I was asked recently, privately and in diaries as well as locally when appearing at fundraisers and events - what really would change Kansas? I left several of those meetings and looked at my board and thought: There are several races out there that I think are huge. Of course, our governor and state races are all significant. Frankly, though, micro races for the Kansas State House as well as even smaller than that are the races that will determine what is really going to happen to Kansas over the next few years.
For the record, there are several great races I'm leaving out of this - not because I don't like the Democrat running or because I think there race is poor - but because they don't represent the demographic change or the chance to tilt the entire board. I'm rooting for the entire slate in Kansas, but I recognize that some races pose far greater danger than others, and some races offer a chance to change the makeup of the electorate which benefits other candidates.
Below the squiggle, you're going to get what my 105 county, 12 month stroll through Kansas has taught me - and what local races stood out to me as the ones that have the greatest chance of tilting the tables.
While math tells me there is a different order in which to rank them, I rank these races as follows. Please note, I view all of these races as "very important" but you have to go in some sort of order.
#1 - Liz Dickinson - District 30 - Liz Dickinson ran a fantastical campaign in 2012 against sitting candidate Lance Kinzer. Kinzer stood on the wrong side of numerous significant issues for Kansans. Whether it was being a sponsor of the Turn Gay Away legislation or an advocate for government funding going to private education sources. Liz Dickson pulled in slightly over 46% in her district in 2012, and this year she faces a fresh face with Kinzer dropping out.
This new face, Randy Powell has entered. Apparently, somewhere along the way, Randy did get some real advice, re-juggling his webpage to move up economic issues and move slightly lower his fairly radical conservative viewpoints.
Randy is going to run a walking campaign, as a minister using his followers to work a turnout game. This is a divided district and Randy won a VERY divided Republican primary, meaning not even all Republicans find him to their liking.
Why is this race important: In order for Paul Davis to win our governors race, he really needs to capture 60%+ of District 3 (Johnson County/Wyandotte). Liz Dickinson is going to be one of the more effective walk the district campaigners the party has, and her turning out democrats in a divided district will be critical for her race and for Davis. More importantly, if we get outworked in this district we are going to regret a golden opportunity at a serious pickup. Outside benefactor: Kelly Kultala, who would see a nice boost if we can effectively cover this race.
What is needed: Liz needs three things: Walking bodies (Canvassers) who can be trained and willing to work, Someone who can spend about 15 hours a week (a few hours a night) working with us to help her line up support calls (donors, volunteers), and of course, campaign money for mail, yard signs, etc. http://lizdickinsondistrict30.org/
#2: Julie Menghini - Some races (like #1) I need a big explanation. Others are sweet and to the point. Julie Menghini, D-Pittsburg is in a tough race here in Kansas. Facing a popular local football coach of a private catholic school, Menghini will have to run a smart, effective campaign - and because AfP and others definitely want to target someone like Menghini, who could with time ascend to higher office, there will be real pressure here.
Why is this race important: If Margie Wakefield wants to win a seat in the US House of Representatives she needs Crawford County. This was a key component in Boyda's strategy and it is very difficult for a democrat to come out of District two without a solid performance in Crawford. Paul Davis also needs Crawford to stay with him and not fall off the map.
What is needed: Simple, Menghini is going to face an ad-blitz by outside groups who are going to try and bring her down. She will need to raise money for her ground game and for her mail game. If you're too far away but you really are working for Margie, and you've already given significantly to Margie (first option, of course) then this is an important to put some resources behind. http://www.juliemenghini.com/
#3 - Ed Trimmer, District 79 - Trimmer won a nailbiter in 2012, winning by 65 votes.
Why this race is important: Trimmer is one of those races that every teacher in Kansas should care about - as well as every democrat. Not just a teacher, Trimmer is an NEA Master Teacher, a 28 year coach of speech & debate in Winfield, don't you think this is the kind of voice you really need to represent issues for you in the house?
What you can do: Trimmer is seen as vulnerable by Republicans because of 2012. As a result, he's going to be the target of a serious AfP effort. While it's easy for us to say: these races help X candidate, in this case this is a race that speaks for itself. Losing a democrat in the house gives Paul a harder task to handle than it already his job already will be. Losing a voice like Trimmer loses an advocate everyone should want in our corner. Fiscal donations are going to be what he needs the most.
#4 Brian E Davis - District 102, This race should ring a bell for most democrats. Why? This should explain it: https://www.youtube.com/... Jan Pauls, a former Democrat switched parties in order to become Republican and SUPPORT SAM BROWNBACK against what she decided was the 'liberal agenda' coming from Lawrence (her exact statements, google it) Her attacks on Paul Davis and crowd would be one thing.. but the fact that she flipped parties is a problem.
Why it matters: Jan Pauls, as a former democrat is running in Reno county, a place that of course elected Democrats. Her move to become Republican complicates a district that traditionally has mixed to poor turnout. Pauls moving to be a Republican risks some Democrats feeling that no matter who wins they win, a strategy that could leave some Democrats opting out in a county that needs high turnout for everyone on the ticket. If she keeps the candidate equivalency up unchecked then Reno county turnout model is in question - and not only do we elect someone who will not be with us on upholding a Davis veto, but would be itching to mint her conservative bona fides.
