Entries from blogs tagged with “2014”
Paul Davis has conceded his race against Gov. Sam Brownback.
Brownback widening lead over Davis — by Peter Hancock
With complete results in from Johnson and Wyandotte counties, Republican Gov. Sam Brownback has established a lead over Democratic challenger Paul Davis that may hold up through the night.
As of about 10:30 p.m., the Kansas Secretary of State’s website showed Brownback leading 49-47 percent, a difference of more than 12,000 votes.
That total, however, did not include the complete results from Johnson County, the state’s largest county, where Brownback edged out Davis by about 3,000 votes, 49-48 percent.
Brownback also edged out a win in Sedgwick County, the state’s second largest county.
Complete returns were not yet in from Shawnee, Wyandotte or Leavenworth counties, but it is not immediately clear whether there are enough votes there to be had for Davis to close the gap.
Davis had been counting on strong support from moderate Republicans to unseat the incumbent governor. Many of them converged on Lawrence to attend Davis’ election watch party at Abe & Jake’s landing.
But as returns continue coming in, the crowd at Abe & Jake’s has gotten smaller and quieter.
The Associated Press calls U.S. Senate, House races in Kansas:
With 1881 of 3479 precincts reporting, Republican incumbent Pat Roberts leads independent Greg Orman, 52% to 44%, a difference of over 40,000 votes.
CBS, Fox and NBC have all called the race for Roberts.
Lawrence voters have defeated a proposed sales tax to fund a new $28 million police headquarters facility by a narrow margin of about 52 percent to 48 percent
The measure lost by 915 votes, with 14,136 against and 13,221 for.
Meaningful votes yet to be counted — by Chad Lawhorn
Douglas County Clerk Jamie Shew has given us a new report that shows what precincts still have votes to be counted. There are some big West Lawrence districts that remain to be counted. I’ve looked at the list quickly, but it appears the Brandon Woods district is still out. Based on numbers early in the day, turnout was quite heavy at Brandon Woods. There are still a lot of meaningful votes to be counted.
But not all the votes yet to be counted are from West Lawrence. The votes from the Cider Gallery in East Lawrence also appear to be out. The bottom-line is this sales tax vote will come down to the wire. It is unlike any sales tax or bond issue vote we have had in the last 20 years. It is much closer than past elections.
Opponents of police sales tax expect close vote — by Chad Lawhorn
I’ve had a chance to talk to a couple of the opponents to the police sales tax issue. They too said they were expecting a close vote. We’ll see how the votes change as the West Lawrence votes come in, but at least one opponent said he doesn’t think Republicans, for instance, are favoring this sales tax anymore than Democrats.
“From the people I have talked to, I don’t think this is split along party lines,” said Conor Brown, one of the leaders of the citizens group that has formed against the sales tax.
What opposition leaders think the election is increasingly about is a referendum on the current City Commission and its past support of Rock Chalk Park, which was a contentious issue in part because portions of the project were awarded without going through the city’s bidding process.
“This is a chance for the citizens of Lawrence to show their displeasure with the commission,” said Greg Robinson, an opponent of the sales tax. “If people are sick and tired of how they are running things, this is their way to express it. There is nothing wrong with that. I think that is why this is so tight.”
The Associated Press calls two Kansas races for Republican incumbents:
Reaction to early police headquarters vote totals — by Chad Lawhorn
Reaction is starting to come in as the vote totals for the Lawrence police headquarters sales tax come in. I had a chance to chat with Lawrence City Commissioner Jeremy Farmer. When we chatted the police headquarters vote was up slightly. Now it is down slightly.
He told me he came into this evening expecting it to be very tight. He said several factors are playing into the closeness of the race.
“The amount of money is concerning some people,” Farmer said. “We do have a lot of stuff going on, but it is not beyond our means.”
He said he thinks the public is fairly united on the need for a new police headquarters facility, but said some voters are opposing the project based on other city commission decisions. When I asked him if he was talking about the previous Rock Chalk Park sports complex votes, he said that was playing a role with some voters. Farmer said he’s convinced the majority of the public eventually will view the commission’s decision to proceed with Rock Chalk Park as a positive development.
When I asked him whether this vote was shaping up to be a referendum on the City Commission, he said he wasn’t sure.
“It may be a referendum on priorities,” he said.
Farmer expressed frustration that the issue may not be decided on the merits of the police facility question.
“I think there are a lot of other things going on that aren’t related to the need of police facility,” Farmer said.
Some scenes from watch parties in Lawrence and Topeka, via Journal-World photographers Mike Yoder and Nick Krug:
We'll be posting more photos throughout the night in this photo gallery:
Police headquarters update — by Chad Lawhorn
The police headquarters sales tax vote has begun its roller coaster ride. It was winning after advance votes were cast. It is losing now that 11 of 64 precincts are reporting.
No: 51 percent.
Yes: 48 percent.
Vote difference is 338 votes. The big question is where did these votes come from? No official word on which precincts these include, but historically, some of the first votes counted are from eastern Lawrence. Supporters of the sales tax are counting on good West Lawrence support.
Kansas House races, Districts 10 and 46 — by Caitlin Doornbos
Democratic State House candidates Rep. John Wilson, running for District 10, and Dennis “Boog” Highberger, running for District 46, are waiting for Douglas County’s election results to filter in from the Douglas County Democrats’ watch party at Maceli’s, 1013 New Hampshire St.
Wilson said he is “feeling really optimistic” about his chances for re-election after visiting polling locations throughout the day. He said he was encouraged by the high number of voters he saw, specifically in Vinland and Baldwin City.
Wilson, who was endorsed last month by the Kansas National Education Association, said he attributed the increased voter turnout to pressing close-to-home issues such as education.
“When it comes to education, I think people come out to vote if they think it’s in peril,” Wilson said.
Highberger called the 2014 election “the most important in (his) lifetime” – not because he is running, he said, but because of the political climate in Kansas. Highberger has been an outspoken supporter of Paul Davis, the Democratic candidate for governor.
While attending Davis' tour stop in Lawrence last week, Highberger said he is confident he can handle filling Davis’ vacancy in the 46th District.
“Well, I think they’re big shoes to fill,” Highberger said, “but I wear size 13s so I think I will be able to do that.”
Their opponents, Republicans Nick VanWyhe and J. Douglas “Doug” Robinson, respectively, are having casual nights awaiting the results that will determine their next two years. Neither candidate said he was attending a watch party.
VanWyhe, who was in the middle of a workout at his gym when I caught up with him, said he was “feeling good” and that he was “ready to see the results.”
Robinson, who was unable to be reached by phone, said on his campaign Facebook page that he would be missing the election results as he works the night shift at his job at Home Depot.
