Archive for Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Kansas Insurance Commissioner doesn’t fit in GOP

June 25, 2013


TOPEKA — Sandy Praeger was always the team player and never the black sheep.

As mayor of Lawrence, state representative, state senator and now Kansas' three-term insurance commissioner, Praeger was mainstream Republican all the way and a close ally of former Gov. Bill Graves.

That's "mainstream Republican" the way it used to be.

These days, Praeger is a GOP misfit out of step with her lifelong party, shunned by the establishment and a virtual relic of a bygone political era.

Now 68 and in her final term as insurance commissioner, Praeger favors abortion rights and gun control in a state that has squished both like a bug underfoot. She wants to spend far more on public schools in a state that has fallen far behind its own promises on education funding. She decries what she calls GOP "hate-mongering" and its anti-immigration rhetoric.

When it comes to Obamacare, she is perhaps Kansas' biggest cheerleader for a program that's roundly despised in many pockets of the state. Praeger insists that the governor of her own party, Sam Brownback, is leading Kansas down a precarious financial path. She talks openly of backing someone else for governor next year while clinging to an abiding belief that someday, somehow, Kansans will come to regret their tilt to the right.

And yes, it has been lonely at times.

"It would be hard to run again as a Republican, I will say that," she said in an interview. "It would be very hard. I don't subscribe to most of the Republican dogma right now."

After Praeger won her third term three years ago, the state Republican Party sent out a letter that listed GOP statewide office-holders. Her name wasn't listed.

"I thought that was hysterical," she said.

But 2014 will be Praeger's last full year in a public-service career that reaches back to 1985, when she was elected to the Lawrence City Commission. Her husband, a surgeon, is gearing up to retire, and Praeger said the couple is making plans.

That Praeger is so down on the Kansas GOP is disappointing, said state Rep. Scott Schwab, a former Johnson County Republican chairman. The party stood by Praeger for three terms with primary voters backing her over conservative challenger Eric Carter in 2006.

"I'd say she's out of touch," Schwab said. "I don't know when she quit listening to the people who sent her to office. But she quit listening."

In 2008, Praeger became president of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners based in Kansas City, a post that gave her a platform to weigh in on national health care reform. On that score, she has been a relentless advocate — the yin to Brownback's yang, although the governor pointedly has not rejected expanding Medicaid as President Barack Obama has advocated.

Kansas lawmakers this year ignored Praeger's pleas to expand Medicaid and establish a health care exchange where Kansans could shop for insurance policies. That will leave thousands of poor Kansans below the poverty line without coverage even after Obamacare goes into effect, Praeger said.

But many Republicans, including Brownback, have said they feared the long-term costs of Medicaid expansion. The federal government may eventually not be able to pay its 90 percent share and will pass a higher percentage down to the states, they said. Health care exchanges weren't popular with lawmakers either because of the integral role they play in Obamacare.

Praeger said one consequence of rejecting Medicaid expansion will be the closing of rural hospitals because federal dollars will dry up.

She is equally frustrated with Kansas' fiscal direction under Brownback, a path she calls unsustainable. The income-tax cuts Brownback and the Legislature have enacted go too far and cut essential programs too deeply, she said.

To Praeger, cutting taxes alone won't be the job magnet that so many Republicans believe it will be, because too many businesses count on a skilled workforce that comes about only as a result of high-quality education.

Praeger, who toyed with the idea of running for governor in the 1990s, said she thought about running next year after she got calls asking her to consider it. "It would be so tempting," she said.

But she discarded the idea after weighing her odds in a Republican primary and her age. Her conclusion: It would cost millions. And, "I'm too old."

Praeger's career includes a two-year stint in the state House when she sat next to another moderate Republican, Mark Parkinson. He would go on to switch parties and become a Democratic governor after Kathleen Sebelius resigned.

But Praeger won't switch. "I used to say my sweet, little old grandmother would roll over in her grave" if Praeger became a Democrat. "But she probably would understand today."

But she will consider backing some Democrats next year.

"Why wouldn't I?" she said. "Look at what Sam did to his own Republicans last year, going after moderates (in the Legislature). We lost a lot of seasoned veterans who just wanted to do the right thing for the state. They didn't go along with the big tax cuts because they believed in funding essential core services like education."

Brownback rules by intimidation, Praeger said. Either toe the mark or you're gone. "He's proven he can take anybody out," she said.

Clay Barker, executive director of the Kansas Republican Party and a political spokesman for Brownback, doesn't buy it, pointing to the House's resistance this session to extending a 3-year-old sales tax.

