Advertisement

Archive for Wednesday, August 2, 2006

Praeger prevails in ‘negative’ contest

Election a moderate success

August 2, 2006

Advertisement

At 7:30 a.m. Tuesday, an optimistic Eric Carter called Bob Tomlinson, one of Kansas Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger's top aides.

"He wanted to make sure we had his cell phone number so we could call to concede," Praeger said, chatting Tuesday night with supporters at her campaign's rally at Mass. Street Deli, 941 Mass.

Carter's concern proved premature.

Praeger, a moderate Republican, took an early lead and - despite predictions that Carter, an unabashed conservative, would benefit from low voter turnout - won the GOP primary by an 18-point margin, outpolling her rival by about 35,000 votes.

But Praeger, who lives in Lawrence, was in no mood to gloat.

"It's been a grueling campaign," she said. "I brought two speeches with me tonight. I hoped I wouldn't have to read the second one."

Kansas Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger, a Lawrence Republican, takes a telephone call with results from the polls Tuesday night during her re-election party at Mass. Street Deli. Praeger defeated challenger Eric Carter, of Overland Park, winning 59 percent of the vote. To Praeger's left is former Kansas State Sen. Dick Bond and right is former Kansas Atty. Gen. Bob Stephan, her campaign chairman.

Kansas Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger, a Lawrence Republican, takes a telephone call with results from the polls Tuesday night during her re-election party at Mass. Street Deli. Praeger defeated challenger Eric Carter, of Overland Park, winning 59 percent of the vote. To Praeger's left is former Kansas State Sen. Dick Bond and right is former Kansas Atty. Gen. Bob Stephan, her campaign chairman.

Throughout the campaign, Carter, 34, a two-term Kansas House member, accused Praeger of stifling insurance industry competition, backing costly mandates and being more Democratic than Republican.

"It got to be very negative," Praeger said. "There were times I felt like all we were doing was responding to his misinformation - and then, after that didn't work, he started focusing on social issues that had nothing to do with insurance."

Praeger, 61, supports abortion rights.

Last week, Burdett Loomis, a political science professor at Kansas University, said the Praeger-Carter race was too close to call.

In recent years, low voter turnouts have benefited conservative candidates.

Get the numbers

Loomis called Praeger's victory "fascinating," noting the same voters who backed Praeger and incumbent Secretary of State Ron Thornburgh, another moderate, also turned out for gubernatorial candidates Jim Barnett and Ken Canfield, both conservatives.

"It's interesting," Loomis said. "Robin Jennison is the moderate in the (gubernatorial) race and he's bringing up the rear - and then here are Thornburgh and Praeger, kicking butt."

Carter downplayed the significance of Praeger's victory.

"I don't think this campaign reflected the division within the party," he said. "It will help the party pull together. I was definitely focused on issues. And her (Praeger's) campaign was directed a little more at me personally. It may be that that won out."

Carter's loss came as no surprise to Chapman Rackaway, an assistant professor of political science at Fort Hays State University.

"I would have been shocked if he'd won," Rackaway said. "He did not have much of a campaign out here. He didn't have much name recognition - very few yard signs. Everything you see is 'Praeger.'"

In a recent interview, Carter promised to de-regulate much of the insurance industry in an effort to spur competition.

He hinted that Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas had cornered too much of the state market.

Carter said he opposed a 2001 law that required health insurers to cover mental and physical illness equally.

While in the Kansas Senate, Praeger championed mental health parity.

Praeger accused Carter of pandering to voters' fears. Mental health parity's effect on premiums, she said, was minimal. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas had earned its share of the market, she said, and there is hardly a shortage of insurance companies wanting to do business in Kansas.

Praeger's campaign had been endorsed by former U.S. Sens. Bob Dole and Nancy Kassebaum Baker and by former Gov. Bill Graves.

Former Kansas Atty. Gen. Bob Stephan is Praeger's campaign chairman.

Stephan was no mood to bury the hatchet Tuesday.

"I ran in four campaigns, and I was never as angry as I was in this one," he said. "Sandy is a very decent person and, time after time, she was pilloried with statements that had no relation to the truth."

In the general election, Praeger will face Democrat Bonnie Sharp, of Kansas City, Kan., and Libertarian Patrick Wilbur, of Lawrence.

Comments

wbob 8 years, 5 months ago

Praeger radio ads charged that Carter was funded by "Washington interests," I believe was the term. Does anyone know the identity of these mysterious outside interests?

Jamesaust 8 years, 5 months ago

A rather unfortunate campaign by a politician who should have (had) a bright future in Kansas. The question for Carter today is: how much will moderates in the Party forgive and forget the scorched-earth attacks on Praeger? (And can Carter get the details right in the future?)

Carter carried his geographic base - Wyandotte, Johnson, Miami. Tellingly, he did NOT carry Sedgwick, nor even do all that well in the vast Western counties - all despite the fact, as Rackaway & Loomis both hint at, these areas demonstrated in other races a sizable extremist voting base. Could it be that while there are plenty of small government, low regulation votes to be had, that insurance is one topic where voters clearly see that their best interests do not lie in bed with insurance companies?

bernard 8 years, 5 months ago

Could it also be that Eric Carter was just an unqualified wacko and Sandy Praeger was qualfiied and competent? Could it also be that the voters can on rare occasion in a GOP primary actually make an intelligent (oops, wrong word to use) decision?

GOPConservative 8 years, 5 months ago

If you look at the voting statistics in this race and the KBOE races, it is clear that even in backward parts of the State, a majority or near majority of Republicans don't support the extremist ideology. In other parts of the States, the extremists received a very shallow minority.

My Party has some rebuilding to do. Our first step is to chase out the extremists and quit calling them "conservatives." They represent the exact opposite of traditional conservative principles.

Sure, by kicking them out of leadership and shaming them out of the Party, we will lose a few members, but any losses will be more than made up by those who were disaffected when the whackos took over.

Personally, I kept my GOP affiliation, but many switched parties or became independents after the coup. If the whacko extremists like Ryun, Kline, Brownback, Shallenberger, etc. left the GOP, many genuinely politically-conservative voters, who believe in privacy and the Constitution, will join the GOP, ultimately showing a net gain.

Fred Phelps already has a small-but-vocal group in the Democratic Party. If the extremists like Ryun and Kline would switch Parties they could join with Fred to promote their shared agendas. They potentially could build as strong of force in the Democratic Party as they used to have in the GOP when few except them bothered to vote.

Jamesaust 8 years, 5 months ago

"...by kicking them out of leadership and shaming them out of the Party..."

I wouldn't go that far and I'm sure the Party at large will not either. Even some of the more extreme positions have their support among some voters.

The problem comes when the two wings of the Party align and carry a majority of the vote but then the extreme faction takes over to govern from a minority position, believing (incorrectly) that they in fact do represent the majority and that moderates have no where else to go. Sometimes that is true - the Kansas Democrat Party might as well not exist in some parts of the state.

The defeat of Connie Morris is a good example of disaster averted. Had Morris won the primary, the odds of her being defeated by Democrat Cruz in the general election, with moderate votes, would have been quite high. Then Cruz, a perfectly respectable politician, could have used that public prominence of incumbancy to further himself politically - U.S. Representative? State-wide elective office? - to achieve something not seen in half a century: a Southwestern Kansas Democrat.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.