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Archive for Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Dems look down ballot as GOP leads top Kansas races

November 6, 2012

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— Republican Mitt Romney carried Kansas as expected Tuesday in the presidential race, as Democrats focused on trying to slow the GOP-dominated Legislature's push to the right and allies of conservative Gov. Sam Brownback sought to shore up their gains.

Romney's claim on the state's six electoral votes had long been conceded by supporters of Democratic President Barack Obama. Every Republican nominee has prevailed in Kansas since 1964, and neither campaign had much of a presence this year.

The four members of the state's all-Republican delegation also were expected to win re-election.

With no U.S. Senate race this year and Republicans expected to comfortably win re-election to all four of the state's U.S. House seats, the most closely watched races were for the Legislature.

Throughout the day, voter turnout appeared to be exceeding Secretary of State Kris Kobach's prediction that 68 percent of eligible voters would weigh in — about 1.2 million in all.

Obama had a relatively strong showing in Kansas in 2008, grabbing nearly 42 percent of the vote. But there were signs early Tuesday that any momentum the president had created for state Democrats was fading.

"I'm just ready for a change," said Jim Clark, a 42-year-old computer administrator from Topeka. He's a registered Republican who voted for Obama last time, seeking change, but voted for Romney this year. Clark lost a full-time job two years ago and has worked temporary assignments since then.

"It's tougher for me, personally," Clark said. "The economy has not improved."

Carl Huslig, 44, a Republican who is between jobs in the utility business, cast a straight GOP ticket, including Mitt Romney for president and Rep. Lynn Jenkins for a third term representing the 2nd District,

"The Obama thing isn't working. It's been a complete four years of failure," Huslig said.

Legislative races were intense because Democrats have worked with moderate Republicans leading the Senate to stall some of Brownback's agenda, even though the GOP had majorities of 32-8 in the Senate and 92-33 in the House. The GOP right defeated eight moderate senators in the August primary and was looking to strengthen its hold on the Senate by ousting Democrats, so that both chambers would have conservative majorities.

The GOP's biggest targets were four Democratic senators in northeast Kansas — Minority Leader Anthony Hensley of Topeka, Tom Holland of Baldwin City, Laura Kelly of Topeka and Kelly Kultala of Kansas City.

"I've always felt Kansas is a conservative state, and that's one of the things I've appreciated. It seems the Legislature has become a little bit lax in some areas," said Bret Allen, 46, a Republican banker from Lenexa who voted for Republican Greg Smith in the state Senate race.

Democrats countered by trying to make legislative races a referendum on Brownback and massive income tax cuts enacted this year. Brownback and others who back the cuts contend they'll stimulate the economy.

Janel Bowers, the chief development officer for the Boys and Girls Clubs of Topeka, said she's a lifelong Democrat and that she voted for Democratic state Sen. Laura Kelly, whom she called a strong supporter of education. She said she's concerned about the consequences of the income tax cuts.

On Tuesday, state officials and university economists issued a new financial forecast predicting the state will collect nearly $705 million less in revenues during the fiscal year that begins in July 2013 than it will during this fiscal year, as massive income tax cuts enacted this year take effect.

Legislative researchers immediately projected a budget shortfall of $328 million, reflecting the gap between anticipated revenues and existing spending commitments for the next fiscal year.

"People do need to be self-sufficient, but the reality is that government exists for a reason," said Bowers, 41. "I think Brownback is reckless."

John Mayhon, the 52-year-old owner of a Topeka insurance agency and a Republican, said criticism of Brownback's tax plan is "almost a scare tactic."

"It hasn't had enough time" so it can work, he said.

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