UPDATED: Kelly opposes federal vaccine mandate

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Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly on Friday came out firmly against the Biden administration’s vaccine mandate, saying she doesn’t believe it’s the most effective solution for Kansas.

“States have been leading the fight against COVID-19 from the start of the pandemic,” Kelly said in a statement Friday morning.

“It is too late to impose a federal standard now that we have already developed systems and strategies that are tailored for our specific needs

“I will seek a resolution that continues to recognize the uniqueness of our state and builds on our on-going efforts to combat a once-in-a-century crisis.”

Kelly’s  new comments on Friday came a day after she expressed concern about the mandate while addressing business leaders from Shawnee and Kansas City, Kansas in Lake Quivira.

Kelly emphasized that her administration has not mandated vaccines and suggested that forcing them on Kansans would not be effective as she distances herself from national Democrats heading into reelection next year.

“We have done everything we can to encourage people, to make it easy for folks to get vaccinated,” Kelly told the audience at the Lake Quivira Country Club.

“But I’ve been in Kansas a long time now, and I understand that those kind of things tend not to work.”

Kelly explained to the audience that early on in the pandemic, the federal government left it up to governors to devise their own plans for fighting the spread of COVID-19.

She said it was up to governors to come up with plans that were best suited for their states, and now the federal government wants to impose its own plans.

“Kansas has really developed our own strategy for dealing with this pandemic and it has really been in partnership with our business community, our schools, our health folks,” Kelly told reporters after the lunch.

“We took that and we developed systems and strategies that work within our state. At this point to have the federal government come in and say, ‘You all have to do it this way,’ is a little tough to deal with,” the governor said.

“We’ll be looking at the guidelines and seeing if there are ways that they can be implemented in a way that’s more Kansas focused,” she said.

Republicans have been pressing for Kelly to say whether she supports the Biden administration’s vaccine mandate, which forces companies with more than 100 workers to require vaccinations for their employees by Jan. 4 or undergo regular testing.

A spoksesman for Kelly’s likely GOP rival for governor, Attorney General Derek Schmidt, expressed doubt about Kelly’s opposition to the mandate.

“After two months of silence, Laura Kelly has now voiced her concerns some 36 hours after her party suffered defeat in blue state Virginia – words accompanied by no action,” CJ Grover said in a statement.

“Kansans are smart, and can see which candidate is acting on principle defending their livelihood and which is making a desperate political ploy to save her own job,” he said.

House Speaker Ron Ryckman Jr. said Kelly’s position reflects the unpopularity of President Joe Biden.

“Democrats across the country have raced to distance themselves from President Biden after Tuesday’s elections, so it’s not surprising to see the governor backtrack on this issue,” Ryckman said in a statement.

“Nevertheless, we need every state leader engaged in fighting this gross federal overreach and Republicans will welcome her participation.”

Asked whether she thought the vaccine mandate was an infringement on liberty, Kelly said those were “sort of buzz words” around the issue.

“I think the real issue is what do we do to get Kansas through this pandemic and help our businesses grow and thrive, and that’s what we’re going to be looking at, that’s what we’ve been looking at since Day 1,” she said.

Kelly didn’t think a special session was needed to address the vaccine mandate even if it’s an idea that’s been already been floated in the Legislature.

A petition already fell way short of the two-thirds of the lawmakers needed to force the governor to call a special session.

It’s unclear whether two days of boisterous – and sometimes controversial – legislative hearings on vaccines might push the Legislature to muster enough votes to call a special session.

Last week, a union leader from Wichita suggested that his group wouldn’t support Kelly next year because she wasn’t move to stop vaccine mandates.

During his testimony, Cornell Beard, president of the Wichita District of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, told lawmakers that he had the ears of more than 20,000 voters who will support challengers during next years’s election.

He talked about how at one point he was a big supporter of Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly He implied he wouldn’t be supporting her in 2022.

“Guess who’s going to be my friend come election time,” he asked. “But she just lost me because I haven’t seen crap.

“Word is anybody that runs against anyone currently, we’re voting for the opposite guy.

“That’s what our membership is saying.”