House speaker endorses Schmidt for governor

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House Speaker Ron Ryckman Jr. on Tuesday came out in support of Republican Derek Schmidt for governor, further fueling the attorney general’s drive to win the GOP nomination against former Gov. Jeff Colyer.

Ryckman has worked with both Colyer and Schmidt as speaker. He said he believes Schmidt gives Republicans the best chance to win back the governor’s mansion from Democratic incumbent Gov. Laura Kelly.

“We can’t take a chance of another four years of a liberal governor in Kansas,” Ryckman said in an interview.

“Derek is that conservative leader who gives us the best opportunity to have a conservative governor in Kansas,” Ryckman said.

“For me, it’s about someone I know we can unify around that will win 2022,” he said. “We have two good choices. Derek is a better one.”

Ryckman expressed reservations about Colyer’s ability to win after serving as the lieutenant governor under Sam Brownback and then running for governor in 2018 and losing to Kris Kobach in the Republican primary.

“Jeff obviously served with Brownback for 7 1/2 years and then ran on his record and lost,” Ryckman said.

“Derek is a proven conservative leader that can win and make sure Kansas has a conservative Republican governor,” he said.

Ryckman’s endorsement is expected to bring with it a fundraising component.

The speaker has a reputation for being able to raise money, something that’s expected to help Schmidt going into next year.

He’s credited with the ability to be able to steer donors to Schmidt’s campaign as the race starts to take shape with the primary more than a year away.

Schmidt and Colyer don’t have to report their fundraising total for 2021 until next January.

Ryckman’s endorsement is the highest profile politician that Schmidt has received so far in the governor’s race.

The attorney general also has received support from former Republican national committeewoman Helen Van Etten and Steve Baccus, who served as the chair of Colyer’s gubernatorial campaign in 2018.

Meanwhile, Colyer has received endorsements from U.S. Sen. Roger Marshall and Congressman Tracey Mann, who served as Colyer’s lieutenant governor.

One Republican operative – not working in the governor’s race – wasn’t sure how  helpful the Ryckman endorsement would be .

The source noted that the speaker appointed former independent gubernatorial candidate Greg Orman to a task force controlling how federal COVID relief money is spent.

“This just feeds the wrong narrative,” the politial adviser said speaking anonymously to be candid.

“The speaker may help Schmidt in some areas but not in solidifying his conservative bonafides and that’s Schmidt’s vulnerability,” the source said.

Ryckman and Schmidt have joined together on a number of issues in recent years, some that pitted the two Republicans against the governor.

Schmidt joined with Republican leaders in their efforts to stop the governor from limiting attendance at churches on Easter Sunday during the pandemic.

Schmidt cautioned that the governor’s executive order likely violated state constitutional and statutory protections for religious freedom.

He said the order, which was ultimately overturned by legislative leaders and later challenged in court, should not be enforced.

Schmidt also sided with lawmakers who questioned whether the Kelly administration had  the legal power to direct out-of-state retailers to collect sales taxes on internet transactions.

He also said it was debatable whether Kelly had the authority to issue successive state-of-disaster proclamations, essentially arising from the same disaster.