candidacy.”
Colyer campaign spokesman Kendall Marr didn’t directly address speculation about Selzer’s future in the 2018 race. He said Selzer had been a “great insurance commissioner for Kansas and has earned the right to remain in the race for as long as he chooses.”
Former state Rep. Mark Hutton, who dropped out of the GOP campaign for governor in March, said he exited the contest and endorsed Colyer after concluding the primary would be won by Kobach or Colyer. All the polling, endorsements, fundraising and other political indicators demonstrate the Republican primary remains a two-person clash, he said.
“While I appreciate Ken’s commitment to Kansas, I hope that he considers making the hard decision to exit the race, as I did,” Hutton said. “I believe this would be in the best interest of Kansas, because a vote for Ken Selzer or Jim Barnett is a vote for Kris Kobach.”
Like Colyer’s spokesman, Hutton praised Selzer as a “good man who loves his state” and as a public servant who performed admirably as insurance commissioner.
Hutton, who founded a Wichita construction company, struggled to gain traction in the campaign because he lacked the fundraising muscle of other Republicans. Hutton also suffered from lower name recognition than Kobach, Colyer or Selzer. Barnett, a former Emporia state senator, is considered a moderate in the GOP field.
Farm Bureau no longer possesses the capacity to dictate the race for Kansas governor, but the endorsement remains a coveted prize among candidates who speak frequently on the stump about their farming background or rural heritage.
Rich Felts, the Farm Bureau’s president, said the organization concluded Colyer was the proper choice for Republicans after “we looked at the current landscape in the governor’s race.”