“I'll be at work this evening till the store closes wondering what is in the news, focused on helping customers, stocking shelves, sweeping floors,” Robinson wrote. “Today will be a check on the vital signs of America.”
Douglas County announces advance votes — by Chad Lawhorn
Advance votes have come in: Here’s a look at Douglas County totals. With about 10,000 ballots cast should be a good sample of voter sentiment:
Police headquarters sales tax: 50.6 percent yes. 49.3 percent no.
Davis: 77.9 percent
Brownback: 20.1 percent
Orman: 74 percent
Roberts 23.1 percent
Get ready for a long night on the police headquarters vote. All indications are that it is a coin flip at the moment. It has a 112 vote lead with the advance vote now tallied.
Sedgwick County reporting problems — by Peter Hancock
Radio station KFDI in Wichita is reporting that a server in the Sedgwick County Election Commissioner’s office went down about 7:05 p.m., preventing officials there from uploading election results.
Sedgwick County Election Commissioner Tabitha Lehman has already come under criticism this year for snafus such as sending ballots to overseas military personnel that included the wrong date for the general election and for recruiting her own family and friends to work at the polls.
Early reports from the Wichita area indicated very heavy voter turnout for this election. Depending on how long it takes to repair the problem, computer glitches in the state’s second largest county could mean a late night for everybody.
Journal-World reporter Peter Hancock, Davis-Docking watch party
On most Election Nights, the state Republican and Democratic parties would each hold unified watch parties in Topeka to watch the returns come in, and the two candidates for governor would be the stars of the show.
But on the Democratic side this year, Paul Davis and his running mate Jill Docking are hosting a watch party of their own in Davis’ hometown of Lawrence, separate from the state party’s festivities in Topeka.
The reason? Let’s just say that if Davis wins, it will be largely because of the support he receives from moderate Republicans, all of whom want to celebrate, but few of whom want to do it in a room packed with Democrats.
Davis campaign officials try to put it more delicately. They say the party reflects the bipartisan spirit Davis hopes to bring to the governor’s office if he’s elected.
But looking around the venue at Abe & Jake’s Landing in downtown Lawrence, one thing is clear. Just like in his campaign materials and TV commercials, the word “Democrat” appears nowhere on the banners, table centerpieces or any other spot in the room.
Journal-World reporter Chad Lawhorn, Douglas County Courthouse
Lots of people have voted in Douglas County, and lots of people voted early.
I just chatted with Douglas County Clerk Jamie Shew now the polls have closed, and he said he’s expecting somewhere around 45,000 people to have cast ballots in this mid-term election. That would equate to about a 60 percent voter turnout.
One number worth noting is that the number of people who voted in advance really exploded this year. Shew says the number is about 11,000 advance ballots, which is up from about 5,000 in both 2006 and 2010.
Shew hopes to have those ballots counted and totals released by 8 p.m. Advance numbers are usually a good indicator of how the election is going to play out the rest of the evening. With so many advance ballots, it may be a particularly good predictor tonight.
I’m covering the police headquarters sales tax vote this evening, and in talking with city officials earlier this evening, I know they’ll be watching those numbers closely as well. They’ll also be looking for signs of what turnout was in West Lawrence. There is feeling among supporters of the sales tax that they’re going to need to get a fair amount of votes from the west.
As for the actual counting of votes tonight, Shew hates to predict when he’ll be done, but he said hopefully by 10:30 or 11 p.m. which would be about an hour later than normal. Some of you have asked in recent days about the process. No longer are all the paper ballots fed into a large voting counting machine at the Douglas County Courthouse. Instead votes are actually counted at the precincts. When you insert your ballot into the electronic box at your polling place, it is scanned and counted at that point. When the ballots arrive at the Douglas County Courthouse, Shew downloads the information from the machine, does a couple of audits, and then we have the results.
I’m stationed here at the Courthouse, so I’ll let you know as we start getting ballots in from various polling places.
Polls are now closed across much of Kansas. The Douglas County elections office expects to release advance results sometime around or after 7:30 p.m.
In the meantime, catch up on today's coverage from the polls ...
... and reports on the races themselves from Journal-World reporter Peter Hancock:
In addition, Journal-World photographers will be updating this gallery throughout the night:
Check back for reports from campaign watch parties as results begin to come in.
Democratic Lieutenant Governor candidate Jill Docking said that if she and her running mate Paul Davis are elected, she plans to focus on education issues, but does not plan to hold a cabinet post, as some other lieutenant governors have done.
“I’m not likely to have a cabinet position because I run my own business down in Wichita, Kansas, but probably would take on a specific issue,” Docking said in Lawrence, where the Davis-Docking team is holding its election watch party.
“In case you haven’t noticed, education is sort of a passionate issue for me so I’m guessing it will have something to do with education.”
Docking is a former member of the Kansas Board of Regents, which oversees higher education in Kansas. She also works as a financial advisor in Wichita.
The office of lieutenant governor is somewhat ill defined in the Kansas Constitution. It is the second-highest office in the executive branch and receives a salary of $100,000 a year, but has no other official responsibilities except to succeed the governor in the event of a governor’s death, resignation or incapacity.
Some lieutenant governors have served simultaneously as cabinet officers. Gary Sherrer who served as lieutenant governor and secretary of commerce under Gov. Bill Graves.
Gov. Kathleen Sebelius’ first lieutenant governor, John Moore, held posts that dealt with state relationships with the military and health care cost containment.
Docking said she and Davis have not yet discussed what role she will play, “but I would serve in the way that would best suit what I could do for the state of Kansas, and Paul and I will talk about that.”
Kansas Republicans on Tuesday pounced on a comment by Vice President Joe Biden who seemed to indicate that he thinks Greg Orman will align with the Democrats if he wins the U.S. Senate race in Kansas, something that Orman himself has never stated publicly.
During an interview with WPLR-FM in Connecticut, Biden said he thinks Democrats will keep control of the Senate this year. He rattled off a few battleground states where he thinks Democrats will win, including Alaska, North Carolina and New Hampshire.
“And I think we have a chance of picking up an independent who will be with us in the state of Kansas,” Biden said.
Kansas Republican Party chairman Kelly Arnold immediately sent out a news release trumpeting the statement.
Orman has said numerous times during the campaign that he will caucus with whichever party has a clear majority in the Senate. But in the event of a tie – something pundits believe is moderately possible – he would caucus with whichever party is willing to adopt a “problem-solving agenda.”
Orman’s campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The 2014 election may be remembered as the starting point for a new and novel kind “get-out-the-vote” tactic: threatening people with public humiliation if they don’t turn out to vote.
People who have received such messages have described them as “Orwellian” and complained that they are an invasion of privacy.
But another problem, it turns out, is that groups sending out those messages don’t always get their facts right.
