Gov. Sam Brownback has added a staffer and retained an agency head after the U.S. Senate’s failure to confirm him for a federal job sent his nomination back to square one, possibly leaving him in Kansas a while longer.
Brownback’s office announced Thursday the governor had hired Andrew Wiens to serve as his policy director more than two months after his former policy director, Brandon Smith, stepped down. Interim Commerce Secretary Nick Jordan also pledged to remain in office until Brownback is confirmed, according to a release from his department. Jordan had planned to step down effective Jan. 5.
“I have been asked by Gov. Brownback to continue serving in my role as interim secretary of Commerce,” Jordan said. “With the amount of economic development projects in the pipeline, I am happy to continue in this role to provide consistent leadership until the U.S. Senate votes on his confirmation.”
The staffing announcements came after Brownback’s nomination to become President Donald Trump’s ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom failed to gain approval by the U.S. Senate this year and could signal that he will remain governor longer than expected. Brownback faced fierce questioning about his record on LGBTQ issues at his committee hearing, and senators on the committee narrowly advanced his confirmation on an 11-10 vote. He hasn’t been able to get a vote by the full Senate.
Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer’s communications director, Kendall Marr, said key members of Brownback’s staff had left, and with the legislative session fast approaching, the positions had to be filled.
Brownback previously has pledged he will not resign his position until he is confirmed by the Senate, but he had ceded some major responsibilities to Colyer, including developing the governor’s budget and choosing and announcing agency heads. He has said, however, he is still in charge and calling the shots.
Marr, the lieutenant governor’s communications director, said the two were working together on the governor’s budget.
Colyer is also seeking the Republican nomination to run for governor in 2018 and could benefit from running as an incumbent with some gubernatorial experience. Marr said he did not think it changed Colyer’s campaign strategy to have to wait a while longer to prove himself as governor.
Wiens previously served in Colyer’s office as policy director. Both Brownback and Colyer praised him in a release announcing his hire.
Brownback’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.