Laura-Kelly party-4

Kansas Governor-elect Laura Kelly gives her victory speech at her watch party in November, 2018, citing how both political parties came together to elect her: "We're a people united by a common set of values."

TOPEKA —  The Kansas gubernatorial race was called for Democratic candidate Laura Kelly over Republican Kris Kobach on Nov. 6. 

Tears and cheers were abound in the Ramada Hotel ballroom where Kelly's supporters gathered to watch results flood in. The race was one of the tightest in the country, with polls consistently showing Kobach and Kelly neck-and-neck.

For University students in attendance, the win was met with surprise and joy, as members of KU Young Democrats cried and yelled, “I can’t believe it!” 

Nick Hinman, a sophomore from Olathe, said he believed the win could restore hope in University students that their voice matters.

“I’m ecstatic, and I can’t believe it. It’s unreal — it’s absolutely unreal,” he said, following the call for Kelly as winner of the race. 

Kelly, a longtime senator, ran a campaign with promises of bipartisanship and improving funding for public education while Kobach promised initiatives focused on shrinking the government and cutting taxes.

Ryan Reza, a freshman from Topeka, was among those in attendance at the watch party, after spending a full day in Leavenworth, volunteering with the Leavenworth Democratic Party.

“Personally, I think Kelly’s policies would actually be beneficial to Kansas. She sees Kansas in the future, while her opponent sees Kansas in the past,” Reza said, prior to the results.

Reza’s primary issue, and main motivation for supporting Kelly, he said, was the state of public education in Kansas. Reza was enrolled in a Kansas public school when then-Governor Sam Brownback cut an estimated 1.5 percent from public education. Kobach, a supporter of Brownback, has faced criticism for not funding higher education enough.

“I think we need to dedicate more funds to [education],” Reza said. “I think everything Kobach has said is the exact opposite of what we need to be doing.”

This story is developing.