Case in point: a group calling itself the Kansas State Voter Report recently sent out emails to some Kansas voters with the headline, “What if your friends, your neighbors, and your community knew whether you voted?”
“We’re sending this e-mail to you, your friends, your neighbors, your colleagues at work, and your community members to publicize who does and does not vote,” the email continues.
It includes a chart showing the names and addresses of several people in the recipient’s neighborhood, with information about whether they had cast ballots in four recent elections.
But Michael Kelly, a Lawrence resident who was listed on one such email as not having voted in 2008, said that information is patently false.
“My voter registration in 2008 was in Virginia where I was serving my country working in the Pentagon as a federal civil servant,” Kelly wrote back in an email copied to the Journal-World. “My wife was by my side working as an elementary school reading teacher for the Fairfax County VA public schools. We both voted (legally in Virginia state and US federal elections) in November 2008.”
By law, records of the voters who cast ballots in any election are public record, although the choices they make on their ballots is secret. But not until recently have groups thought to use the names of people who don’t vote as a tool of embarrassment to pressure people into going to the polls.
The emails by the Kansas State Voter Report came on the heels of similar postcards mailed out to voters by the Kansas Democratic Party. But party officials say the emails are from an entirely different group, headed by a conservative oil executive in Oregon.
State Democratic Party chairwoman Joan Wagnon said the campaigns are based on research showing that, while the messages may be perceived as offensive, they also are effective in getting low- or medium-propensity voters to get out and vote.
Chatter about the police headquarters sales tax issue, via Chad Lawhorn:
I have been known to put the “un” in unscientific, especially on Election Day. I’ve spent almost two hours chatting with voters at various precincts across the city, particularly about their thoughts on the police headquarters sales tax issue. Talking with a few voters certainly doesn’t produce any scientific results, but I’ll share what I heard anyway.
In short, there are signs the city is really divided on the issue. The issue does not seem to be brimming with enthusiasm, but there are some voters supporting the sales tax despite being less than enthused. In total, I talked with nine voters, and had two who told me they voted for the sales tax, and I had five who said or either strongly indicated they voted against it. Two others didn’t say. Here’s a look at some of the more interesting comments.
•“It was not a clear cut issue, but I voted for it,” said Bill Blevins, who was voting at the American Legion along West Sixth Street. “I want other people to help pay for it. I felt like if we didn’t pass it, we would be put in a position where they would try to raise our property taxes for it.”
• “It was kind of mixed,” said a college-aged student voting at Presbyterian Manor off Kasold Drive who did not want to give her name. “I had a lot of college students tell me not to vote for it because they thought it needed to be better planned.”
• “I think the city has a lot more on its plate now than what it can pay for,” said Doug, a voter at Presbyterian Manor who did not want to give his last name. “They need to pay some things off before they start paying on a police station.” Doug specifically mentioned the Rock Chalk Park sports complex as an issue that gave him pause about the city’s finances.
• “I voted yes,” said Paul Calnon, who voted at the Cider Gallery in East Lawrence. “I think it had its issues, but on balance, I think yes was the best way to go.” Calnon said he did wish the city would have started its campaign for the sales tax earlier in order to give voters more time to consider the issue.
• “It was pretty clear cut for me. I don’t think they need one,” said Diana Lehmann, who was voting at the Senior Center in downtown. “I don’t like the idea of a new tax.” Lehmann said she supports the police department but wants the city to look for ways to use space it already has, and is urging city officials to be more budget conscious.
• “I don’t think it is going to pass,” said Amy Lee. “I really don’t like the regressive sales tax. I think they need a facility, but I’m not sure this was the way to do it.” A friend who was with Lee at the polls said she voted against the sales tax, and said she would have preferred the city propose a property tax increase. She said the fact the state charges sales tax on food made it difficult for her to support a sales tax.
• “My main thing was to come out and vote against Brownback,” said one unidentified voter at the Cider Gallery in East Lawrence. “I wasn’t really sure what was the best way to go on the police issue.” This voter may be the key to the election. If you can tell me how rank-and-file Democrats are thinking about the police sales tax, I think I can predict the outcome of this election. There are a lot of Democrats at the polls today in Lawrence.
How will people who are mainly focused on the governor and senate races view this sales tax? I have heard from some longtime Democrats who have expressed concern that Democrats don’t like to vote for a sales tax because they believe it has a disproportionate impact on the poor. But, I remember that a lot of Democrats in 2008 voted for sales taxes to support the public transit system and infrastructure improvements in the city. Sales taxes in this town can win Democrats over. Whether this one has, is the big question of the night.
With an hour to go until polls close, there are reports of long lines at several sites around Lawrence.
But remember ...
Another report on turnout from J-W reporter Karen Dillon:
The hard-fought battles for Kansas governor and U.S. Senator were drawing large numbers of voters to the polls Tuesday, with many waiting in lines.
Clayton Barker, Kansas Republican Party executive director, said the political fight for governor and senator were reminiscent of the governor's race in 1990.
“We haven't seen a fight like this since Hayden-Finney,” he said.
As he spoke, people manning 30 phone banks were making late calls to voters around the state urging them to exercise their right to vote.
Barker and Joan Wagnon, Kansas Democratic Party chairwoman, said the turnout appeared to be heavy in many places across the state but there were few problems.
Almost 230,000 Kansans cast ballots before the polls opened on Election Day, 10,000 of them in Douglas County.
Secretary of State Kris Kobach predicted that more than 50 percent of all registered voters, about 872,000 people, would vote Tuesday.
In Douglas County, voter turnout was at 34.8 percent by 2 p.m. Six Lawrence precincts had more than 45 percent turnout with five hours left before the polls closed.
Kobach spokeswoman Kay Curtis said total turnout might not be known until the end of the week.
Wagnon and Barker reported a smattering of complaints but said overall the election seemed to be going smoothly.
The biggest problems, they said, were a few voting machine glitches and not enough iPads to check in people, both of which resulted in delays and long lines.
Notable turnout numbers, via Chad Lawhorn:
West Lawrence is coming out to vote today in large numbers. Douglas County Clerk Jamie Shew put together a report showing voter turnout totals as of 2 p.m., and six Lawrence precincts — five of them in West Lawrence — already had a more than 45 percent voter turnout, and that was with five hours left before the polls close.
Countywide, voter turnout was at 34.8 percent at 2 p.m. Vote totals are running ahead of the pace set in both the 2010 and 2006 elections.
Here’s a look at the six precincts that are leading the way thus far in voter turnout in Lawrence:
• Brandon Woods retirement center, 1501 Inverness: 55.3 percent;
• American Legion, 3408 W. Sixth Street: 51.5 percent
• Vintage Church: 1501 New Hampshire: 51.1 percent
• Pioneer Ridge retirement center: 47.4 percent
• Presbyterian Manor retirement center: 45.5 percent
• Golf Course Superintendent Association: 45.2 percent.
