Tuesday's primary election appears to be a clear indication that Kansas voters aren't satisfied with how their state government has been run.
Incumbent Republican Gov. Mike Hayden only narrowly defeated Nestor Weigand, a Wichita realtor who has never held public office. On the Democratic side, State Treasurer Joan Finney pulled off one of the stunning political upsets in recent years, defeating former Gov. John Carlin.
In both races, the challengers had leaned heavily on the records of Hayden and Carlin as governors and attacked their ineffectiveness in putting the state on a firm economic footing. Property taxes were a key issue.
Voters apparently agreed with the criticism. Hayden, who is most closely associated with recent tax problems, had to wait far into the night before reclaiming a lead in the statewide vote count. Some observers believe only Hayden's loyal support in the rural areas of western Kansas saved him from losing the primary race. Carlin, who wasn't able to escape his earlier ties with property classification and reappraisal, suffered from some of the same problems as Hayden. Some conservative Kansans probably also had some concerns about the thrice-married Carlin's character and personal conduct. That issue, and the dissatisfaction of state taxpayers may have combined to spell defeat for the former governor.
The gubernatorial primary seems to prove that state officials enjoy none of the "incumbents" advantage that exists in the U.S. Congress. Perhaps the governor doesn't have as many other people to blame when things go wrong.
The results also should be a message that Kansans aren't satisfied with the way things are going. They may not know exactly what they want, but they know they want a change. One pre-primary poll showed that Finney was more likely than Carlin to beat either Hayden or Weigand. Kansas voters now have three months to make that decision.