Kansas Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly’s campaign is taking heat after flip-flopping on whether she believes men should be allowed to play in women’s sports.
Kelly’s campaign recently released an ad attempting to set the record straight by declaring, “Of course, men should not play girls’ sports. OK, we all agree there.” The following day, Kelly spoke with the Kansas City Star’s editorial board to clarify her stance after receiving criticism from far-left advocates. “We already have a structure in place, the NCAA has a structure in place to deal with issues like this on a one-by-one basis, and I don’t think there’s any other way that you can really deal with this.”
In 2021, Kelly vetoed legislation preventing boys from participating in girls’ sports and did the same thing this past year. The vetoed bill, titled the Fairness in Women’s Sports Act, mandates that only biologically born females can participate in the state’s K-12 female sports teams. Kelly’s statement on the veto is that the bill is not “inclusive” of all Kansans. “Kansas is an inclusive state, and our laws should reflect our values. This law does not do that,” she said.
Kelly and her Democratic allies warned that the legislation would harm economic growth and prevent businesses from entering Kansas, such as the NCAA March Madness basketball tournament. Kansas Senate President Ty Masterson released a statement saying, “The Fairness in Women’s Sports Act is as simple as it sounds — it ensures fairness. It’s not about anything else other than that, and no state should allow itself to be intimidated by big corporations or the NCAA into pretending otherwise.”
Wichita Republican State Sen. Renee Erickson, a leading sponsor of the legislation, also delivered remarks on Kelly’s veto decision, saying, “She’s having to pivot and backtrack on her two vetoes, and I don’t think Kansans are going to buy it, quite frankly.”
The Republican Governor’s Association also released a campaign ad showing Kelly’s reversal. “Laura Kelly’s actions speak louder than words. She chose the radical transgender agenda. She’s not ‘middle of the road,’ and she’s not honest with Kansas,” the ad said.
“Laura Kelly is looking Kansans in the eye and flat out lying about her record of failing to protect girls and women from having to compete against biological men in athletics,” Joanna Rodriguez of the Republican Governor’s Association said in a discussion with the Topeka Capital-Journal, adding that Kelly’s latest transgender advertisement displays her campaign’s “desperation.”
Republican gubernatorial candidate Derek Schmidt, attorney general for Kansas, recently called out Kelly on Twitter for lying about her record and claiming to be a “centrist.” “She’s been with Biden on this for years, now at reelection time, she lies. Kansans know it and will vote her out.”
While Kelly’s Democrat supporters defend her by saying she meant that men don’t belong in women’s sports because men who identify as transgender should be women under the law, Kansas Republicans continue to set the record straight, pointing out that the governor is deceiving voters about her history to try to appeal to both the progressive left and more mainstream voters.
Recently, Schmidt appeared in a campaign ad with UPenn female swimmer Riley Gaines, who tied with transgender swimmer Lia Thomas in the NCAA Women’s Championship 200-yard freestyle. Gaines has become an advocate for fairness in women’s sports and is politically active in this year’s midterm election. Gaines calls out Kelly’s veto of the transgender sports ban, citing the unfair advantage men have over women. “If Laura Kelly can’t protect women, she shouldn’t be governor of Kansas.”
Schmidt believes swing voters in Wichita and Kansas City will vote Republican due to Kelly’s previous action on transgender sports. A Washington Post poll in May revealed that 55 percent of people oppose males who identify as transgender being allowed to compete in girls’ high school sports, compared to 30 percent who support it. In addition, an NPR/Ipsos poll in June has two-thirds of adults against transgender students competing in girls’ sports. Eighteen states have laws banning transgender athletes from competing in sports; all are GOP-led.
In Kansas, President Trump won by 20 points in 2020, and Kelly is the only Democrat running for reelection in a state he won. The governor race is still a toss-up, as an Emerson College Survey showed a statistical tie between Kelly and Schmidt. Still, suburban frustration with Kelly’s muddled transgender position may be enough to put Schmidt over the top.