Brownback Tapped for Administration Post

Republican Jeff Colyer would complete his term.

Zach C. Cohen
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Zach C. Cohen
July 27, 2017, 11:12 a.m.

President Trump nominated term-limited Gov. Sam Brownback (R) to be his ambassador at large for international religious freedom. (release)

“Brownback’s office isn’t saying when he plans to leave office. … Brownback spokeswoman Melika Willoughby said the two-term Republican governor would hold a news conference on Thursday. But Kansas Republican Party Chairman Kelly Arnold said Wednesday he would expect Brownback to resign as governor once he’s confirmed by the U.S. Senate. Arnold said that would likely be in the fall.” (AP)

Should Brownback resign before the end of his term, Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer (R) would replace him until January 2019 and could seek a full term in 2018. Colyer had already been considering a bid for governor.

JEFF WHO? “Colyer is preparing to become Kansas’ next governor after nearly a decade helping fellow conservative Republicans shape health care policy and serving as a loyal lieutenant governor and plastic surgeon, who squeezed in medical relief missions to disaster and war zones.” Colyer “was often the administration’s spokesman on health issues and served in the Legislature before first running on Brownback’s ticket in 2010.”

“Colyer was a vocal critic of the 2010 federal health care overhaul championed by former President Barack Obama, a Democrat, and still opposes expanding the state’s Medicaid program as contemplated by that law.”

“While Colyer has been influential on health care policy and is personable, he’s not as dynamic a stump speaker as” Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R) “and does not have as high a national profile.”

“Colyer may deviate little from Brownback’s policies on fiscal and social issues. In an Associated Press interview in December, Colyer described himself in classic ‘Star Trek’ terms as a first-officer Spock to Brownback as Captain Kirk, saying, ‘We’re working for the same goals.’”

“He also made three $500,000 loans to Brownback’s and his re-election campaign in 2013 and 2014 that were highly unusual for their size and timing; two were paid back within days. Prosecutors ended a grand jury investigation in 2015 without plans for criminal charges.” (AP)

2018 PREVIEW. “Colyer will only be around for one legislative session, unless he runs for election and wins. He has not said yet whether he will run. With a number of Republican candidates already in the race, winning the GOP nomination wouldn’t be assured. Colyer would also have to decide how to approach his proximity to Brownback, who has among the lowest approval rating of any governor in the country.”

“Colyer was also the subject of a federal grand jury investigation into a series of $500,000 loans he made to Brownback’s re-election campaign in 2014. No charges were ever filed. But the issue could resurface in a gubernatorial campaign. … Kobach … has slammed what he calls a ‘culture of corruption’ in Topeka.” (Wichita Eagle)

Kobach on Colyer’s possible ascension: “I don’t think it fundamentally changes the dynamic of the 2018 race regardless.” (New York Times)

House Minority Leader Jim Ward (D) “said his first reaction to the announcement was ‘good riddance.’ ‘He’s left a lot of carnage and destruction, and he’s also put the incoming governor in a tough spot,’ Ward said, noting that Kansas is awaiting a decision by the state’s Supreme Court on the fate of a new school finance formula.” (Kansas City Star)

DGA Communications Director Jared Leopold: “Colyer has been the biggest backer of Brownback’s economics. A vote for him in 2018 would mean 4 more years of Brownback.” (Twitter)

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