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Archive for Wednesday, August 7, 2002

Kassebaum legacy continues; House leadership shaken up

August 7, 2002

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— Bill Kassebaum, a third-generation politician, defeated House Majority Leader Shari Weber on Tuesday to win the Republican primary for her legislative seat.

Kassebaum, the son of former U.S. Sen. Nancy Kassebaum Baker and grandson of former Gov. Alf Landon, defeated Weber with 52 percent of the vote in final, unofficial results.

Kassebaum, of Burdick, faces Democrat Susan Mulryan of Dwight for the 68th District in November.

Weber, of Herington, was seen as vulnerable because of her reluctance to support tax increases to shore up the state budget during the 2002 legislative session. Weber eventually voted to raise $252 million in new revenue.

In the 120th District, incumbent Rep. John Faber of Brewster held off a challenge from Doug Sebelius in the GOP race. Faber defeated Sebelius, the son of former 1st District Congressman Keith Sebelius, 52 percent to 48 percent.

Weber was not the only incumbent to be defeated.

Republican Cindy Hermes of Topeka lost her primary in the 51st District to Mike Burgess, 62 to 38 percent, while GOP conservatives Mary Pilcher Cook of Shawnee lost to Cindy Neighbor of Shawnee and Karen DiVita-Johnson of Overland Park lost to Jim Yonally, also of Overland Park. Yonally is a lobbyist, pollster and former legislator.

One Democratic incumbent lost. Assistant House Minority Leader Dennis McKinney of Greensburg defeated freshman Alan Goering of Medicine Lodge, 57 percent to 43 percent.

The two were placed in the same district when legislators redrew House districts to reflect shifts in population during the 1990s.

Speaker Pro Tem Clay Aurand stood to be the only member of the House Republican leadership to survive. Aurand, of Courtland, was defeating Ernest McClain by a 2-to-1 margin.

Other Republican incumbents advancing were John Ballou of Gardner; Carol Edward Beggs of Salina; Larry Campbell of Olathe; Andrew Howell of Fort Scott; David Huff of Lenexa; Mary Kaufman of Hutchinson; Peggy Long of Madison; Bill McCreary of Wellington; Ray Merrick of Stilwell; Doug Patterson of Leawood; Tom Sloan of Lawrence; Todd Novascone of Wichita; and Dan Williams of Olathe.

Democrats winning their primaries included Ruby Gilbert of Wichita; Vaughn Flora of Topeka; Dennis O'Brien of Parsons; and Woody Thompson of Wichita.

All 125 House seats will be filled in the Nov. 5 general election. No Senate seats are on the ballot until 2004.

Despite the notoriety of the Kassebaum-Weber and Sebelius-Faber races, there was little fanfare during the primary. It saw 15 Republicans and two Democrats effectively win their seats at the Statehouse.

Another 22 Democrats and 26 Republicans already had earned the right to return to the Legislature, facing no primary or general election opponent. Entering the 2002 election cycle, Republicans held a 79-46 advantage in the House.

The number of uncontested seats came in a year when voters expressed disappointment with the actions of the 2002 Legislature.

In the recently conducted Kansas Poll, the respondents were asked to grade legislators on 12 issues ranging from education to the state budget. The Legislature received Ds across the board.

Legislators spent a record 107 days in session after approving the package of tax increases.

The poll analysis said there was a general sentiment against tax increases, though a majority of respondents didn't want to see education and other essential services cut.

Still, the anti-incumbent mood did not translate into a record number of candidates filing for office.

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