"I don't think Brownback intimidates people or tries to take them out," Barker said. "But he will support those who generally align with his polices, and that may mean that he ends up opposing others."

Praeger has been on the scene a long time, he said. Her critique of Brownback fits the classic moderate response that voters repeatedly rejected last year in Kansas GOP primaries.

"Voters have changed over time," Barker said. "The moderates who served well for years no longer fit the voters."

Praeger, though, sees things differently.

"I hear (other Republicans) saying they want to get rid of all the moderates and the Democrats," she said. "But why? They've got control. I don't know why they need absolute control."

Information from: Steve Kraske, The Kansas City Star & The Associated Press


msezdsit 4 years, 11 months ago

"I'd say she's out of touch," Schwab said. "I don't know when she quit listening to the people who sent her to office. But she quit listening."

I would say she hasn't changed at all. She reminds me of the type of candidates I supported before the republican party left me. I too, have not changed. It is sad, albeit comical, that the republican party's giant meteoric leap to the right and their endorsement of "big government" done their way is not acknowledged but rather blamed on the moderates who actually do listen to the people and do care about the people.

It is really just a matter of how much damage and how irreversible the damage is before the pendulum begins to swing back to the moderate and reasonable people Like Sandy Praeger.

Thank you for your years of service and resisting "selling out" to the Alec and the Kochs of the world. No doubt, they would have sunk millions into a smear campaigning through their non political 501c4 social welfare pacts. No one deserves the wrath of the modern day "McCarthyism" that the republican party has become .

Mike1949 4 years, 11 months ago

The problem is, by the time people in Kansas wakes up, and they will sooner or later (I hope) it will be too late for Kansas to recover. It is a shame really, I have always loved Kansas my home state, but the McCarthyism has taken hold and it will do as much damage if not more than Mr. McCarthy ever did in the 50's because it is pin pointed to one small area, Kansas!

Bob Harvey 4 years, 11 months ago

Sandy is one of the very few Republicans I can support. Her years of serving the people of Lawrence and the state clearly prove that one can be a Republican that can see all sides of a problem and work with anyone to fix it. Sandy when you finally hang up your public service hat you will be sorely missed.

btsflk 4 years, 11 months ago

Coming from a Dem, Thank You Sandy Praeger for looking out for the interests of all people. We are all people regardless of political affiliation. Thank You for realizing that. It was great when there was a balance, give and take, in government. We were unaware our good fortune. Now it's just a memory. Maybe when some out west lose essential services, they'll wake up. Not holding my breath.

There are few left like her, they have been forced out, or should we say smothered out by the Koch's and those like them.

Wish she would run for governor, but it's easy to understand why many, except those with the backing of the aforementioned, would even try.

weeslicket 4 years, 11 months ago

hoping that sandy reconsiders her interest in running for governor: as a democrat.

msezdsit 4 years, 11 months ago

For sure, but regardless, she will have to be able to match the dollars that the nonpolitical tax exempt conservative social welfare 501c4 pacts sink into the hate and lie filled character assassination and dehumanizing smear campaign they will run against her. To the "new republicans" the truth is a score card. If we repeat a lie more times than you defended it than it becomes the truth.

verity 4 years, 11 months ago

"If we repeat a lie more times than you defended it than it becomes the truth."

Perfect way to describe it.

Kate Rogge 4 years, 11 months ago

I think running as a Democrat is too much to ask of her. But I sure would like it if she ran as an Independent. I think an independent moderate Republican candidate could win with a coalition of independents, Democrats, and disaffected Republicans.

Boston_Corbett 4 years, 11 months ago

The existing primary system encourages non-participation, thus allowing the wing-nuts and ultra conservatives to push everything to the right. The last body which was supposed to work in bi-partisan manner is now also stridently hyper-divided and neutered by an internal self imposed anti-democratic procedure.

Bob Dole, Nancy Kasselbaum, Goldwater, or Regan would not win in a primary in the current environment.

Meanwhile, the vast majority of the citizens, those in the middle, are those who are unrepresented.

tomatogrower 4 years, 11 months ago

That's why we need to all register as Republicans, at least until after the primary.

Fatty_McButterpants 4 years, 11 months ago

Wow, it is hard to see why so many people view the GOP as a discriminatory group of Puritans, desperately clinging to their Bibles.

tomatogrower 4 years, 11 months ago

Moderates are now considered liberals. If you don't toe the party line, you are labeled a RINO or a liberal.

james bush 4 years, 11 months ago

The byline is "By Wire Reports" Who is this? Steve Kraske?

