Kansas politics

TOPEKA, Kansas — A near sweep by conservatives over moderates in several primary races this week sets up more conflict over the next two years between the Republican-led Legislature and Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly.

“There will be a lot of feuding and fighting going on, particularly given the COVID situation,” said Rep. Tom Phillips, a moderate Republican from Manhattan who isn’t seeking a fifth term.

Republican leaders could further limit Kelly’s power to guide the state’s response to the pandemic and power past her objections to reducing corporate taxes.

LAWRENCE, Kansas — Freshman U.S. Rep. Steve Watkins is in two unusual situations: His re-election bid for the 2nd Congressional District seat is being complicated by two primary challengers and opposition from some in the GOP establishment.

But Watkins is also charged with three felonies related to registering to vote using a Topeka UPS store as his address.

MANHATTAN, Kansas — Five Republicans running for the U.S. Senate debated farm issues in Manhattan on Saturday. They all described themselves as loyalists to President Donald Trump.

OVERLAND PARK, Kansas — Democratic U.S. Rep. Sharice Davids took her spot in Congress from an incumbent Republican in 2018. This year, Republicans think they can take back the seat that represents Johnson, Wyandotte counties and a slice of Miami County.

TOPEKA, Kansas — A Democrat hasn’t won a U.S. Senate race in Kansas since the early days of the Great Depression.

It took that economic crisis to propel George McGill, riding on Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal coattails, to a win. And he served but a single term.

This year, the country finds itself on the cusp of another economic calamity. The COVID-19 epidemic sent the stock market into convulsions, forced all range of business and campaigning into hibernation and put life in limbo.

Even though it’s the offseason, Kansas Rep. Rui Xu says being a legislator is a full-time job.

Over the course of a week, on top of his part-time gig as a freelance marketer, the Democrat spends 20 to 30 hours meeting with constituents in Johnson County, going to events, working on legislation or helping city council candidates run for office.

Xu isn’t paid for that work. Like every other member of the Kansas Legislature, he only draws a salary from the state during the legislative session, from about January to May. This year, his first in office, he got $19,300.

Republican U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts says he will not run for re-election in 2020, opening the door to a parade of candidates announcing a run or considering jumping into the race to replace him. Multiple Republicans are eyeing the seat, and it could be the first time Democrats have a competitive U.S. Senate primary since the 1990s.

Here’s the rundown of who’s seeking the seat in Washington: 

REPUBLICANS

Bob Hamilton

One might think the end of her first legislative session as Kansas governor would give Laura Kelly some relief.

"Oh, not much," she said. "We've been extraordinarily busy."

wp paarz / Flickr Creative Commons

This week, Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly withdrew the nomination of a judge she’d named to the state’s Court of Appeals, after tweets surfaced showing the judge speaking disparagingly about Conservative leaders.

Ty Masterson finally said it this week. He gave voice to what many Republicans had been thinking since November. Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly’s election was a fluke.

“Her presence in the governor’s office is a tragic collision of timing,” Masterson, a state senator from Andover, told Associated Press Correspondent John Hanna.

As a result, Masterson said Kelly lacks a mandate from voters.

Two Kansas state senators who earlier this week jumped from Republican to Democratic ranks have been rewarded with choice committee assignments.

The assignments given to the former moderate Republicans, Sen. Barbara Bollier of Mission Hills and Sen. Dinah Sykes of Lenxa, make them key players on two of the most contentious issues awaiting the Legislature — school spending and Medicaid expansion.

(This story was updated at 3 p.m.)

The latest defections from the Kansas Republican Party — two Johnson County legislators — show politicians in some corners of the state trying to catch up with changes in the voters they need to win over.

In quick succession Wednesday morning, Republican moderates state Sen. Dinah Sykes and state Rep. Stephanie Clayton announced they are changing parties.

They followed the path of moderate Republican state Sen. Barbara Bollier, who declared herself a Democrat earlier this month.

Kansas Democratic Gov.-elect Laura Kelly is targeting school funding, Medicaid expansion and LGBT protections as some of her top priorities as she prepares to take office in January.

Democrat Laura Kelly fended off perhaps the most energizing and divisive figure in Kansas politics on Tuesday to become the next governor of Kansas.