There are four precincts in the city that had voter turnout less than 20 percent as of 2 p.m. They are:
• KU Burge Union, 1601 Irving Hill Road: 5.6 percent
• Central United Methodist Church, 1501 Massachusetts: 19.7 percent
• Schwelger Elementary: 2201 Ousdahl: 19.8 percent
• United Way service center: 2518 Ridge Court: 19.8 percent
It is worth noting all four of those low-turnout precincts are east of Iowa Street. Longtime election-observers in Lawrence often have paid close attention to the east-west split of the vote in town. Whether the east-west split will make much difference in state races is uncertain, but some observers believe a strong West Lawrence turnout may bring out supporters for the police headquarters sales tax.
Chad Lawhorn adds some insight into past votes on sales tax issues in Lawrence:
I’ve had my special Election Day intravenous drip of Mountain Dew, and I’m now on the job to cover today’s vote regarding the 0.2 percent sales tax to fund a new Lawrence police headquarters facility. In preparation of the returns this evening, I decided to do a little research on how special tax questions have fared in Lawrence over the years.
I could not remember the last time a tax issue — whether it be a sales tax, school bond election or other such measure — failed to win approval in Lawrence. I know the school district did lose at least one election in the 1990s when it was trying to gain approval to build a second high school.
Long story short, I’m still not certain when the last time a tax issue lost in Lawrence. I have easy access to election results dating back to 2003, and there hasn’t been a tax issue defeated in Lawrence since that time. Here’s a look:
• 2013 USD 497 $92.5 million bond issue: 72 percent yes.
• 2010 $18 million library bond issue: 55 percent yes.
• 2008 Infrastructure sales tax issue: 73 percent yes.
• 2008 Public transit sales tax issue: 70 percent yes.
• 2008 Public transit enhancement sales tax issue: 68 percent yes.
• 2005 USD 497 $54.1 million bond issue: 68 percent yes.
• 2005 USD 497 $8.9 million bond issue: 71 percent yes
• 2003 USD 497 $59 million bond issue: 55 percent yes
What any of this means for the vote on the 0.2 percent sales tax for police, is anybody’s guess. But there certainly has been an opposition movement in this election, which hasn’t always been the case in all the other elections. It may be interesting to keep these numbers in mind as we watch the returns come in tonight.
Peter Hancock says the 2014 election may be remembered as the starting point for a new and novel kind “get-out-the-vote” tactic: threatening people with public humiliation if they don’t turn out to vote.
People who have received such messages have described them as “Orwellian” and complained that they are an invasion of privacy.
But another problem, it turns out, is that groups sending out those messages don’t always get their facts right.
Read more at Peter's blog post.
Nearly 230,000 Kansas voters had cast their ballots before the polls opened on Election Day.
The Kansas secretary of state's office says that 114,690 mail-in ballots had been turned in by Tuesday morning, less than in 2010. Another 115,079 advance voters had gone to the polls, an increase from 2010.
Read more on ljworld.com.
The Lawrence Humane Society is having it own kind of Election Day special! Cast your vote, then give a pet a home forever!
Here are some specific numbers for Tuesday's elections: By 10:30 a.m., more than 8,754 people had voted in Douglas County, according to voter tabulations just released by Jameson Shew, Douglas County Clerk. Before the polls opened, 10,086 of Douglas County's 75,000 voters had voted in the days leading up to Tuesday. In 2010 and in 2006, about 35,000 voters turned out. Shew is expecting possibly 45,000 voters today.
The Journal-World's Karen Dillon reports that Jameson Shew, Douglas County Clerk, said polling workers are issuing "a ton of provisional ballots today." That's because there is a high number of voters. In those situations, Shew said, "casual voters" forget to register, change addresses, etc.
Douglas County has 75,000 registered voters and normally the turnout is around 35,000. Shew said he is expecting the turnout to be about 45,000, which is more than 60 percent. In pre-Election Day voting, more than 10,000 had voted or 13 percent.
U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts hoped Kansas' deep Republican roots would hold firm Tuesday as he sought to fend off a surprisingly staunch challenge from a suburban Kansas City businessman pledging to bring a nonpartisan voice to Washington.
Should Greg Orman defeat the three-term senator in one of the nation's most unusual and potentially pivotal races, he would become Kansas' first independent in the U.S. Senate. In fact, the state hasn't elected anyone but Republicans to the office since 1932. Read more on the race for Kansas' U.S. Senate seat.
Another great voting shot from Journal-World photographer Mike Yoder:
As polls opened across the state, the Kansas governor's race remained close because of doubts about tax cuts enacted by legislators in 2012 and 2013 at Gov. Sam Brownback's urging. The state has dropped its top personal income tax rate by 26 percent and exempted the owners of 191,000 businesses from income taxes altogether — and future cuts are promised. Read more by Associated Press writer John Hanna.
Douglas County Clerk Jamie Shew reported that Precinct 49, Corpus Christi had been evacuated because of a fire alarm. "We will be back in as soon as we are all cleared," Shew said in an email. The precinct reopened within minutes; the alarm was caused by construction in the building, Shew said in an email.
Bruce Balke of Eudora says the election machine at the fire station in Eudora at 20th and Church Streets is broken and polling workers are stacking the ballots to be counted later. He said he called the Douglas County Clerk's office to report the machine outage. Balke said he wished the poll attendants would have told him before he voted so he would have had the chance to come back later when the machine was fixed, as he wasn't comfortable leaving his ballot when it hadn't been counted. "This is a tight race," he said. "I just don't know about that."
Voting has started in Douglas County: Election Day is finally here! If you're wondering where to cast your vote, you can find precinct maps and a sample ballot at the Douglas County Clerk Voting and Election site.
Check back throughout the day for updated information from the polls as the elections unfold. And check the Journal-World's Elections 2014 site for updated stories from across the state.
A postcard sent out recently by the Kansas Democratic Party that was intended to boost voter turnout has instead caused some voters to complain about an invasion of privacy.
"Responsible citizens vote and people are watching to ensure that you do your duty," the postcard reads.
It goes on to explain that while a person's choices on the ballot are secret, the fact that a person did or didn't vote is a matter of public record. And to drive that point home, it lists the names of some of the recipients' neighbors, along with the indicators about whether or not they had voted in each of the last few years.
"Outraged," said Chris Lazzarino of Lawrence when asked how he felt when he received the postcard. "It felt Orwellian to me. The mailer literally said people are watching you, and it intimated that if you didn't vote you would be potentially shamed in a similar mailer that could go out in future years."