What is needed: Davis will need to raise money and resources to get out information so that Pauls can't continue with the 'I'm a moderate who found the Democrats too liberal" message.
#5 - Ann Mah - District 54 - Mah lost her race in 2012, again by a handful of votes. (21 to be exact). Her district, just south of Lawrence, should be fertile ground this year for her to regain her seat and provide Paul with one of the five pickups he really needs.
Why this race matters: Democrats need pickups, and a race that is right within the backyard of their general election governor's home base and as close as this race was last time should be high on their list.
What is needed: Money, Volunteers. http://www.annmah.org/
#6 - Pat Sloop, District 88 - If you're reading this and you're a teacher you know why this race matters. Rep. Sloop was a major supporter for KNEA and teachers causes in this last cycle, but she is also someone who represented all of our issues well. Because of this, she has a major target on her back.
Why this race matters: Sloop represents a district that is 40% minority (25% African American, 15% Latino). The turnout in Sloop's district in 2012 trailed other districts fairly significantly in part due to voter registration and turnout issues. Strong voter turnout in this district is important as it would blunt Brownback in his home turn and help us secure a race we need to win.
What is needed: Money, volunteers.
#7 - Miranda Rickels - District 5 - District 5, which covers the 169 corridor has been uniquely impacted by Brownback policies. With a large job base connected to mental health fields due to proximity with the nearby communities as well as a transitional community, this district which was close in 2012 (200 votes).
Why this race matters: District 5 is a decent turnout model with a changing community base. It also represents a chance to talk to even those who aren't normally with us about issues that are having a major impact in their communities (like Medicaid Expansion). It's also a legitimate pickup opportunity for Democrats.
How you can help: Canvassing, Money, Staff. Miranda is a first time candidate who will run head on into the jaws of outside forces. She's going to need everything out of the box but with the right support, she has a chance to pull a real surprise here.
#8 Larry Meeker, District 17. Meeker, former mayor of Lake Quivira was forced to run as an independent in 2012 due to a filing issue in the Secretary of State office. Even though he ran as an independent, Meeker put up a heck of a race against Hildabrand. This time around, Meeker is outfundraising and outworking Hildabrand.
Why this race matters: This is a potential pickup in a district that has went back and forth with status in the Kansas house.
What is needed: Meeker really needs continued awareness campaign, availability of volunteers. In other words: Spread the word... http://www.meekerforkansas.com/...
#9 - Stephanie Cool, County Commissioner, Salina Kansas. You didn't think all of these would be house races, did you? Stephanie Cool is the Democrat running in Saline county for county commissioner.
Why this race matters: People overlook the importance of local races. However, this race in Salina is a HUGE race. Saline County this year decided to turn away grant money that would have provided for birth control options for their residents as they advocated the birth control proposed (Long term birth control) represented abortion. In a series of debates that went on over 3 weeks, the county commission heard testimony and at one point declared: "No, it is exactly my job to deny birth control." (I've posted video of this in prior diaries).
What is Needed: Stephanie is going to need a ground game and a lot of support, monetarily and awareness wise. People tend to vote based on incumbency and just for the (R), still, many in Saline county felt embarrassed enough about this that they showed up at the court house as these events occurred. Stephanie Cool as a county commissioner can be a way to change or call attention to shenanigans like these. Most importantly for other campaigns, Cool represents a shot to get a ground game in a bright red district that is motivated on issues that draw democrats to the polls.
#10 Adam Lusker, District 2. The first words out of many candidates who read this in Kansas who aren't part of this list will be: ARE YOU KIDDING ME? Adam Lusker is going to run UNOPPOSED! How can his race matter?
Why this race matters: For Margie Wakefield and Paul Davis, winning Crawford County as pointed out above is VERY important. Since Julie Menghini is going to be in a dogfight, this race going unopposed may do them no favors. Adam Lusker has to work hard to bring to the polls as many souls as he can knowing that they won't be turning out for him, he has to turn them out for Margie Wakefield and Paul Davis. If Lusker can maintain the normal Democratic vote volume in Frotenac (around 5,400) or better - preferably better - in an uncontested race while giving Republicans a reason to stay home then this race will matter a great deal for other candidates - especially considering what is happening in nearby Pittsburg.
What is Needed: Students and volunteers need to realize that just because a race is unopposed doesn't mean that a turnout game isn't absolutely necessary. There will be fewer mailpieces in mailbox, and the other side won't be throwing a ground game out there - but making sure that Frotenac Democrats turn out in high volume is going to be VERY important to all other democrats up and down the ballot.
What you can do:
Are you willing to Donate Time? Money? Effort? Don't know where to go? Please, PM me. I can direct you to the right sources and places to give, from county parties and chairs to campaigns and we can make a huge change in Kansas.
People love to paint Kansas as big, bright and red. I want you to look at the list above, a list of races that were often decided by small numbers of votes - sometimes less then 20 votes - and think about how your small contribution of time, effort, money can tilt a race.