First, let me take you back to General Election day in Kansas, November of 1978. I was challenging incumbent Governor Bob Bennett. I was underfunded, given little chance to win, and in the latest poll published in the Sunday Topeka Daily Capital before the election, I was down 49% to 33%. How I won is another story, but certainly my opponent had to be totally shocked, especially when the first edition of the Topeka Capital Journal had him winning very early Wednesday morning.
He didn't have to concede and concession was not necessary for the transition process to begin. There was no questioning of the election results but also no real organized help for the transition either, with the exception of access to the budget staff to produce a new budget for the Legislature’s consideration. It was clear that I would become Governor, and I took over as planned on Inauguration Day in 1979 with no fuss. This is certainly the outcome we're all hoping for in 2021.
Years passed and I never gave the issue any thought. For me, Bennett’s unwillingness to concede was never a real issue. After I had left office, the Kansas State Chamber of Commerce sponsored a Leadership Kansas program, inviting both myself and Governor Bennett to jointly appear, share observations, and take questions—something we ended up doing for several years. At the very first joint appearance, Bennett went first and led off with this statement: “For the record, I want to publicly concede that John won in '78.” The audience didn’t know exactly how to respond, but it didn’t keep us from having a really good joint appearance. I always highly respected him, as we had gotten very well acquainted when we were both in legislative leadership and then during his four years as Governor.
I am thankful and we are fortunate that, despite Trump taking over two months to accept there will be a transition of power, and with accountability coming after putting us through hell on January 6th, the experienced Biden-Harris team knows what they are doing—even with limited early access to key information, including intelligence and public health. And, come January 20th, they will be ready to lead and make us proud.
But, clearly, re-establishing civility and mutual respect for one another and the electoral process will continue to be a challenge in the coming years. We must restore our faith in the will of the People and our system for freely and fairly electing our leaders. If we don't do this, I fear more dark days could be in our future, rather than our past.