The old adage that the more things change the more they stay the same is certainly true in politics.
The likely election contest featuring the Democratic team of Paul Davis and Jill Docking running against Republican Gov. Sam Brownback and Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer has already produced themes that sound similar to those used in 1996 when Docking battled Brownback for a U.S. Senate seat.
The 1996 campaign was an intense, sometimes bitter race.
Brownback accused Docking of being a tax-and-spend liberal and linked her to national Democratic figures including then-U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy, who was unpopular with Kansas voters.
Docking said Brownback represented an extremist right wing agenda on social issues as she tried mightily to win over moderate Republicans.
Fast forward to the current political climate and what do we see?
Republicans are trying to link Davis and Docking to national Democrats; in this case, President Barack Obama, another unpopular pol in Kansas.
Meanwhile, Davis and Docking are trying to appeal to moderate Republicans and independents, saying that Brownback represents a right-wing faction that is more interested in giving tax breaks to the wealthy than funding education.
In 1996, the Docking-Brownback campaign was for the unexpired term of Bob Dole, who was the Republican nominee for president. Docking was a political newcomer, although she came from a famous Kansas political family. Brownback was an up-and-coming conservative who, as a freshman U.S. House member, bucked state party leaders by defeating in the GOP primary Sheila Frahm, who had been appointed to replace Dole.
In the general election, the Christian Coalition played a heavy role, putting out voting guides that said Docking supported "taxpayer funding of obscene art," which Docking denied.
Polls had indicated the race was tight, but Brownback won by more than 10 percentage points.
While some of the campaign themes seem similar to today, one thing that was novel in 1996 won't be in 2014. When the returns rolled in, state election officials posted the results on something called the Internet.
A new SurveyUSA pollfinds that Kansas' Republican political leaders have high job disapproval ratings.
Fifty-eight percent of Kansans disapproved of the job Gov. Sam Brownback was doing while 35 percent approved. U.S. Sens. Pat Roberts and Jerry Moran had 53 percent and 50 percent disapproval ratings while 35 percent and 37 percent approved, the poll said.
Although within the margin of error, the Republicans' approval rates were even lower than President Barack Obama's, a Democrat, who had a 42 percent approval rate and 56 percent disapproval.
The poll also shows that Democrat Paul Davis, who is challenging Brownback in the 2014 election, has low name identification.
Eight of 10 voters were either neutral or had no opinion about Davis when asked if they had a favorable or unfavorable opinion of him. In fact, his name ID was so low, the pollsters referred to him as "Paul David" instead of "Paul Davis."
Davis' campaign said SurveyUSA planned to re-do that portion of the poll. But Davis' camp said the point of the poll was that it showed that their candidate at this point lacks name ID.
When the poll asked individuals' opinion of Brownback, 22 percent were favorable and 47 percent unfavorable, while the remaining were either neutral or had no opinion.
Meanwhile, Davis was at 7 percent with a favorable opinion, 13 percent unfavorable, while 80 percent were either neutral or had no opinion.
In addition, only 29 percent of those polled approved of the job the Republican-dominated Kansas Legislature was doing, while 61 percent disapproved.
The poll of 532 registered voters was released earlier this week and conducted on behalf of KWCH-TV in Wichita. The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.3 percentage points. Of those polled, 41 percent were Republicans, 30 percent Democrats, and 29 percent independents.
Paul Davis' campaign for governor has released a 5-minute video in which Davis and his family talk about Davis' values and how he has met personal challenges and adversity.
Davis, the House minority leader from Lawrence, is the presumptive Democratic challenger to Republican Gov. Sam Brownback in 2014. He faces a steep climb against Brownback. Republican voter registration in Kansas far outstrips Democratic registration.
"The essence of Kansas is really the sense of community and neighbors helping neighbors," Davis says in the video. "Whether they're Democrat or Republican, I usually don't know and don't care. I know that I'm their representative and it's my job to listen to them and it's my job to help them if I can," he says.
Here is a link to the video.
Gov. Sam Brownback's administration says recent state tax collection figures are positive, but his presumptive Democratic opponent, Paul Davis, has a different view.
Davis says the plummeting tax revenues and increasing unemployment rate are signs that Kansas is lagging because of Brownback's policies.
"Gov. Brownback's `real live experiment' is not working," said Davis, the House minority leader from Lawrence.
Earlier this week, the Kansas Department of Revenue said taxes collected during the first quarter of the fiscal year were slightly less than expected.
Of the $1.37 billion in taxes collected from July through September, the figure was $8.5 million, or 0.6 percent, below projections.
A dip in corporate tax revenue may have been caused by businesses investing more than expected in machinery, which receives tax breaks, the Brownback administration said.
"We believe that all of these numbers show that Kansas businesses are investing and citizens are spending more money," Revenue Secretary Nick Jordan said.
The $1.37 billion collected during the first quarter was $135.8 million less than what was collected in the first quarter of the last fiscal year. That's a 9 percent decline.
Such a decrease would have set off alarm bells in previous years, but this was expected. That dip is the result of the income tax cuts signed into law by Brownback, which he has said will spur the economy, but which Democrats have said will underfund essential government functions and favor the wealthy.
