So, there is no new polling to read today. If you’re stuck waiting in line to vote or just bored waiting for results, here’s some below the radar, rarely reported, seriously down ballot series of races to watch. At stake is control of the state of Kansas. The Kansas Senate races need to draw that inside straight with several Democrats to put a check on Governor Sam Brownback’s agenda. The district breakdown is included below the fold.
Kansas is nearly a one party state. Not just a Republican state. It’s been a red state for some time. Only when Republicans brazenly screw enough voters directly, do those voters finally consider voting for a Democrat. I remember Mike Hayden from western Kansas when running for Governor went out of his way to promote growth in the rural counties. Even at the expense of soaking Johnson County property owners to pay for a bigger share of the budget and rural schools. (I know, it sounds an evil redistribution promise). Yet, voters mechanically punched the R on the ballot and sent him to the Topeka where he (surprise!) kept his promise. After four years, the wealthy counties in the state had enough and voted for Joan Finney.
We’re looking at a similar dynamic. Governor Brownback has promised drastic change. He wants to eliminate the state income tax. Open land to wide use of fracking. Throw out the current education funding formula and replace it with a non-adjustable per student amount mixed with local funding making up the difference in the future. He wants to pick his own Supreme Court justices, replacing the current process of receiving an independent list of potential nominees from which he selects. Although the House rubber stamped much of the agenda, a handful of moderate Republicans caucused with Democrats (also moderates), to slow down the rewriting of Kansas laws. Brownback certainly didn't lose and he passed a major rewrite, including exempting owners of over 191,000 Kansas partnerships, sole proprietorships, and other businesses from taxation next year. Brownback has promised that the drop in revenues from massive tax giveaway won’t hurt schools, public safety, or infrastructure; although he has already instructed all departments to propose 10% cuts in all budgets for next year (just in case the economy is bad). This after 5 years of drastic cuts.
Brownback wasn’t happy with members of his own party slowing his grand experiment to duplicate a government that resembles his buddy Rick Perry down in Texas. Forget the fact Kansas has no coastal tourism or resources, a technology mecca like Austin, global fuel conglomerates like those in Houston, Fortune 500 companies headquartered in Dallas, or a top national convention city like San Antonio, but I digress. So together with the Chamber of Commerce, Americans for Prosperity and Club for Growth, the party purged of nearly all moderates in the August primary. The Governor is set to celebrate his instillation as head of Brownbackistan, where he calls all the shots and the legislature will simply nod and comply.
The odds of a coronation are good. The general election setting in Kansas is dismal this year. Turnout in early voting is down and it’s easy to see why. Mitt Romney will win going away. Kansas hasn’t voted for a Democratic presidential candidate since FDR. That was in 1936. The FDR of 1940 and 1944 wasn’t appealing enough and Kansas hasn’t looked left since (Correction, Kansas went left once since: 1964 LBJ. So twice since 1936). There is no Governor race or any other statewide office up this year. No US Senate race. Out of the four US House of Representatives races, two have no Democratic opponents. Only Lynn Jenkins is even remotely challenged in a district that leans about 9 points to the GOP (by the way, did you know she co-sponsored the Todd Akin redefine rape bill and her pro-life rating in the last Congress was one vote better than Akin? Might have made a good ad.). Without a 50 state strategy, there is no national party help. The Kansas House was already severely conservative, and although there are many new names, the outcome in that chamber will not change.
That only leaves the Kansas Senate races that provides any meaningful outcome and most voters don't know who they are.
Let’s face it, the conservatives benefit the most from low turnout. It’s difficult to get low information or under motivated moderate GOP voters and independents that did not vote in the primary to understand what happened. Will they realize the new Senate candidates are Brownback lackeys and be informed enough to maintain a slight check on Brownback’s promise to remake Kansas in the Texas image? Or more likely as my brother-in-law said, the Mississippi of the Midwest. There is last minute outside money working on literature that may form the only roadblock to Brownback in the next two years. http://www.ccenterdispatch.com/...
Education is tough when your party has been hijacked. The traditional GOPers have been kicked to the curb. Democrats are non-existent in many parts of the state.
So finally, here are the races and raw numbers. To get to a moderate majority of 21 of 40:
First, the Democrats must hold the 8 seats now under their control. (2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 18th, 19th, 29th, 36th). Most of these races are districts still drawn to favor the Democrats.
Then, 6 somewhat moderate leaning Republicans win (6th, 7th, 17th, 20th, 31st, 35th). All of these candidates are favored. The 6th is held by Steineger, formerly a Democrat and now challenged by a Democrat. This is also a pure pickup opportunity, although it won’t change the moderate / conservative balance.
Democrats pickup the open seat in the new 21st in Johnson County.
Democrats pickup a competitive seat in 28th in Wichita.
Then real uphill battle, Democrats pickup seats held by a defeated moderate Republican. (8th, 11th, 13th, 22nd, 24th, 25th). The 8th is a bellwether. Johnson County hasn’t elected a Democrat to the Senate since 1976. In this election, they need to send 2 or 3. The 8th is the most moderate district and has a candidate that ran for office previously (challenging Jerry Moran for the US Senate). She also has the endorsement of Tim Owens, the Republican defeated in the primary. If Lisa Johnston can not flip the 8th to the Democrats, it will be a long night and longer few years of complete conservative control. The 25th in Wichita is also a high profile seat, where defeated moderate Jean Schodorf has already announced she has officially left the GOP, although she stopped short of endorsing the Democrat challenger in the general.
The only geographic advantage is these races are not in rural communities, but the suburbs of Kansas City and Wichita and larger towns like Manhattan and Salina which might be open at least consider a Democrat.
That’s 22 seats in play that could form a moderate majority. There are a handful of other incumbent conservatives that also have challenges, but those vary from somewhat difficult to improbable.
Hopefully what moderate voters will understand is this GOP has no resemblance to the traditional Eisenhower GOP of Abileen, KS, or former Senator Nancy Kasseaum, or even Bob Dole. Forget a moderate Democrat like former Governor Kathleen Sebeluis. It’s fully embraced the Christian roots and become God’s Ole Party, where abortion and judges will be the first items tackled on the renewed Brownback agenda. Don’t think the Kansas GOP is controlled by that old time religion? Look at the last two presidential caucuses. Rick Santorum beat Mitt Romney by 30 points, 51% to 21%. Mike Huckabee won even bigger, beating McCain 69% to 23%. Will the small number of those voting endorse this direction by dutifully punching that R without considering what it really means in 2012 Kansas?