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Campaign themes in gubernatorial race echo 1996

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.

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