There are only 681 days until Kansans elect a new Governor--even fewer days until Kansas Republicans narrow what is likely to be a crowded field for the state's top job. With so little time between now and the next election, count on gubernatorial candidates announcing their candidacy in 2017. So, who's in and who's out?
The front runner--for now--is Congresswoman Lynn Jenkins. Jenkins declined to run for leadership in the U.S. House, likely in anticipation of a gubernatorial run. In November, she told local media and The Hill that she is eyeing the race. As far back as late summer, rumors were spinning that not only was Jenkins in the race, but that she'd offered the carrots of cabinet positions and the Lt. Governor slot on her ticket to some Kansas pols. Back then, rumor had it Rep. Mark Hutton, who did not seek re-election in 2016, would be offered a slot as Secretary of Commerce in a hypothetical Jenkins' administration, and Sen. Jim Denning would be Jenkins' running mate.
Word on the street is that another familiar face will seek the Republican nomination for Kansas Governor. Former state Sen. Jim Barnett of Emporia is rumored to be testing the waters for a run. This wouldn't be Barnett's first rodeo. Barnett mounted an unsuccessful campaign for governor in 2006, where he lost to incumbent Kathleen Sebelius. A few years later, the Emporia doctor ran against Tim Huelskamp, hoping to represent the Big First in Congress. Whispers suggest Barnett has tapped Dave Dreiling, the former CEO of GTM Sportswear, to be his running mate. K-State alums should be familiar with Dreiling who has owned, it seems, every establishment in Manhattan.
A variety of other potential candidate names are circulating, but several of those are people who reside in Kansas' Fourth District--the Wichita area. Many of those folks are sidelined as the race to replace Congressman Mike Pompeo shakes out. That special election will likely occur this spring. Among the losers in that race, there may be a few who consider a run at the top job in Kansas.
It's worth noting that Pompeo was widely considered a likely candidate for Governor until President-elect Trump named him to his cabinet. The President-elect's cabinet may take more potential Kansas gubernatorial candidates yet. Kansas Secretary of State is still rumored to be in contention for a role in the Donald's administration. Whispers suggest that unless Kobach is offered a pretty heady gig in Washington, he'll remain in Kansas and run for Governor. Meanwhile, Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer is widely mentioned as a possible candidate for Governor, especially as it appears he may run as an incumbent should Gov. Brownback accept a role in the Trump administration's foreign service. (Vatican? India?) Colyer is certainly acting as if he may play a larger role than normal role this year. Meanwhile, plenty of folks are suggesting that Colyer may also be seeking a spot in the Trump Administration.