Van Etten backs Schmidt in governor’s race

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Fomer Gov. Sam Brownback’s appointee to the Kansas Board of Regents is coming out in support of Republican Attorney General Derek Schmidt for governor.

Helen Van Etten, former National Republican Committeewoman for three terms, announced Tuesday she was endorsing Schmidt in what appears to be a developing Republican primary against former Gov. Jeff Colyer.

“I’ve known a lot of candidates throughout my life, and Derek Schmidt is one of the best, most promising Kansans I have ever had the pleasure to meet,” Van Etten said in a statement.

“He doesn’t just talk – he gets things done. I hope you’ll consider lending a hand to his campaign because bringing good conservative leadership back to Kansas has never been more important than now,” she said.

Van Etten’s endorsement reflects a split from the Brownback Team for who Colyer served as lieutenenant governor for a little more than seven years.

Van Etten has served on the Kansas Board of Regents since 2013. Brownback appointed her to the board twice. Her term ends in June.

Van Etten has contributed to both candidates over time, giving $350 to Schmidt in 2010 and 2013 combined while giving $600 to Brownback in 2009 and 2014 combined.

Van Etten’s endorsement is seen by some as a signficant win for Schmidt given the fact that she’s been a longtime leader in Kansas Republican politics.

She served three terms as Republican National Committeewoman for Kansas starting in 2008.

“She’s a known commodity within the grass roots,” said one Republican source not affiliated with a campaign talking annonymously so they could be candid.

“Any endorsement of anyone who’s been a member of the party and a leader within the party for as long as she has, has a lot of meaning,” the source said.

“She did support the Brownback administration and Gov. Colyer before, so her breaking of the ranks is a showing of the times that a lot Brownback supporters in the past are moving to Derek because it’s something different.”

A spokesman for Colyer did not respond to a text message.