Archive for Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Last bastion of GOP moderates in state politics under attack

January 3, 2012


— Conservatives are attacking moderate Republicans’ major stronghold in Kansas government, hoping voters in this year’s elections remove the last significant obstacles to Gov. Sam Brownback’s push to the right in policy.

A tide that washed over state politics in 2010, sweeping Brownback and fellow GOP conservatives into office, missed the state Senate, where only two seats were on the ballot in special elections. Anti-tax, small-government legislators and political activists buoyed by the rise of the tea party movement have been frustrated by Senate Republican leaders’ wariness toward the governor’s agenda, feeling it has hindered conservative gains.

But this year, all 40 Senate seats are on the ballot, and conservative candidates have emerged for potential Republican primaries in at least nine districts held by moderate Republicans. Those incumbents include President Steve Morris, of Hugoton; Vice President John Vratil, of Leawood; and budget committee Chairwoman Carolyn McGinn, of Sedgwick.

While Brownback is promising publicly not to get involved, groups that backed him are preparing to jump into contested races ahead of the August primary election. The governor also will be perceived as the beneficiary if moderates lose control over the Senate.

“There are many out there who believe the Senate is the final step,” said Derrick Sontag, state director for the anti-tax, small-government group Americans for Prosperity and husband of Brownback’s chief spokeswoman. “What it would do for Governor Brownback is that it would push him to the right. It would make his agenda even more conservative.”

Biggest game around

The state Senate races appear to be the year’s most politically compelling contests in Kansas. There’s no U.S. Senate race, statewide elected officials are in the middle of their four-year terms, and no serious challengers have yet emerged for the four members of the state’s all-GOP delegation in the U.S. House. Republican presidential caucuses in March could spark interest, but the state is expected to go for any Republican candidate in November, as it has since 1964.

Republicans have a 32-8 majority in the state Senate, and conservatives calculate that they’ll need a net gain of several seats to control the GOP caucus and choose the president and majority leader, who control the flow of legislation.

Conservative Republicans have led the House for most of the last two decades, but there had been a sizeable group of moderates willing to consider tax increases to prevent cuts in education and social services. That bloc, working with Democrats and Democratic Gov. Mark Parkinson, pushed through a sales tax increase in 2010 to help balance the state budget — with the help of Morris and other Senate GOP leaders.

Elections in 2010 shattered that coalition in the House, leaving the GOP with a 92-33 majority that was more conservative.

In 2011, the conservative-led House passed a bill to phase out individual income taxes, only to see it stall in the Senate without a vote. The House approved a 401(k)-style pension plan for new teachers and government workers, but senators’ wariness led instead to a study of the issue. The governor plans to outline a plan for cutting top individual income tax rates after lawmakers convene their annual session Jan. 9, and Morris has appointed a tax study group that could produce a rival proposal.

“I think part of the tradition of the Senate is to be more moderate and to try to govern the state,” said Senate Education Committee Chairwoman Jean Schodorf, a Wichita Republican who is among the moderates facing a challenger.

Active opposition

At least five challengers in GOP Senate primaries will be conservative House members. Schodorf’s opponent is House Health and Human Services Chairwoman Brenda Landwehr, of Wichita, who said she considers the Senate too liberal, arrogant and out of touch.

“That’s kind of the point I came to: All right, quit complaining and do something about it,” Landwehr said.

The state chapter of Americans for Prosperity plans to be active with independent campaigns about issues and incumbents’ and challenger’s records, Sontag said. The national group was founded with support from billionaire brothers and Wichita businessmen Charles and David Koch, who’ve also been Brownback supporters.

The Kansas Chamber of Commerce, the state’s largest business group, also is expected to help what its vice president, lobbyist Jeff Glendening, calls “free market” candidates.


budman 6 years, 5 months ago

What a fair and balanced article. I love to read the opinions of an unbiased journalist.

jafs 6 years, 5 months ago

"she considers the Senate too liberal, arrogant and out of touch"

This is what conservative Republicans are saying about moderate ones?


JayhawkFan1985 6 years, 5 months ago

Mustrun80, just because fox news reports constantly tha Obama is an extreme left wing liberal, that doesn't make it true. The REALITY is that Obama is a moderate, middle of the road guy. In fact Reagan and Nixon were probably farther left than Obama. Nixon created several federal and EPA come to mind.

William Weissbeck 6 years, 5 months ago

It is a sad commentary, or the opinion of the article's writer, that there is no serious opposition in the four Congressional seats. Two of those seats were Dem as recently as '08. It's clear that the likely further gerrymandering of these districts will make any serious opposition (choice) all but impossible.

Flap Doodle 6 years, 5 months ago

Dear headline writer, put down the hyperbole and step away.

JayhawkFan1985 6 years, 5 months ago

Go back to math class. The us house went to the GOP because the rednecks showed up to vote in reaction to a black man being elected president two years prior. It was simply racism. that is why the tea party will burn out not just fade away.

pace 6 years, 5 months ago

I think a few of the teas will get arrested and not for standing up for the constitution. The tea party has done nothing to censor their radical and racists members. I believe they will be sorry for that lack of action. The idea of trimming the the government and paying down the debt is worthy. Doing it without taxing the 1% at a fair rate is not worthy.

jafs 6 years, 5 months ago

For those who seem to have misread the article, this is about the KS state senate and house, not the national ones.

KS has been solidly republican in both of those for many years.

And, yet, the KS senate is too liberal for the conservative Republicans.

A good analogy would be to find a solidly Democratic state congress, and find similar comments from more liberal Democrats - I predict it will be hard to do.