But not everyone was upset by the mailer. James Sallee of Lawrence is one of the people whose name, address and voting record are listed on the postcard that Lazzarino received. He said he was not aware that his name and voting record were being used but that he wasn't concerned.
"No, I don't mind that," Sallee said.
Another person who received the postcard emailed the Journal-World to say she objected to the idea that the party might distribute her name, address and voting information to her neighbors.
"Personally, I do not want my information distributed to anyone, even my address," said Amy Wycoff of Lawrence. "And out of respect for my neighbors, I do not want their information either. ... Politically, this plays into the belief held by some that democrats have a socialist (communist) agenda and this could backfire for the KDP. "
Kansas Democratic Party Chairwoman Joan Wagnon said she has received phone calls from voters expressing similar concerns. But she said there is research to show that such a campaign actually boosts voter turnout.
"I know it bothers some people, and for that I'm really sorry," Wagnon said. "We're just trying to make sure people go and vote. It's a strategy that's been tried in a number of places and it works."
The postcards are part of data-driven campaign known as "micro-targeting" that Kansas Democrats have used this year. In this case, Wagnon said, the postcards, which are tailored to each individual recipient, are mailed to voters who've been identified as low- or medium-propensity voters — people who tend to turn out for presidential elections, but less frequently in midterm elections like the one this year.
But Mark Sump, a former fellow at the Dole Institute of Politics who is now managing Democrat Margie Wakefield's congressional campaign, said that while there is research to show it increases turnout, there is also research to show it turns voters off.
"We were completely blindsided. We had no idea they were doing something like this, and would have suggested not doing it," Sump said. "Margie feels the same way."
Lazzarino said he has not voted in recent presidential elections because he feels the Electoral College system makes it irrelevant how he votes because no matter what, all the state's electoral votes go the the Republican candidate.
He said he was intending to vote in this year's races for governor and U.S. Senate, but the postcard by the Democratic Party makes it less likely that he will vote for Democratic candidates.
"But that does not mean it will make me more likely to vote for a Republican candidate," Lazzarino said.
A strategist for the National Republican Senatorial Committee on Saturday posted a comment on Twitter that might be ominous for Sen. Pat Roberts.
"no Senator under 45 in RCP average heading into Elex Day has ever been re-elected," wrote Brad Dayspring, who is also a former staffer to former U.S. Rep. Eric Cantor. (Read about his exit from Cantor's staff here.)
Indeed, the political website Real Clear Politics shows Roberts' polling average at 41.8 percent. And with independent challenger Greg Orman averaging 42.5 percent (a lead of just 0.7 percentage points), the race is generally considered a tossup.
The comment was actually in response to a tweet by someone else who noted that RCP shows North Carolina Sen. Kay Hagen, a Democrat, at 44.1 percent.
Orman's campaign staff took note of Dayspring's tweet and issued a statement with a banner headline: "BREAKING: NRSC Operative Brad Dayspring Predicts Roberts Loses Senate Race."
But Dayspring said nothing could be further from the truth.
"That's a ridiculous assertion, but not shocking coming from a candidate who insulted Bob Dole 3 days prior to Election Day," he said in an email. "As my Twitter feed has made clear all week, the Race in Kansas is unprecedented in that Democrats ripped their candidate off the ballot because they had hoped to fool voters into believing that Greg Orman wasn't the liberal everyone now knows him to be. Those circumstances make this Senate race impossible to compare to any others."
"And to be clear," he added, "Senator Roberts is going to win on Election Day and serve in a republican senate majority," he added."
Dayspring's reference to a remark about Dole came from a quote Orman made when asked about all the national GOP figures who have been in Kansas campaigning for Roberts. Dole has appeared with Roberts several times.
"It sort of seems like a Washington establishment clown car to me," Orman said in response, according to a story in the conservative Washington Examiner.
The Roberts campaign pounced on that comment, accusing Orman of having called Dole a "clown," and issuing statements denouncing Orman for the attack. But during a campaign stop in Topeka, Orman said he had not tried to attack Dole personally.
"Sen. Dole represents the sort of bipartisan approach that we need for solving problems in Washington and I would never make any comment that was disparaging of Sen. Dole," Orman said.
Davis leading in governor's race
After a number of polls showing the Kansas governor's race tightening, a new poll out Friday from Rasmussen Reports shows Democrat Paul Davis has reclaimed an eight-point lead over Republican Gov. Sam Brownback.
The poll shows Davis ahead, 51-43 percent, among likely voters who are solidly committed to one candidate or the other. The lead narrows slightly to seven points, 52-45, when voters who are leaning toward one candidate or the other are added to the mix.
On Thursday, Rasmussen released a survey showing independent Greg Orman leading by five points in the U.S. Senate race over Republican Sen. Pat Roberts, 49-44 percent. However, neither survey asked voters about the Libertarian candidates in those races, Keen Umbehr in the governor's race or Randall Batson in the senate race.
Other recent polls that included the Libertarian candidates showed narrower gaps between the two major candidates.
In the governor's race, Rasmussen showed Davis claiming about 35 percent of the Republican vote. Its Senate survey showed Orman claiming about the same number of Republicans, 31 percent, indicating that both candidates are suffering from defections within their own party.
And, like Roberts, Brownback suffers from high unfavorable ratings: 53 percent overall, including 39 percent of likely Republican voters. Fifty-eight percent of likely Republican voters view him favorably.
Davis, by contrast, is viewed favorably by 49 percent of all likely voters in the survey, but by only 34 percent of Republicans.
Jenkins internals show strong lead
An internal poll commissioned by 2nd District Republican congresswoman Lynn Jenkins shows her with a strong lead over her Democratic challenger Margie Wakefield.
But the poll by the Tarrence Group, a Republican research firm, also confirms that Wakefield had been running closer in recent weeks.
"Congresswoman Jenkins’ paid media campaign has had a very positive impact on the race and she almost tripled her lead over her Democratic challenger in the past two weeks," the firm said in a memo dated Oct. 21. "Jenkins now holds a +12 lead on a trial ballot test for Congress."
A new poll in the U.S. Senate race in Kansas puts independent candidate Greg Orman up by five points, 49-44 percent, over Republican Sen. Pat Roberts.
The survey by Rasmussen Reports, an independent firm whose sampling method tends to favor Republicans, shows Orman getting support from 31 percent of likely Republican voters, 88 percent of Democrats and nearly half the vote from people not affiliated with either of the two major parties.
It also showed 51 percent of likely voters have an unfavorable impression of Roberts, while 50 percent have a somewhat or very favorable impression of Orman.
The survey of 960 likely voters reported a margin of error of plus or minus three percentage points.
