KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly promised her supporters would get the chance to celebrate Wednesday, but she stopped short of declaring victory in her bid for re-election at her watch party in Topeka.
Addressing supporters at her watch party shortly after midnight, Kelly said she was “very confident” once a few outstanding votes were counted that “we will win.”
Kelly, a Democrat and well-respected former state senator with a reputation for working across the political aisle, had a 3% lead with 94% of precincts reporting against Republican challenger Derek Schmidt.
She touted her bipartisan chops for helping garner the support of voters.
“In this campaign, I spoke a lot — maybe too much for some of you — about my middle-of-the-road approach, because it’s important. And everyone is tired of the hyper-partisanship and vitriol in our politics. And everyone is tired of being at each other’s throats," she said.
Schmidt, who has served as the state’s attorney general since his election in 2010, told his supporters that the race was too close to call.
"Looking at the number of counties that are not fully reported and accounted for as well as the number of anticipated late-arriving mail ballots, it’s not going to be called tonight," he said.
Kelly’s lead stood at less than 18,000 votes as of 12:23 a.m. Wednesday, with results still trickling in from mostly rural areas of Kansas.
Schmidt also said outstanding mail-in ballots needed to be counted in a short address to his supporters.
Meanwhile, Kelly spoke for several minutes.
“I believe today that Kansas truly did vote to keep our state moving forward full steam ahead,” she said. “We will not go backward.”
Kelly boasted about her track record of funding schools, improving infrastructure, attracting businesses to Kansas, growing the economy, and balancing the budget during her first term.
“And yes, they voted for a woman's right to make her own health care decisions,” she said.