KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Former Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer will seek the state’s highest office again in 2022.
In a press conference Monday announcing his plans, Colyer, who served as governor for one year after Sam Brownback resigned to serve in the Trump administration but lost his bid to stay in office in 2018, criticized current Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly.
“Kansans have an opportunity to change course and be a leader for conservative, pro-family, and pro-constitution values,” Colyer said.
Colyer was Brownback’s running mate during the 2010 and 2014 gubernatorial elections.
During the 2018 Republican primary, he narrowly lost to Kris Kobach, who then lost to Kelly three months later in the general election.
Sen. Roger Marshall joined Colyer to endorse his candidacy.
"It's important that Republicans unite behind the one candidate who can not only win in November but who will actually enact conservative policies," Colyer said.
Colyer portrayed himself as the true conservative in the Republican primary Monday as his main GOP rival questioned his electability.
Colyer and Attorney General Derek Schmidt highlighted key campaign themes with the August 2022 primary still more than 15 months away. Colyer played to some conservatives' fears that Schmidt really is a moderate.
Schmidt questioned whether Colyer can unseat Kelly, a Democrat. She defeated Kobach, the then-Kansas Secretary of State and a polarizing conservative, in 2018 after Colyer as governor narrowly lost the GOP primary to Kobach.
Colyer said lessons from his 2018 race prompted him to start his latest bid early.
Schmidt said in a statement: "The stakes are too high to risk losing again in 2022."
Colyer’s 2018 campaign was damaged by ties to Brownback’s failed tax experiment in 2012, which the GOP-controlled legislature eventually had to reverse amid sluggish economic growth and massive budget cuts.
Colyer tried to distance himself Monday from the Brownback experiment.
“I’m not talking about the past,” Colyer said. “I’m talking about where we are going as a state.”
Still, Colyer cited Florida and Texas, which do not have a state income tax, as models and said he wants to lower taxes and remove business regulations.
Kelly vetoed a tax bill passed last week, saying it threatened to repeat the economic struggles brought on by the Brownback tax cut.
Colyer said he would have signed the bill, which would have allowed Kansans to itemize state income tax returns even if they didn’t itemize federal returns.
“I think the legislature had a good policy that would have benefited every single Kansan,” Colyer said. “I would have been happy to sign.”
Federal tax cuts passed under Trump raised the standard deduction and eliminated the need for most taxpayers to itemize their federal taxes.
While Colyer says he would support the vetoed tax bill, he also reiterated that he would oppose Medicaid expansion in the state.
Colyer signaled plans to enter the race in early March. He is a plastic surgeon and former state legislator from Johnson County.