Orman has been leading in most polls since the Aug. 5 primary, and especially since Democrat Chad Taylor withdrew from the race. But recent polls have shown the race getting closer, with Orman leading by an average of 0.2 percentage points, according to the academic group Insight Kansas.
A spokesman for independent candidate Greg Orman's U.S. Senate campaign has been "reassigned" after posting a comment on Twitter referring to Sen. Pat Roberts and other Senate Republicans as "bedwetters."
Sam Edelen, who had been part of Orman's communications team since early in the campaign, is still employed by the campaign but will no longer handle day-to-day communications, according to a senior campaign aide, who has been handling most of the campaign's communications in recent weeks.
The flap began Friday when Roberts, speaking to campaign volunteers in Topeka, vowed to filibuster all legislation if President Barack Obama tries to transfer suspected terrorists now being held at a prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to the United States.
When Roberts' comment hit certain national news websites, Edelen posted a tweet: "Natural leaders don’t excel by instilling fear & cowardice in their people. But does the Senate Bedwetter's Caucus?"
The comment was actually a quote from a Washington Monthly blog post by Martin Longman, and he included a link to that article. But he did not put quotation marks around it, making it appear that the comment reflected the Orman campaign's views.
An aide said that remark, and especially the tone of it, did not reflect the campaign's positions, but he also said Orman has not formed a specific position on what to do with the Guantanamo Bay prisoners — many of whom have been held for more than a decade without being charged or tried for a crime — except to say, "President Obama is absolutely wrong on this, and the solution is not to bring these terrorists onto U.S. soil."
Obama had vowed to close the prison during his 2008 campaign. Shortly after taking office in 2009, he issued an executive order to close the prison and either release detainees to their home countries, transfer them to a third country, or transfer them to prisons located within the United States, possibly including the military prison at Fort Leavenworth.
Roberts at that time protested that action, and Congress has since blocked any transfer of prisoners without congressional approval. Last week, however, the Wall Street Journal reported that the administration is "drafting options" for closing the prison, prompting even more harsh criticism from House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio.
Roberts, who has been shifting the focus of his campaign to national security issues in recent days, was apparently echoing Boehner's comments when he made his remarks Friday. The flap continued Monday when the Roberts campaign posted a photo of the senator with an angry expression, echoing his vow to shut down the government.
A new poll out Monday by the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling shows the races for governor and U.S. Senate in Kansas getting tighter.
Based on a survey, 1,081 likely voters conducted over the weekend, the governor's race between Republican Sam Brownback and his Democratic challenger Paul Davis is now tied, with each getting 42 percent, while Libertarian Keen Umbehr shows up with 6 percent.
"Umbehr is the unusual Libertarian who's actually helping the Republican in the race by splitting the anti-Brownback vote," PPP said in a news release.
Meanwhile, Republican Sen. Pat Roberts has narrowed his gap and now trails independent candidate Greg Orman by just three points, 44-41 percent. In September, PPP showed Orman with a 10-point lead.
Roberts has spent most of the campaign stressing that a vote for him is the surest path to gaining a Republican majority in the Senate, and the PPP poll suggests that message may be working for him. By a 52-35 percent margin, it said voters in Kansas would rather Republicans had control of the Senate than Democrats.
However, both Brownback and Roberts remain deeply unpopular among voters, according to the poll. It found 54 percent of those surveyed disapproved of the job Brownback is doing as governor, and 47 percent disapprove of the job Roberts is doing as senator.
Dem. poll: Jenkins leads by single digits
An internal poll for Democrat Margie Wakefield suggests her race against Rep. Lynn Jenkins in the 2nd Congressional District may be tightening.
The poll, which was provided to the Journal-World from someone not affiliated with either campaign, shows Jenkins leading Wakefield, 48-43 percent.
Wakefield's campaign manager, Mark Sump, confirmed they had commissioned the poll by Anzalone Liszt Grove Research, a Democratic firm based in Washington, but he offered no other comment.
Jenkins' campaign manager, Lee Modesitt, said, "If Margie Wakefield believed her own poll, particularly one inconsistent with what's out there, she'd probably release the details."
However, Politico reported Saturday that senior Republican leaders in the House are getting worried about the race and have asked rank-and-file lawmakers to cut checks to the Topeka Republican.
The poll noted, among other things, that Sen. Pat Roberts and Gov. Sam Brownback, both struggling in their own re-election campaigns, are a drag on Jenkins in the 2nd District, which has a higher mix of registered Democrats and independents than the state as a whole.
"Both of them trail by big margins in the district, Brownback by 11 points (52 percent Davis / 41 percent Brownback) and Roberts by 9 points (49 percent Orman / 40 percent Roberts)," the polling memo said. "Given the district’s more Democratic posture than the state overall, competitive statewide contests mean Republicans are losing big in the 2nd CD."
Pat Roberts' shutdown threat
Republican U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts threatened on Friday to filibuster all legislation in Congress if President Barack Obama attempts to transfer suspected terrorists being held in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to the United States.
That statement was reported by The Hill, and it came just one day after Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who many say was the architect of last year's 16-day partial federal shutdown, campaigned for Roberts in Wichita.
“I stopped him once from trying to send a Gitmo terrorist to Leavenworth,” Roberts was reported to have said. “I shall do it again. I shall do it again, and if he tries it, I will shut down the Senate.”
Obama campaigned in 2008 vowing to close the prison at the military base in Cuba but was unsuccessful. Congress has since blocked his attempts to do so.
Roberts' statement prompted a series of barbed missives between campaign officials for Roberts and independent challenger Greg Orman.
Orman's spokesman Sam Edelen posted on Twitter: "Natural leaders don’t excel by instilling fear & cowardice in their people. But does the Senate Bedwetter's Caucus?"
Corry Bliss of the Roberts campaign fired back with everything but the kitchen sink in an email statement:
"Greg Orman's campaign should be ashamed of themselves for mocking Senator Roberts’ leadership to prevent Gitmo terrorists from coming to Kansas," Bliss said. "However, it is no surprise that Mr. Orman would side with Barack Obama over what’s best for Kansas. He is a liberal Democrat who gave money to Obama, voted for Obama, and supports Obama’s policies — including amnesty, Obamacare, and higher taxes."
Either something strange is happening in the Kansas electorate, or there's something wrong with recent polling in the top two races in Kansas.
Based on polls released just in the past week, Republican Sen. Pat Roberts could be five points up, or 10 points down, or anywhere in between, in his race against independent Greg Orman
And Gov. Sam Brownback could be ahead of Democrat Paul Davis by as many as six points, or down by as many as five. Take your pick.
What's especially striking about the polls is that they contradict what had been a pretty set pattern for most of the campaign, really going back to before the Aug. 5 primary: Roberts was trailing either Orman or Democrat Chad Taylor, or the combination of the two; and Brownback was running about five points behind Democrat Paul Davis.
