Sen. Laura Kelly stresses experience, bipartisanship in bid for Kansas governor

TOPEKA, Kan. -- Hours of listening, pages of testimony and pointed questions filled a room in the Kansas Capitol Tuesday.

It was a meeting of the Robert G. Bethell Joint Committee on Home and Community Based Services and KanCare Oversight. The lawmakers involved are tasked with keeping tabs on the state's privatized Medicaid program. 

"This committee is really charged with getting down into the weeds," Sen. Laura Kelly explained during a break in the meeting. 

The weeds are where Kelly is comfortable after nearly 14 years in the state legislature. As governor, Kelly said one priority would be moving KanCare into a nonprofit structure.

"It's very difficult to believe that services that are needed are being provided when there's a motive to make money," she said. 

Although healthcare reform is high on the list, Kelly has also said she wants to be known as the "education governor," addressing funding issues that have plagued the state.

It's Kelly's expertise and experience that earned an endorsement from moderate Republican Sen. Barbara Bollier.

"She has such an extensive knowledge of what it takes to run this state," Bollier said.

The endorsement of Kelly and of a Yoder challenger was costly for Bollier. She lost her leadership role on the Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee, as well as a seat on the KanCare oversight committee as a result. 

Still, Bollier emphasized Kelly has her "utmost respect," and is her choice for governor.

Kelly hopes her ability to work across the aisle is appealing to voters as well.

"I believe that collaborating and consulting and conversing with my colleagues is imperative. We may not always agree on issues, but that doesn't mean we can't occasionally find common ground," she said.

Kelly will face Secretary of State Kris Kobach and businessman Greg Orman in the general election in November. 

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