Gov. Laura Kelly (D) missed an annual law enforcement memorial ceremony in her state that Kansas governors have attended every year for the past decade and instead traveled to New Mexico for a Democratic Governors Association (DGA) conference.
The law enforcement ceremony was held October 8 at the State Capitol and included a tribute to five officers who died in 2020, per local outlet KSNT’s coverage of the event.
While last year’s ceremony was canceled because of coronavirus restrictions, Kelly delivered a virtual message in lieu of the event in 2020 and attended 2019’s ceremony. Former Gov. Jeff Colyer (R) attended in 2018, and former Gov. Sam Brownback (R) attended from 2012 to 2017. In 2011, Colyer, then the lieutenant governor, attended on behalf of Brownback.
This year, Kelly, who is facing a reelection race next year as a Democrat in a solid red state, prioritized a fall policy conference in Santa Fe hosted by the DGA, the organization that leads Democrat campaign efforts to elect and reelect governors in its party. The event took place October 7–8, and Kelly was present, per a Facebook photo of the event posted by a former DGA finance committee member.
Attorney General Derek Schmidt (R), who is seeking to unseat Kelly in next year’s election, was a keynote speaker at the law enforcement ceremony this year and has been attending the same event since he took office ten years ago.
Yesterday marked the first Kansas Law Enforcement Memorial Ceremony in almost 2 1/2 years. As always, it was a privilege to participate. We added seven more names of fallen officers to the memorial on the Statehouse grounds, and we are grateful for their service and sacrifice. pic.twitter.com/aMKIXiICha
— Derek Schmidt (@DerekSchmidtKS) October 9, 2021
Schmidt said in a statement that Kelly’s “disappointing decision to skip their annual memorial service, which this year recognized the sacrifice of seven more fallen Kansas officers, in order to attend a partisan political meeting poorly represents our state’s priorities and values,” adding that “Kansans love and respect the men and women who serve honorably in law enforcement.”
Jeff Zmuda, the state’s Department of Corrections secretary, attended the ceremony in place of Kelly, according to the Kansas Reflector.
Kelly spokesman Sam Coleman told the outlet that Schmidt’s criticism of Kelly’s absence “only serve[s] to wrongfully politicize an important issue” and that the Democrat governor is supportive of law enforcement.
“Governor Kelly supports our law enforcement and their families, which is why she fought for pay increases for members of state law enforcement, and this year she signed the Michael Wells Memorial Act which increases benefits for the families of first responders that die from a work-related condition,” Coleman told the Reflector.
Kelly has indeed taken a more moderate stance toward law and order than the far-left flank of her party, saying in June 2020 following the death of George Floyd that the leftist push to “defund the police” is “unfortunate” phrasing. Kelly did however that same month create a commission on “racial equity and justice” and appoint an individual to serve as cochair of the commission named Tiffany Anderson, who has accused Kansas police of “often” having a “slave patrol mentality” in “high minority communities.”
The Kansas Republican Party condemned Kelly’s failure to appear at the law enforcement memorial, with Kansas GOP Executive Director Shannon Golden, whose father is a police officer, saying in a statement provided to Breitbart News that she found Kelly’s scheduling priorities “insulting.”
“As the daughter of a police officer, it is insulting that our governor thinks rubbing elbows with national Democrat donors is more important than paying tribute to our fallen officers. It was Laura Kelly who politicized this when she chose Super PAC donors over Kansas officers and their families,” Golden said. “Each day our men and women in blue work to keep our communities safe, the least Laura Kelly can do is show up.”
Write to Ashley Oliver at email@example.com.