Hayden was chosen as chair of the Republican Governors Association. Hayden's term saw tax cuts and programs to combat substance abuse. Unfortunately for the governor, a split in the Kansas Republican Party between moderates and conservatives considerably reduced other accomplishments. Hayden himself was perceived as a moderate; on abortion, for instance, he took a pro-choice position. Because of the legislative gridlock, Hayden was not able to reinstate the death penalty. Hayden lost his re-election bid primarily because of voter passage of a property reclassification amendment in Kansas which resulted in property reappraisals - the first in some cases in 20 years - and the resulting property tax increases when market values were applied to properties for tax purposes.
State Treasurer Finney was elected governor over Hayden in 1990, giving Hayden the distinction of being the first incumbent governor of any state to lose to a woman. In addition to being Kansas's first female governor, she was Kansas' oldest governor (65), Kansas' first Roman Catholic Governor, and one of the few pro-life Democratic Governors at the time .