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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.

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?

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Comment Preferences

  •  It amazes me (10+ / 0-)

    The wide gulfs between some of the more liberal states and then this. Almost makes you think they must belong to different nations.

    "If you don't turn onto politics, politics will turn on you" -Ralph Nader; November 2, 2000

    by Soviet Reunion on Tue Nov 06, 2012 at 12:59:01 AM PST

    •  One thing's for sure. (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      George3, tardis10, akze29, ptgkc

      They want a very different nation than we do. I honestly think that eventually we will be two different nations, that may be the only answer.

      If there is no accountability for those who authorized torture, we can no longer say that we are a nation of laws, not men.

      by MikePhoenix on Tue Nov 06, 2012 at 01:29:09 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  I've argued.... (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      OrangeMike, George3, ptgkc, wasatch

      that what has been happening in Kansas is a microcosm of the pending battle for control of the GOP nationwide which I see happening after this election.

      And Kansas is a great example.  Moderate GOP forces have tried to rally, creating a fund to support their state candidates and wound up raising very little and getting crushed in the process.

      Assuming Mitt loses, there is going to be a big battle between the zealot and moderate wing of the GOP nationally for control and the possibility of a split which cripples it for some time to come.  Let us hope.

      Free markets would be a great idea, if markets were actually free.

      by dweb8231 on Tue Nov 06, 2012 at 03:17:44 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  The right wing may belong to another planet. (0+ / 0-)

      They fit the definition of zealots. They are angry, non-tolerant and were ecstatic to take on their own party to rid members that didn't march in lockstep.

  •  Don't know quite how to say this (11+ / 0-)

    without seeming insensitive, but WOW!  

    I'm in next door Colorado, in the Denver area, and your description of Kansas just seems so horribly dreary that no wonder I couldn't even imagine going to Kansas for anything.  I'm somehow doing my best to avoid being so blunt, but your writing pretty much captures my sentiments of Kansas when I was there over 25 years ago.  Haven't been there since other than a quick drive-thru.

    Anyway, abandoning the 50-state strategy by the dems is exactly what results - Kansas.

    Hang in there, and just possibly better days may soon be near.  And again my apologies for seeming to be rubbing-in or anything like that, but somehow it is just very shocking  the political evolution and situation of this state.  

    And may at least some dems get elected.  And for a real shock, maybe enough to even have some actual power....

    •  No worries (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ardyess, wasatch

      What's sad is so few people can take over a party and most people don't seem to notice or care.  It won't be until the schools fall behind or we end of contaminated drinking water that folks will notice.

      A loyal opposition with proper infrastructure would help stem the tide, but it's such an uphill battle when the GOP has been the only conceivable option for generations.

  •  Thank you for reminding me (7+ / 0-)

    Why I'm pretty sure I could never live in Kansas again.

    As a child growing up in the 80s, Kansas never seemed particularly out of step or strange.   But having lived my adult years in the Pacific NW, all I can say is "yikes!"

    •  It wasn't this bad (8+ / 0-)

      until pretty recently.

      I grew up in Kansas too, still have lots of connections there.  My dad ran for Congress in Kansas in 1970 as a Democrat (he lost, but Democrat Dan Glickman won that seat a couple of elections later and held it for two decades.)

      The comment above about the 50-state strategy rings particularly true.  We need to begin to win back these states that have succumbed so drastically to the tea-party madness.

      If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality. - Bishop Desmond Tutu

      by AnnieJo on Tue Nov 06, 2012 at 03:42:06 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Madness is correct, the Tea Party vibe (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        has driven the marketing.  

        But it's the same people and ideas. The religious conservatives just started wearing tri corner hats to distance themselves from Bush's unpopular ideas and create new energy.

    •  Ahh, the NW (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Bailey, wasatch

      I vacationed in Portland, Seattle and Vancouver this summer. That was a refreshing environment.

      Back in the 80s, that would be your father's GOP and many were quite moderate. Now, the real economic stupidity of these decisions is awful.

      The first agency Brownback cut was the arts commission. The idea is money would be replaced by private and charitable organization that would continue the work. Problem is those entities don't get federal matching funds. So many programs in rural communities just went away.  It's not just lost education and appreciation. There is are real economic impact to that spending and it's one of the best stimulus the government invests in generating big economic growth.

      Brownback is quietly trying to restore that now and not drawn attention to how much federal money he threw away and the number of jobs he lost.

  •  I work in KS but live in Missouri... (8+ / 0-)

    here's hoping they hold the line, its really bad.  Some of the people I work with are rabid repubs no matter how many facts they are confronted with, it blows my mind.  

