Under Fire: Kansas Democrat Gov. Laura Kelly Keeps Digging After Skipping Police Memorial for Partisan Event

Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly answers questions from reporters following an event at the Statehouse, Thursday, July 22, 2021, in Topeka, Kan. Kelly says getting more Kansas residents vaccinated is the only way to stop the spread of the COVID-19 delta variant. (AP Photo/John Hanna)
John Hanna/AP Photo

Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly (D) is standing by her decision to travel to a Democratic Governors Association (DGA) conference in New Mexico this month instead of staying in state to attend Kansas’s annual law enforcement memorial ceremony.

Kelly responded to local outlet 13 News on Tuesday after the Kansas Republican Party blasted out a Breitbart News report about her absence in a fundraising email. Kelly told 13 News she is “a good friend of law enforcement” in response to the Kansas GOP berating her for prioritizing the fall policy conference held by the DGA, the group leading election and reelection efforts for Democrat gubernatorial campaigns.

Kelly was the first governor in nearly a decade to miss the memorial ceremony, which took place October 8 — the same day as the conference — and this year honored five officers who died in 2020.

This year’s ceremony had been postponed from May and was canceled in 2020 because of coronavirus restrictions. Kelly however delivered a virtual message in lieu of last year’s event and attended the 2019 ceremony. Past governors have attended every year since 2012, and in 2011, the lieutenant governor attended on behalf of the governor.

Attorney General Derek Schmidt (R), who is challenging Kelly for governor next year and has attended the ceremony every year since he took office, said in a statement this past weekend about her absence 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.”

On Monday, the Kansas Republican Party sent out its fundraising email highlighting Kelly missing the ceremony. Kansas GOP Executive Director Shannon Golden, whose father is a police officer, wrote in the email, “Just when you think it can’t get any worse: Governor Laura Kelly got CAUGHT skipping the annual Kansas Law Enforcement Memorial this month to rub elbows with national Democrats in New Mexico.”

Golden added, “Our governor sent a message when she chose to fundraise for her campaign over attending a memorial honoring fallen heroes. Next November, we will send her a stronger message when we vote her out of office.”

Kelly, in response, insisted to 13 News that the DGA conference was not a fundraiser. She said, “I think if you ask anybody on the street how I have behaved as a governor toward law enforcement, they would let you know that I am a good friend of law enforcement, and I value and respect the work that they do every single day.”

The Republican Governors Association (RGA), the GOP counterpart to the DGA, issued a statement after Kelly rejected the Kansas GOP’s criticism about missing the ceremony, observing Kelly failed to “show contrition” for her decision.

“Yesterday Laura Kelly had an opportunity to show contrition for choosing to prioritize Democratic political donors over Kansas’ fallen law enforcement officers, and instead she defended her choice to be the first governor in ten years not to attend,” said RGA spokesperson Joanna Rodriguez. “This isn’t a political gaffe or a scheduling conflict, it is a slap in the face for the law enforcement community that works to keep Kansans safe as well as the loved ones who support them.”

Write to Ashley Oliver at aoliver@breitbart.com.

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