TOPEKA, Kan. — Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer's campaign chairman surprised him Monday by endorsing a Kansas City-area businessman running for governor as an independent, even though his former boss is backing Republican Kris Kobach after losing to him in the Republican primary.
Independent Greg Orman's campaign announced that Steve Baccus will become one of Orman's campaign co-chairmen. Baccus is a central Kansas farmer who served as president of the Kansas Farm Bureau for 12 years before retiring from that job in 2014.
Orman and the Democratic nominee, state Sen. Laura Kelly, of Topeka, are wooing Republican voters alienated by Kobach's in-your-face conservatism and advocacy of tough immigration policies.
Colyer endorsed Kobach, the Kansas secretary of state, after Kobach won the Republican primary by 350 votes out of more than 317,000 cast. Colyer reiterated that endorsement Monday and said Orman's announcement was "the first we heard" about Baccus' endorsement.
Baccus said he is supporting Orman because the independent candidate is best qualified to improve the state's economy.
The Farm Bureau endorsed Colyer ahead of the Republican primary but has yet to pick a candidate in the Nov. 6 election.
"Endorsement from a former leader who has not been active in the organization for years does not reflect the voice of the current organization," said current President Rich Felts.
Kobach dismissed Baccus' endorsement of Orman, responding in a statement: "It's no surprise that Topeka insiders are sticking together."
Kelly spokeswoman Johanna Warshaw said the Baccus endorsement shows Orman won't move Kansas past the past experiment in cutting Kansas income taxes championed by former GOP Gov. Sam Brownback or the budget woes that followed. Colyer was Brownback's lieutenant governor before Brownback resigned in January to take an ambassador's post.