Fred Whitehead Jr. 4 years, 11 months ago

No, no,no! This is not an issue of "not fitting into the GOP" It is an issue of the "GOP" being hijacked by the extreme right wing Limbaugh-Koch Republican Terrorist party as it exists today in Kansas.

The former "GOP" party is dead in Kansas. It has been replaced by a racist right wing entity that worships Rush Limbaugh, cowtows to the Koches and is firmly dedicated to violating Federal Law, which it sees as a tool of the incompetant, illegal and non-citizen black president.

THAT is the true issue.

sciencegeek 4 years, 11 months ago

Yeoman2-- Minor correction: the former "GOP" party doesn't kowtow to the Kochs, it is bought and paid for by them.

As long as their billions are spent to lie, spin and vilify anyone who may not do their bidding, and the voters are too lazy or stupid to see through it, the interests of the rich are the only ones that will matter in Kansas.

Mike1949 4 years, 11 months ago

as an independent, I couldn't agree more!

Patricia Davis 4 years, 11 months ago

As a democrat, I too, have always voted for Sandra Prager. I say go Sandy, go Demo, and the rest of us moderate by any other name need to rise up and support with $$$$$$$ to fight the take over of our state by the Kochs and tea party nutcakes. We are better than what Brownback & Co has stuff down our throats. Our children deserve better. Our Kansans with special needs deserve better. Our colleges and universities deserve better.

tomatogrower 4 years, 11 months ago

I would say this was a good idea, but there are going to be a lot of people who will vote Republican, just because they have always voted Republican. It's time we helped the moderates take back the Republican party.

verity 4 years, 11 months ago

Unfortunately, third parties seldom (ever?) do well in the U.S.A. That said, I would certainly like an alternative to our current two parties.

kernal 4 years, 11 months ago

And that is why the GOP is now full of former Libertarians, who with the Tea Party wackos, took over what was previously known as the Grand Old Party.

chicago95 4 years, 11 months ago

Why are we reading this today? This fawning treatment and uncritical reporting marks it as an opinion piece rather than as news. And this is by no means the first time for the Journal-World. Is someone just polishing her legacy, or this just mise-en-scène for Praeger's future endorsements of selected Democratic candidates?

gatekeeper 4 years, 11 months ago

Most likely because many moderate republicans and dems alike have begged her to run. Many of us have been wondering if she would. She is very well liked and respected in Kansas and has always had the support of dems too because she actually did what she believed was right and in the best interest of Kansans. But, believe what you want to believe.

chicago95 4 years, 11 months ago

Actually, I thought that the comment was pretty clearly about an uncritical press rather than about the office-holder.

Dick Sengpiehl 4 years, 11 months ago

Thank you Sandy for your service. You represent the BEST in Kansas. The disgusting right wing GOP has set Kansas back many years. Until moderate republicans vote in the primary and eliminate the wing nuts, we'll get more of the same

BigDog 4 years, 11 months ago

I have worked with Sandy Prager over the years in various capacities and like her as a person but her politics are closely compatible with Lawrence Democrats.

The GOP hasn't left you Sandy, you have moved farther left than even most moderates. Sandy .... pro-abortion rights, anti-gun rights, and undying supporter of the Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare) .... as the article states one of the biggest cheerleaders for it .... something many moderate voters in Kansas oppose

Most if not all of the moderate Republicans who lost in the last election .... at most supported one of your positions. The GOP hasn't left you .... you have moved even farther left of the Party

jesse499 4 years, 11 months ago

I'm a Republican and the Kansas GOP has moved so far right you can only be on the left of it.I just hope there is Kansas when the people of Kansas wake up and figure out what Brownbutt and his pals are up to.

gatekeeper 4 years, 11 months ago

I don't think you know what moderate republicans are. Remember Reagan? Remember the tax increases and gun control laws he was behind? If you knew anything about our political past, you'd know that republicans decades ago wanted a similar health care system to what we will now have, thanks to Obama. They only fought it now because Dems wanted it.

The moderates that lost in the last election mainly lost in primaries where only the bat sh*t crazy's show up to vote in. My elderly mother, a moderate republican, voted all Dem for the first time ever because the Dems are now what moderate republicans used to be.

jafs 4 years, 11 months ago

If moderate R voted in the primaries, this sort of thing could easily have been avoided/prevented.

Why would they leave that decision to the "bs crazy's", as you call them?

gatekeeper 4 years, 11 months ago

Oh Sandy, there are so many real republicans that are leaving the party and would jump through hurdles for you if you would run against Sam the Scam. I know so many that want you to run. I thank you for all of your years of service, but wish you would reconsider and keep serving Kansas and help us to become a better state. If Sam remains gov, I fear what will happen and along with many others, will be sadly leaving my home state.