    "It is horrifying that we have to fight our own government to save the environment." *Ansel Adams* ."Even if you are on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there."*Will Rogers*

    by Statusquomustgo on Tue Nov 06, 2012 at 02:25:30 AM PST

  •  I live in western Kansas (8+ / 0-)

    where our somewhat moderate State Senator was replaced by someone I've never heard of, evidently a far right nut job.
    My congressman is Tim Huelskamp, who is one of the few Tea Party members who voted against Paul Ryan's budget because it didn't go far enough.
    Now we have the state leg being taken over by far right wingers.
    I'm not from here and I'm moving out the day I retire in 9 years.
    When I inevitably hear that people are getting less than no help from their representatives, I will remind them that they wanted things this way.

    “We are not a nation that says ‘don’t ask, don’t tell.’ We are a nation that says ‘out of many, we are one.’” -Barack Obama

    by skohayes on Tue Nov 06, 2012 at 03:44:29 AM PST

    •  Huelskamp is a disgrace (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      WisJohn, wasatch, kj in missouri

      I'm convinced the redistricting problems with Manhattan are because K-State, the Bio and Agro-defense center and communities around Ft Riley didn't want Huelskamp screwing up their federal funding.  

      They are stuck with him and hopefully they put him on a short leash. He will need to start doing his job as a representative. If not, he should get a primary opponent in 2 years.

  •  Thanks for this diary, and for mentioning (10+ / 0-)

    the KS Supreme Court.

    My aunt sits on the committee that selects the nominees to forward to the governor.  She is appalled at the potential dismantling of that process.

    If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality. - Bishop Desmond Tutu

    by AnnieJo on Tue Nov 06, 2012 at 03:44:36 AM PST

  •  How many Democratic pickups do you expect? (0+ / 0-)

    Age 23. Voting in NJ-03. Lived most of life in NJ-01. Had Rush Holt represent me during my undergrad years and am now represented by Frank Pallone in my grad school.

    by KingofSpades on Tue Nov 06, 2012 at 10:13:10 AM PST

    •  Honestly, I just don't know (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      KingofSpades, wasatch

      There are two wild cards.  All those voters that didn't vote in the primary and lean Republican.  I don't think Brownback has built up enough ill feelings among the voters yet to make a connection to local senators.

      The other is how many moderate GOP members will carry a grudge into these elections and cross party lines.  If they take the primary losses personally (and they should), they would cross party lines and there would be enough votes to flip 4 or 5 seats in spite of low knowledge voters.  I don't know if they will follow through.

    •  SD-1 upset in the making (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      You were calling that one back in August.  Still some outstanding precincts but totals are:

      D-Steve Lukert     14,268     50%   

      R-Dennis D. Pyle  14,018     50%   

  •  People just don't know (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ptgkc, wasatch

    A lot of lifelong Republicans really DONT UNDERSTAND what is happening -

    they will when they get their tax bill, or when their schools start to suck - but until then, we're stuck.

    I have no idea who the Dems have on the bench to even challenge Brownback.

    The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power. --George Orwell

    by jgkojak on Tue Nov 06, 2012 at 11:53:27 AM PST

  •  thanks (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I have family and friends in KS, mostly conservatives, some getting pretty extreme. Really sweet people that I love dearly, but the politics... yikes.

    It really saddens me, especially as my nephews are growing up there. They absorb a lot of stuff that's just in the air there, never hearing alternative arguments.

    Growing up, at least I had some respect for arguments on both sides, but that was a more traditional GOP and a less corporate Democratic party. I grew up with Republicans, but have been voting for Democrats since I turned 18. I get more liberal as I age (hope more of the national party catches up to me!) I always saw a valid role for a reasonable opposition, for a countering force to the weakest ideas of both parties, was basically an old-fashioned moderate (what used to be moderate, say, 30-40 years ago), but the opposition has gone pear-shaped in a big way, and Kansas illustrates that.

    My best wishes for enough seats to hold a check on Brownback's excess.

  •  bookmarked (0+ / 0-)

    to read later (hopefully) tonight as new denizen of Kansas.

    "From single strands of light we build our webs." ~kj

    by kj in missouri on Tue Nov 06, 2012 at 07:41:21 PM PST

  •  I'm not from KS (0+ / 0-)

    but I've heard a theory about the future of the Republicans there. Parts of central and western KS may soon be running out of water (due to depletion of the Ogallala aquifer and drought). Right now those areas are losing population. KS has more frontier counties than it had a hundred years ago. (A frontier county has less than a certain small number of people per square mile.) OTOH, Wyandotte County is blue, Douglas County is blue and there is at least a very sizeable minority of Democrats in Johnson County. Those are the population centers. Isn't it possible that in 10-20 years there will be mostly wind farms in central/western KS and the state will be blue or bluish?

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