Kelly beat out self-described “full-throttled” conservative GOP nominee Kris Kobach, the secretary of state who’d forged a kinship with President Donald Trump while dabbling in anti-immigration and voter fraud crusades across the country.

Kansas, a state that went for President Donald Trump by 20 points two years ago, on Tuesday turned one of its four Republican seats in Congress to Democrat.

Democratic newcomer Sharice Davids topped incumbent Republican Kevin Yoder in his quest for a fifth term. She beat the Kansas City-area 3rd Congressional District by roughly 9 percentage points.

Six months ago, very few people in the Kansas 3rd Congressional District even knew Sharice Davids’ name. Now she has made history. Davids is the first openly gay representative in Kansas history. She joins Deb Haaland from New Mexico as the first Native American women in the House.

"We have a chance to reset expectations when people look at Kansas," Davids said to a room full of cheering supporters. "I knew we could do better and we just did."

The day after the 2018 midterm elections, two political science professors join us to talk about who turned out to vote, and how that affected the outcomes. The discussion includes high turnout for young voters, changing rural demographics in Kansas and Missouri, the importance of identity for voters and candidates, and whether Kansas just turned blue as some are claiming, or not. 

The president reacts after Tuesday's Democratic wave in the House and Republican gains in the Senate.

Vote Kansas

It’s the day that will launch a million Thanksgiving arguments. For now, it’s time to cancel out the vote of your brother-in-law.

Campaign spending is super high. Voter registration in Kansas is hitting records. And it's not just the governor's race that's going down to the wire. 

The Kansas News Service team looks at last-minute ads, considers candidates' closing arguments, and what voters might be excited about going into Election Day. 


Republican Scott Schwab and Democrat Brian McClendon disagree on the most basic of questions about the job they’re competing for, Kansas secretary of state.

Case in point: Is it the secretary’s job to increase voter turnout?

Schwab, a lawmaker of more than 10 years, says no. He says the things that drive voters to the polls lie beyond the secretary’s control — times of war, ailing economies, contested races.

“The secretary of state can’t make people vote and I can’t change people’s hearts,” he said. “All I can do is make sure it’s a good experience when they do go vote.”

McClendon, a former Google vice president from Lawrence, doesn’t buy that.

“The current secretary of state” — Republican candidate for governor Kris Kobach — “has done the opposite,” he said. 

In the race for the 4th District seat, Republican incumbent Ron Estes and his Democratic opponent, James Thompson, are pretty much political polar opposites.

Election Day will be here before you know it. It’s like finals week in your civic life.

So when Tuesday, Nov. 6, arrives, you’ll be ready, right? Because you’ve been cramming by reading up on all the candidates, watching every debate, scouring candidate websites for position papers, of course.

It’s campaign season, meaning candidates are filling television airwaves and mailboxes with political advertising. Now, campaigning has spread onto another platform: your smartphone.

Leading by a neck

Election soothsayer fivethirtyeight.com, the respected outfit run by former New York Times poll analyst Nate Silver, projects that Secretary of Kris Kobach has a two-in-three chance of being the next governor of Kansas.

Wikipedia

Heads-Up, Kansas & Texas!

Don't miss these two debates:

Mark your calendars for an important pair of upcoming political debates, and they're both airing this month on the HPPR Network.

With hotly contested gubernatorial and congressional races on the ballot, you won’t want to miss casting your vote in the Nov. 6 general election.

Here’s the lowdown on registering, advance ballots, voting with a criminal record and more.

High-stakes low-profile

Democrat and political newcomer Sharice Davids is leading in multiple polls and recent fundraising in her bid to oust Republican U.S. Rep. Kevin Yoder.

Not so much in public appearances.

KCUR’s Sam Zeff explores her apparent lay-low strategy to win in a district that covers the Kansas side of the Kansas City area.

Schooling you on the candidates

Before he was governor, Sam Brownback had been state agriculture secretary, congressman, and U.S. senator. But when he captured the state’s top office in 2010 he had even bigger plans: to transform Kansas into a red-state model for the nation.

That’s not the way things panned out.

Former Senator Bob Dole made his frustration with Washington politics clear today (FRI). From the Kansas News Service, Celia Llopis-Jepsen reports from Topeka.


 

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