1southernjayhawk 6 years, 5 months ago

Start with California, Hawaii, Oregon, Connecticut......

jafs 6 years, 5 months ago

By all means, provide a source for similar comments.

Then I can look at it and determine whether or not it is valid.

Brian Laird 6 years, 5 months ago

Even when you say "probably" you need evidence. The belief in things for which you have no evidence, is a sign of ignorance. You are entiled to your own opinions, but not your own facts.

jafs 6 years, 5 months ago

The results of the next year's election will not prove anything at all about the results of the previous presidential elections either way. It's a different election, 4 years later.

You're entitled to your opinions, of course, regardless of their validity.

voevoda 6 years, 5 months ago

The moderate Republicans can follow Mark Parkinson's example and join the Democratic Party.

jafs 6 years, 5 months ago

And, then the Republican party will have completed it's massive slide to the right.

Fossick 6 years, 5 months ago

Indeed. One thing the GOP learned in their purge of the House is that when Republican moderates leave, they are replaced by conservatives. Two decades ago, the GOP (esp in Johnson County) was run by the likes of Parkinson, Lisa Benlon, Cindy Neighbor. Paul Morrison; conservatives were few and far between. Benlon and Neighbor got purged and joined the Dems, Morrison jumped because he hated Kline. All have since been replaced by someone more conservative. The pull has been rightward, and Republicans joining the Dems has only sped the process along.

The senate is the last bastion of the blue bloods, and it is under heavy assault. Half a dozen seats change hands and you'll hear Steve Rose crying all the way from Overland Park. Republicans can leave and join the Dems, but they do not take their voters with them. Probably ought to factor that in when they decide that enough is too much.

pace 6 years, 5 months ago

The Kansas democratic party, which is pretty moderate would be a good fit with moderate Republicans. I know a lot of republicans who feel their party has left them.

Kim Murphree 6 years, 5 months ago

I long for the days of moderation...of the middle of the road Republicans and Democrats who were/are real statespeople...who work together from different perspectives to move Kansas forward, not backward. This push to the hard right is nothing short of Nazism---a theocratic move to consolidate power under the rubric of religion/philosophy that excludes a majority of the people of the state--these far right folks don't like to be confused with facts--they can only see a solution to the issue if it is on a very narrow agenda. We suffer under such entrenched ideas.

Fossick 6 years, 5 months ago

Nothing short of Naziism? I guess these moderates were moderate in everything but hyperbole?

verity 6 years, 5 months ago

We need to keep sane and decent people like Carolyn McGinn in office---even if it means that people who are now registered as Democrats change their registration and vote in the Republican primary.

BigDog 6 years, 5 months ago

Amen verity. We have seen what happened in Washington when one group controls the House Senate and White House .... bad policy gets jammed down the throats of the people.

The crazy arm of the conservative Republicans has captured the Kansas House and looking to grab the Senate. At that point they will push the Governor farther right in their legislation and jam it down the average man's throat. But I am sure it will be good for the Koch brothers, their businesses and Kansas Chamber of Commerce.

Don't get me wrong there are good solid conservatives in this state who don't "use" the Bible inappropriately to justify their actions, care about the average person in this state and its best interest ... not just the views of the Koch brothers. But if the sane conservatives, moderate Republicans and Democrats don't work together, we will no longer recognize the Kansas we have loved.

I also find it interesting that Johnson County was an economic dynamo for Kansas when the moderates were representing it.

Flap Doodle 6 years, 5 months ago

Alex has been giving the disappeareded button a work-out today.

pace 6 years, 5 months ago

LOL, the king is dead, the new king is a bit mad.

Mike Ford 6 years, 5 months ago

schpreichen sie deutch ouslander? Kansas uber alles.....not for just the duck stepping theocrats at the front of the titanic known as the Kansas Kochlican Party....the best party money can buy!!!!

Fossick 6 years, 5 months ago

the best party money can buy!!!!

Actually, it's on the contrary. There are two kinds of people in politics - those that wish to do something and those that wish to be something. Conservatives and liberals and libertarians are generally of the first stripe - their ideology guides them and they tend to pursue some vision even to the cost of their own advancement.

Moderates are the other breed of dog. They generally have no principles or vision in a political sense. They go along to get along. Show me a moderate Republican, and I'll show you a guy who over the course of his career has propounded every conceivable political opinion (cough Romney cough). They simply have no anchor. These people are Republicans merely because that's the easiest way to get elected in Kansas.

And the reason they have no anchor, no pole star, is because they want to be something. They want to be governor, they want to be president. They want "Hon." in front of their name on the invitation and to sit at the head table. They don't want to really do anything or accomplish anything except to the extent that it will result in the right invitations.

Now, if you want the best party money can buy, the way to get it is to fill it with the second group - the heads of the Chamber, the checkered pants brigade, the law partners and the presidents of the banks - because they have no problem trading votes for advancement. That's the reason they wanted the vote in the first place.

  • Of course, they may have personal principles (e.g. honesty, integrity) or not.

Flap Doodle 6 years, 5 months ago

I'm buying Godwin flags by the pallet and am still running short. Slow down, tuschie!

Fossick 6 years, 5 months ago

Don't forget you have to take a shot every time someone misspells 'fascist,' too.

Stuart Sweeney 6 years, 5 months ago

The article should have ended with Welcome to Kochistan!

Joe Hyde 6 years, 5 months ago

And the state director of the Koch brothers group "Americans for Prosperity" thinks removing all moderate Republican state senators in the Kansas legislature and replacing them with ultra-conservative senators will push Governor Brownback to the right?

Push him? Like he didn't parachute into Topeka already to the right of Genghis Khan?

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