So, either something has happened recently in the Kansas electorate causing a shift of some kind that is beyond measurement, or there's something wrong with the new polls.
"Voters are fickle, but not that fickle," said Patrick Miller, a polling expert at Kansas University's Department of Political Science.
Bob Beatty, a political science professor at Washburn University in Topeka, agreed.
"We sort of have a little polling conflict," he said. "They may converge in the end, but right now there's a little discordance."
Miller views the latest polls with a healthy dose of skepticism, especially those from the major news networks that have little history of ever polling in Kansas before.
"FOX/NBC/CNN have not polled in KS in the last decade and are likely less familiar with KS voter patterns, especially regarding GOP defections (e.g. Sebelius and Morrison got 30% of the GOP vote in 06)," Miller said in an email Thursday.
By contrast, he said, the other polls we've seen this year — from SurveyUSA, Public Policy Polling and Rasmussen Reports — have a longer track record of fairly accurate polling in Kansas.
Much of it has to do with methodology, Miller said. Most people are familiar with sampling methods - drawing names or phone numbers at random and separating people out either as "registered voters" or "likely voters." But equally important is how they try to predict the population of people who will actually turn out to vote. That involves something called "weightings."
"Weighting is complex, but it adjusts basically how much each individual respondent affects the poll outcome based on pollster beliefs about electorate composition and behavior," he said. "I suspect that these national networks are looking at their U.S. polls and seeing how Republicans and Independents are voting on average for GOP candidates, and that's affecting how they weight (Kansas) voters. So in effect, they are adjusting the numbers differently by network, but in a way that skews either the GOP or Ind vote from where the trend has been."
Beatty said the weighting issue was especially evident in the CNN poll, which used a sample made up of 46 percent Republicans, 36 percent unaffiliated and 21 percent Democratic. That accurately reflects the registered voter population, Beatty said, but it's not even close to the population that turns out on Election Day.
"Four years ago with Tom Holland (D-Baldwin City) at the top of the ticket, turnout was higher than that for Democrats," Beatty said. "So this year CNN is saying fewer Democrats are going to vote? We're not buying that."
Miller noted that Public Policy Polling, a Democratic firm that has had a pro-GOP bias in its results, is expected to be polling again in Kansas this weekend.
"If PPP shows a move, I will begin to believe that voters are moving in a bipolar fashion overnight a la CNN/FOX," Miller said. "If they don't replicate CNN/FOX, then I will stick to my belief that this is a weighting issue."
Two new polls came out over the weekend that may indicate a shift in races for governor and U.S. Senate. Or, they may not.
One came from NBC and Marist College purportedly showing a dead heat in the governor's race and a 10-point lead for independent candidate Greg Orman in his race against Republican Sen. Pat Roberts.
Both of those are significantly different from the majority of other polls, which have consistently shown Democrat Paul Davis leading Republican Gov. Sam Brownback by about four or five points, while Orman has shown up with a razor-thin lead over Roberts.
The NBC/Marist poll showed Davis with a one-point lead over Brownback, 44-43 percent, with Libertarian Keen Umbehr polling at 4 percent. The sample of 636 likely voters had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.9 percentage points.
The poll was conducted Sept. 27- Oct. 1, meaning it's the first public poll since stories were published that Davis had been seen at a strip club during a drug raid in 1998.
That same poll showed Orman leading Roberts, 43-38 percent, a far wider margin than any other recent poll has shown. It also found that 47 percent of those surveyed have an unfavorable impression of Roberts, compared with only 27 percent who feel that way about Orman.
It also showed that more people now know something about Orman. Only 6 percent said they have never heard of him, according to the NBC/Marist poll. That's down from 11 percent who said that in a Rasmussen Reports poll in early September.
The other poll over the weekend came from the New York Times and CBS, who are contracting with the British firm YouGov to conduct an entirely different kind of tracking poll. It's one that has gotten little if any attention in the local media because of a unique method that uses an Internet-based panel of voters nationwide, instead of a random selection of voters polled over the phone.
That poll also showed Orman and Roberts tied at 40 percent each in the Senate race.
Earlier YouGov polls have also shown Brownback leading slightly in the governor's race, something no other public poll has found since the Aug. 5 primary.
But political science academics in Kansas have been leery about drawing any conclusions from it because instead of the pollster sampling the population of voters to measure their sentiment, the YouGov polls are based on people who volunteer to sign up and be part of the panel.
Roberts receives endorsements
Sen. Pat Roberts is continuing his strategy of trying to nationalize the U.S. Senate race in Kansas, bringing in endorsements from a national business group and nationally prominent GOP figures.
On Monday, he received the endorsement of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. At a news conference in Topeka, the Chamber's senior vice president Rob Engstrom echoed Roberts' main argument that the election is a referendum on President Barack Obama and Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid of Nevada.
"With so much at stake, we can’t afford another vote for Harry Reid and the Obama Administration’s agenda," Engstrom said.
Most polls have shown Roberts either tied with or trailing independent challenger Greg Orman, who has tried to make the election a referendum on Roberts and the entire partisan dysfunction from both sides of the aisle in Congress.
Later this week, Republican Sens. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma and Ted Cruz of Texas will be in Kansas to stump for Roberts. Cruz is considered the leader of the tea party faction within Congress, a group that Roberts is still trying to court since the brutal primary campaign against Milton Wolf.
Orman's campaign has called Cruz the "architect" of last year's 16-day partial shutdown of the federal government because of his insistence to not approve a spending bill unless it included provisions to delay or defund implementation of the Affordable Care Act.
Think tank lauds Brownback
Although several economic reports have shown the Kansas economy lagging behind the rest of the nation, suggesting Gov. Sam Brownback's policies of cutting taxes to stimulate growth haven't worked, one conservative think tank is ranking the Kansas Republican as the most effective governor in the nation.
The Cato Institute recently gave Brownback a grade of A on its Fiscal Policy Report Card, putting him in the same category as North Carolina's Pat McCrory, Maine's Paul LePage, and Indiana's Mike Pence.
The Cato Institute was founded in Wichita by Charles Koch, chairman and CEO of Koch Industries. It states on its website that it is "dedicated to the principles of individual liberty, limited government, free markets and peace."
Top Republicans still trailing
A new, independent poll out this week confirms again what other polls have been saying for weeks, that Sen. Pat Roberts and Gov. Sam Brownback are both trailing behind their challengers, but not by insurmountable margins.
The Suffolk University/USA Today poll shows independent U.S. Senate candidate Greg Orman leading Roberts by 5 points, 46-41 percent; and Democrat Paul Davis ahead of Brownback by 4 points, 46-42 percent.