As far as spurring the economy, Kansas' unemployment rate was 5.9 percent in August, which is lower than the national rate of 7.3 percent. But the national rate has been declining this year, from 7.9 percent in January, while the Kansas rate has increased from 5.5 percent over the same time period.
The Kansas State AFL-CIO executive board has endorsed two Democrats, Paul Davis for governor and Jean Schodorf for secretary of state, in the 2014 election.
Davis, the House minority leader from Lawrence, is the presumptive Democratic nominee to take on Gov. Sam Brownback, a Republican.
Schodorf, a former Republican state senator from Wichita who switched to the Democratic Party, has announced she will seek the Democratic nomination to face Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a Republican. Mission Hills businessman Randy Rolston, a Democrat, has already filed to run in the race.
"Union members are looking ahead to new leadership for a stronger Kansas," said Bruce Tunnell, executive vice president of the Kansas State AFL-CIO. "We are proud to support Paul Davis for Governor and Jean Schodorf for Secretary of State. We are confident that Davis and Schodorf are the right candidates for the job at hand," he said.
Gov. Sam Brownback will speak on judicial selection during a discussion sponsored by The Federalist Society, a conservative legal group that has been involved in the debate on changing the way judges are selected in Kansas.
The discussion will be held from noon to 1 p.m. Thursday at the Overland Park Sheraton, 6100 College Boulevard.
Brownback, a Republican, successfully pushed for approval of a new system where the governor names judges to the Kansas Court of Appeals who are then submitted to the Senate for approval.
In the first appointment under the new system, Brownback selected his chief counsel Caleb Stegall, who was confirmed by the Senate on a party-line vote.
Under the former system, a nominating commission screened candidates and submitted three possible nominees for the governor to chose. Supporters of this system said it removed politics from the selection process, but Brownback had criticized this system because he said the nominating commission was dominated by attorneys.
Brownback and his allies also want to apply the new system to the Kansas Supreme Court, but that would require a change in the state constitution.
Visitors to the Kansas State Fair in Hutchinson can tell officials what state laws and regulations they think should be repealed.
The Office of the Repealer will be accepting suggestions at Gov. Sam Brownback's booth in the Meadowlark building.
In 2011, Brownback established the repealer function as a way to get rid of laws that were deemed unreasonable, unduly burdensome, duplicative or onerous.
The repealing effort generated headlines when gay rights advocates sought repeal of a state law that makes sex between consenting adults of the same gender a crime. In 2003, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that such laws are unconstitutional.
But the Brownback administration has declined to seek repeal of that law.
The State Fair runs through Sept. 15.
Topeka — Gov. Sam Brownback on Wednesday will participate in a ceremony commemorating the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington and Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech. The ceremony at the Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site is being held in conjunction with events taking place across the country. The King Center invited Brownback to celebrate with the ceremonial ringing of a bell at 2 p.m. The event starts at 1:30 p.m.
Topeka — Gov. Sam Brownback will announce his appointee to the Kansas Court of Appeals at a news conference on Tuesday.
Eighteen people expressed an interest in the vacancy and completed at least one portion of the application process, the governor's office said today. Thirteen people interviewed with senior staff, with the three referred to Brownback for a second interview. Five individuals did not complete paperwork, were not statutorily eligible or withdrew from consideration, the office said.
This will be the first appeals court selection under a new law that increased the power of the governor to fill vacancies on the court.
During the recently concluded legislative session, Republicans in the Legislature approved a bill that allowed the governor to make appointments to the Kansas Court of Appeals, subject to Senate confirmation. Brownback signed that bill into law.
The new process replaced one in which a nominating commission screened applicants and named three finalists from which the governor made a selection.
The Legislature will meet in special session on Sept. 3, and the Senate will be required to consider Brownback's appointment.
Brownback called the special session after a U.S. Supreme Court decision raised questions about a Kansas law that allows some convicted murderers to be sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 50 years.
The appeals court selection has raised some controversy after Brownback refused to disclose the names of applicants for the position.
Under the previous process, the nominating commission had released the names of appellate court applicants, and even opened to the public interviews with candidates.
In a question-and-answer period on Wednesday with the Kansas Board or Regents, Republican Gov. Sam Brownback provided some insight into the end of the 2013 legislation session in June in which Republican legislative leaders demanded cuts to the universities and Brownback accepted those cuts.
Brownback said at the end of a legislative session, "Often you're crowding everything into a chute, and we're going to get this done tonight — this is going to happen tonight, and then things happen and it doesn't always come out exactly the way your wanted it to come out. And things get traded here and there to get something on through the final process."
Brownback said perhaps the perception from legislative leaders was that higher education could handle the cuts. "You have a lot places you get money from, and maybe you can handle this, whereas other places don't have the options," he said.
On the final day of the session, Republican leaders mustered enough votes within their caucuses to pass a state budget that cut universities 3 percent over two years and to push through a tax package that increased the state sales tax while reducing deductions and racheting down income tax rates.
Brownback has made phasing out the state income tax one of his major goals.
Brownback has praised GOP legislative leaders, but has vowed to fight for restoration of the cuts when the 2014 session starts in January.