Democratic Gov. Kathleen Sebelius was the subject of sometimes intense speculation about whether she would be taking a Washington job, but Republican Lynn Jenkins got one instead by winning a seat in Congress.


Democratic Gov. Kathleen Sebelius was the subject of sometimes intense speculation about whether she would be taking a Washington job, but Republican Lynn Jenkins got one instead by winning a seat in Congress.

Jenkins’ and Sebelius’ career paths were the top political stories in Kansas in 2008. The state also ended the year with a new attorney general, state treasurer, Kansas House speaker and district attorney for its most populous county.

Sebelius spent time in the national spotlight, giving the Democratic response to President Bush’s final State of the Union address. She was a finalist for the Democratic vice presidential nomination and a potential Cabinet appointee for President-elect Barack Obama. But she opted to stay in Kansas.

Meanwhile, Jenkins, a two-term state treasurer, ended former Rep. Jim Ryun’s attempted comeback in the GOP primary in the 2nd Congressional District of eastern Kansas. Then, she unseated freshman Democratic Rep. Nancy Boyda.

Republicans saw the result as proof of the strength of their Kansas brand in an otherwise gloomy year for them nationally, thanks to Obama. The president-elect didn’t carry GOP-leaning Kansas, but he did better than any Democratic nominee in 20 years.

“The maybe-somewhat-surprising star of 2008 was Lynn Jenkins,” said Bob Beatty, a Washburn University political scientist. “She wasn’t supposed to win the primary and she wasn’t supposed to win the general. It’s one thing to surprise people in one election. She did it twice.”