Vicki Schmidt, a state senator from Topeka, punctuated her 14-year stint in the Legislature by ascending Tuesday to statewide office with a sweeping win in the race for insurance commissioner.
The Republican cruised past the Democrat on the ballot, Nathaniel McLaughlin, by a margin of about 26 points. Schmidt, who worked for 40 years as a pharmacist, said she was "ready to rock and roll" with her new office, which she sought because she believes Kansans need an advocate for insurance.
"I'm going to get together the right people at the table so we can start the discussions," she said. "Everywhere in Kansas people talked about the lack of choices, and the lack of health care choices in particular. So we're going to get to work on it."
Schmidt, who won by 250,000 votes, joined fellow Republicans in a GOP sweep of down-ballot statewide races. Former state Rep. Scott Schwab held a commanding lead over his Democratic rival, Brian “BAM” McClendon, in the secretary of state race, and Treasurer Jake LaTurner defeated state Sen. Marci Francisco, D-Lawrence.
Meanwhile, Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt won a third term by easily defeating Sarah Swain, a Lawrence attorney who was disavowed by Democrats over comments demeaning to law enforcement and a poster depicting her as Wonder Woman strangling a police officer with the lasso of truth. Derek Schmidt held an 18-point lead with a difference of 180,000 votes late Tuesday.
"I'm grateful that Kansans are going to give me a chance to keep on for another four years, focusing on the things we've been focused on, and we're gratified to have the opportunity," the A.G. said.
Schwab, McClendon and Libertarian Rob Hodgkinson all tried to distance themselves during their race from the current secretary of state, Kris Kobach, seeking a less conspicuous tenure overseeing state elections and other duties of the office.
“Growing up in Great Bend, Kansas, taught me hard work, integrity and dedication,” Schwab said. “As a lifelong Kansan, it’s been an honor to serve this state.”
Schwab had won 524,838 votes late Tuesday, compared to 435,874 for McClendon and 34,961 for Hodgkinson.
McClendon set a high mark in fundraising for the office, and the former Google executive touted his expertise as a developer whose technical prowess could advance voter turnout. He congratulated Schwab on his victory and for running "an honorable campaign."
"I especially want to thank those who invested in my campaign," McClendon said, "and the Kansans who invested their time by including me in their lives and communities as I traveled throughout our state."
LaTurner, who was appointed to his position last year, beat Francisco by 16 points and 155,000 votes.