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Archive for Wednesday, August 7, 1996

VOTERS TAKE SHARP RIGHT TURN

August 7, 1996

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Gov. Bill Graves and moderate Republicans came up short Tuesday.

The night belonged to conservative Republicans in Kansas.

"It's a harbinger of things to come," said Russell Getter, a Kansas University professor of political science and government.

Getter and two other KU political science faculty members, Ken Collier and Allan Cigler, agreed the political muscle of the Republican Party's conservatives was much stronger than expected.

While the vote totals were still coming in statewide, Douglas County's returns were brought into the courthouse by 9:30 p.m. Tuesday.

There were 12,511 votes cast, or 27 percent of the 46,432 registered voters in Douglas County. In 1994, the last time a primary was held, 23 percent of voters showed up at the polls.

Statewide, conservative Sam Brownback won his GOP primary battle over moderate Sheila Frahm in the race for Bob Dole's former Senate seat.

Also, conservatives Vince Snowbarger and Jim Ryun won their battles for the GOP nominations for the 3rd District and 2nd District congressional seats over their moderate opponents.

They and Kansas State Party Chairman David Miller, a fellow conservative, appeared to be the big winners of the primary, Getter said.

"The big losers are going to be Sen. Nancy Kassebaum and Gov. Bill Graves, because they backed Sheila Frahm," Getter said.

Graves' strong backing of Frahm, his former lieutenant governor, could hurt him with conservatives during next year's session of the Kansas Legislature, Getter said.

Cigler said the GOP state primaries were a microcosm of the divisions in the Republican Party.

He said Snowbarger's chief opponent, Overland Park Mayor Ed Eilert, spent much more money, while Snowbarger's campaign relied on a grass-roots organization.

Tuesday's results will make for some "very competitive elections in the fall, with contrasting candidates," Cigler said.

For example, there won't be too much in common between Brownback and Democrat Jill Docking, who handily beat former Gov. Joan Finney in the Democratic primary for the Dole Senate seat.

It's not very often that Kansas is a model of national politics, but there will be a lot of attention paid to this state because of this, he said.

Collier said he was surprised by Brownback's strong showing.

"Some of what's behind his victory were his ads," Collier said. "Negative advertising works very well among Republicans and independents."

Collier said Docking showed more strength than many political observers expected. However, much of her victory could be the negative baggage that Finney carried from being governor, he said.

"This is not a good state to run as an ex-governor. Just ask John Carlin," Collier said.

  • Are the results of Tuesday's primary an indication that Kansans are becoming more conservative? Answer the J-W Access question on page 2A.

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