Post last updated at 12:53 a.m. Wednesday, Nov. 9:
Gov. Laura Kelly maintained a slight lead late Tuesday night in her bid to be reelected, but fellow Democrat Chris Mann of Lawrence was running behind Kris Kobach in the race for attorney general.
Supporters tensely watched election results come in and rooted on their candidates in Lawrence Tuesday night. But by late in the evening, the crowd had slimmed considerably at the Douglas County Democrats’ watch party at Maceli’s downtown.
With 96% of the votes counted, incumbent Kelly was leading Republican Derek Schmidt, with 49.5% of the vote to 47.4%. Two independent candidates had tiny percentages that together equaled the difference between Kelly and Schmidt.
Mann, who was slightly ahead of Kobach earlier in the evening, fell behind by a few thousand votes as rural results came in. He was expected to speak at the watch party, but a staffer said late Tuesday that he would issue a written statement.
Though Kobach declared victory around midnight and his lead had grown to nearly 18,000 votes before 1 a.m., Mann’s campaign issued a statement saying the race was too close to call.
Voter turnout was lower than the landmark Aug. 2 primary election in which Kansans overwhelmingly rejected a constitutional amendment that could have led to the banning of abortion in the state.
After the first round of advance-ballot results was posted Tuesday night, Douglas County Clerk Jamie Shew said he anticipated turnout in the county would actually be lower than it was in August, when the controversial constitutional amendment on abortion rights drove unusually high numbers for an off-cycle election.
“I don’t think we’ll hit what we did in August,” Shew said. “This whole election, what we saw, it just wasn’t that enthusiasm.”
Democratic Douglas County Commissioner Patrick Kelly easily won reelection: the final update from the Douglas County Elections Office, around 10:30 p.m. Tuesday, showed him winning 80.35% of the vote.
Earlier in the evening, state Reps. Mike Amyx and Christina Haswood spoke at the Douglas County Democrats’ watch party, thanking guests and volunteers. Both Amyx and Haswood ran unopposed in Tuesday’s election.
“It’s a great night to be a Douglas County Democrat,” Amyx said.
Haswood displayed a lot of energy on the stage, riling up the attendees. She spoke about the strength of the youth movement in Lawrence and its effect on statewide political races.
In Kansas’ Third congressional district, U.S. Rep. Sharice Davids retained her seat, with 55% of the vote as of 11 p.m.
“As a young Indigenous woman, during Native American Heritage month, I can say dreams do come true,” Haswood said. “Seeing folks like Sharice Davids [win], it’s one of the things that made me step forward and say ‘I can run for office too.’”
Rep. Barbara Ballard, a Democrat in the Kansas Legislature, described to the Maceli’s crowd the work that was done on the University of Kansas campus to get students to vote. She said that the Gen Z vote is crucial for Democrats in this election and future ones.
“John Della Volpe [the Director of Polling at the Harvard Institute of Politics] was interviewed on CNN last week and they asked him about polls,” Ballard said. “He said the one group not polled well was Gen Z; he predicted that Gen Z will turn out like never before. I’m hoping it’s true, because we need those votes.”
None of the Lawrence-based state representatives faced opponents in the election, but two districts that include parts of Douglas County were contested on the ballot.
Courtney Tripp, a Democratic candidate for Kansas House District 117, conceded to her opponent, Republican Adam Turk, around 10 p.m. Turk won about 52% of the vote.
“Some saw this district as a safely red district,” Tripp said. “We saw deeper. We put up one heck of a fight for this seat.”
Tripp said she “will come back stronger and with the best campaign team I could’ve asked for.”
“Women’s rights matter. Expanding Medicaid matters. Fully funding special education and schools matters,” Tripp said. “Even if it’s not today, we will bring District 117 home.”
Keith Davenport, Democratic candidate for Kansas House District 43, congratulated incumbent Republican Rep. Bill Sutton for winning reelection.
“Thank you for keeping this race on local issues rather than national politics or smear campaigns,” Davenport said in a tweet. “I look forward to seeing how you will serve our community these next two years. To everyone who volunteered, donated, supported, and voted – thank you. More to come in the days ahead.”
Sutton said via text message that “It’s my pleasure and honor to continue to represent the people of the 43rd District. I thank the people of the district for their continued trust.”
Sen. Jerry Moran was easily reelected over Democratic challenger Mark Holland, and Republican incumbent Tracey Mann overwhelmed Democrat Jimmy Beard in the First District of the House of Representatives, which Lawrence was redistricted into earlier this year.
The Douglas County Republican Party did not hold a watch party in Lawrence but instead went to one in Topeka.
— Cuyler Dunn, Jack Ritter, Conner Mitchell and Mackenzie Clark contributed to this report.