Martha Oldham 4 years, 11 months ago

I am a Democrat and have always voted For Sandy Praeger. Thank you Sandy, for saying what we are all thinking. I don't understand Republicans and their viewpoints on today's world. The next election will not come soon enough for me.

blindrabbit 4 years, 11 months ago

Have long wondered how someone with the "brains" that Sandy possesses could continue to remain in the GOP, since the party is regressing into the miasma of ignorance.

Charlie Bannister 4 years, 11 months ago

I spoke with her surgeon husband recently, and I want to say here that I like them both and have great respect for them personally, while disagreeing with them politically. He is also a fan of Obamacare. I then asked him about the 45% of doctors surveyed who said they will retire before or shortly after Obamacare takes affect. He does not believe it will happen. I then asked him about the premiums going up drastically because of Obamacare. He responded by saying the legislation was long overdue and that it should have happened years ago. That did not really answer my question, somewhat of a dodge really. Well my wife and I were paying $592 a month for health care in 2008. We are currently paying $816 per month for the same care with the same company. That is an increase of 38% in the last 5 years. If it just keeps going up and does not bend the cost curve then I will respectfully submit we have been sold a bill of goods on this landmark legislation. I am willing to be proved wrong on this if I truly am, but it just does not add up to me.

jafs 4 years, 11 months ago

If your premiums have been going up at that rate, it has nothing to do with the ACA, which hasn't taken effect yet.

The ACA is supposed to lower premiums or slow the rate of increase - we'll see if that happens.

gatekeeper 4 years, 11 months ago

You're getting scammed by your insurance company then. This year, we switched to a different plan, dramatically cheaper and with better coverage and lower deductibles.

You need to work with your provider to see if they can offer better and if not, go buy insurance on your own. I switched to what they call a high deductible plan, which it really isn't. My premiums went down more than half and my overall deductible went down $1000. Only catch was that I have to pay out of pocket for everthing until I hit my deductible of $2500 (insurance used to pay half). Happy to do it because the amount I'm now saving monthly is so great that in the end, I will pay less. The company saved so much money by going to this plan that they've set up health saving accounts for us and funded them with the savings.

Total BS that your plan rates increased because of the ACA. Most likely, there are some sick people with high medical bills at your work that raised your rates. Seen it many times when someone gets cancer, people have kids, etc....

Richard Heckler 4 years, 11 months ago

Obamacare is not increasing the cost of premiums. The medical insurance industry is increasing the premiums.

We're talking about an industry that can afford high dollar CEO's, BOD's, shareholders,generous golden parachutes, 8 lobbyists per elected official in the beltway alone plus special interest campaign money. And lots of advertisement money.

Not only that the industry was spending $1.4 million healthcare dollars a day to keep Medicare Single Payer Insurance off the table. Those $1.4 million dollars a day were being funneled through the Chamber of Commerce. Not to mention that more than a trillion tax $$$$$ a year go to the industry.

Blame it all on the insurance industry.

Richard Heckler 4 years, 11 months ago

BTW Sandy Praeger is the Republican.

It is Merrick,Brownback,Laffer, and a large number of others that are a ALEC right wing party group hiding behind the GOP label. They know without that GOP cover the ALEC right wing party could not win elections. Too bad voters are NOT paying closer attention.

Make no mistake about it Sandy Praeger is the Republican in Topeka. An endangered species.

In reality the true republican party is dead. Now we have impostors.

jesse499 4 years, 11 months ago

Brownback was so bad in Washington I don't know how he got elected back home after words but what's more amazing I didn't think he could get worse and he did!!!!

verity 4 years, 11 months ago

There wasn't a whole lot of publicity about his senate career. I posted a link to a very comprehensive article in Rolling Stone several times during the gubernatorial campaign ("God's Senator," link doesn't seem to work now), but I doubt many people bothered to read it. It showed a very scary side of Brownback not regularly seen (before he was governor).

And, yes, while I was frightened of what a Brownback administration would bring, I had no idea how very destructive it would be.

Mike1949 4 years, 11 months ago

It is a shame Kansans have to pay for racism from just a few! I have to admit, there are more in this state than I thought!

George_Braziller 4 years, 11 months ago

Oh Sandy, I so wish you would run for Governor. You wouldn't get the minority radical conservative vote Brownback will get, but you would get the majority of the votes in Kansas.

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