Those margins are fairly close to the averages of other polls taken since the Aug. 5 primary.
The Senate race, of course, has been tricky for pollsters, without knowing exactly which candidates to ask about. That question wasn't decided until Wednesday, when a three-judge panel in Topeka ruled that the Kansas Democratic Party does not have to put a candidate on the ballot to replace Chad Taylor, who withdrew Sept. 3.
Other recent polls that asked only about Roberts and Orman had put Orman ahead by an average 7.75 percentage points, according to an analysis by the academic team Insight Kansas.
But Washburn University political science professor Bob Beatty said Thursday that Insight Kansas will not use the Suffolk University poll to calculate averages because it does not meet their criteria for reliability. Beatty said the poll under-sampled Republican voters and over-sampled unaffiliatedd voters.
Meanwhile, the numbers in the governor's race have barely moved since early summer, and the latest poll confirms that Davis is riding a slim but consistent single-digit lead, with less than 10 percent of those surveyed still undecided.
The fact that the top two Republicans on the ballot in a traditional Republican stronghold both find themselves in trouble has captured national attention and may even threaten the national GOP's hopes of regaining control of the U.S. Senate this year.
In other statewide races, though, Attorney General Derek Schmidt, State Treasurer Ron Estes and Insurance Commissioner candidate Ken Selzer all appear to enjoy comfortable majorities.
The lone exception is Secretary of State Kris Kobach. Although the Suffolk University/USA Today poll put him up by 5 points over Democrat Jean Schodorf, 45-40 percent, other polls have shown a much closer race, with Kobach up by an average of less than 2 points.
Report: Tea party seeking concessions
One factor in the campaign woes of Sen. Pat Roberts and Gov. Sam Brownback may be the reluctance of the tea party crowd to jump on board this year.
According to a report in The Hill, a Washington-based political news site, tea party leaders in Kansas recently tried to extract some big concessions from the GOP establishment before agreeing to endorse the incumbents.
Those included wholesale replacement of top state Republican Party officials; halting the Kansas Board of Healing Arts' investigation into an ethics complaint against Milton Wolf, who unsuccessfully challenged Roberts in the GOP primary; and a guarantee that if Roberts doesn't serve out his full term, that Wolf would be appointed to replace him.
Kansas GOP executive director Clay Barker confirmed the story to the Journal-World Thursday, saying those demands were expressed during a meeting last Friday, Sept. 26. Besides Barker, the meeting included at least two staffers each from the Brownback and Roberts campaigns, about five representatives of various tea party groups, and a number of others who participated by phone.
But Barker said the demands were never taken seriously, especially since two of them — halting the investigation and guaranteeing Wolf an appointment to the Senate in exchange for their endorsements — would probably constitute felonies.
In 2009, former Illinois Gov. Rod Blegojevich was impeached and removed from office for allegedly trying to sell an appointment to fill the Senate seat vacated when Barack Obama was elected president. He was later convicted on more than a dozen federal corruption charges and sentenced to 14 years in prison.
Barker would not identify all of the tea party activists who took part in the meeting, but confirmed one of them who was named in the Hill story, Steve Shute, a city councilman in Gardner. Shute was not immediately available for comment Thursday.
According to the Hill article, there was supposed to have been a follow-up meeting on Wednesday, but Barker said he did not know if one ever took place.
Some number of people in Kansas — it's not really clear how many — are eagerly awaiting a decision from the Shawnee County District Court about whether Democrats will be required to name a candidate for the U.S. Senate.
In the meantime, a new look at the polls in that race shows why it matters.
A group of Kansas academics who take turns writing op-ed pieces under the heading Insight Kansas gathered all of the "independent, scientific, noncandidate-paid-for" polls in the major races, averaged them and came up with this:
With Democrat Chad Taylor on the ballot, independent candidate Greg Orman leads Republican Pat Roberts by an average 1.25 percentage points. That's pretty close to being a statistical dead heat.
That's the average of four polls, all taken after Taylor dropped out of the race. And two of those polls taken in mid-September — by Rasmussen Reports and Fox News — showed Roberts ahead by 1 and 2 points respectively.
But take Taylor off the ballot and ask people to choose between Roberts and Orman alone, and Orman's lead expands to an average 7.75 points.
Bob Beatty, a political science professor and part of the Insight Kansas group, said it's clear that when Taylor dropped out of the race in early September, the bulk of his support went to Orman. And if Taylor, or any other Democrat, is put back on the ballot, it takes support away from Orman.
"Because there's always going to be Republicans and Democrats who vote the party line," Beatty said. "If any Democrat is on that ballot, it takes away some votes from Orman."
That's precisely what Republicans stand to gain in the lawsuit pending in Topeka, and it shows pretty clearly why the Democratic Party has no particular interest in trying to put someone else on the ballot.
Beatty said the academics at Insight Kansas will continue putting out the polling averages each week between now and Election Day, looking mainly at the five most recent polls in each race. Here's what they're showing in the other major races right now:
• Governor: Democrat Paul Davis leads Republican Gov. Sam Brownback by an average of 5.4 percentage points. "The amazing thing there is how consistent it's been since June," Beatty said. "They all show Davis with a 4 to 7 point lead."
• Secretary of State: Republican incumbent Kris Kobach has a razor-thin lead of 1.8 points over Democrat Jean Schodorf, a former Republican state senator. In February, the first major poll, by Public Policy Polling, showed Kobach with a 7-point lead. But that's been narrowing in more recent surveys. Still, of the eight polls conducted in that race, only one has shown Schodorf with any kind of lead. That was SurveyUSA poll in early September that had her up by 3 points.
In addition to Beatty, Insight Kansas includes political science professors Burdett Loomis at Kansas University; Mark Peterson at Washburn University; Chapman Rackaway at Fort Hays State University; Michael Smith at Emporia State University; and Ed Flentje at Wichita State University.
While Sen. Pat Roberts is hosting national Republican figures to help out in his re-election campaign, another national figure is weighing in on the race, accusing the Kansas senator of being a “congenital liar” who was complicit in allowing U.S. intelligence agencies to engage in torture.
Joseph C. Wilson, the husband of outed CIA agent Valerie Plame and a key figure in the intelligence reports used to justify the war in Iraq, laid out those charges Sunday in a blog post on HuffingtonPost.com. In it, he accuses Roberts of trying to deceive Kansas voters about his residency in the state. But he says Roberts engaged in an even bigger deception when he was chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence during the early years of the war in Iraq.
“For years, he was nothing more than (Vice President) Dick Cheney's poodle,” Wilson wrote. “He protected those elements of the CIA following the Bush-Cheney orders on torture, as the soon-to-be published Senate torture report under Senator Diane Feinstein (D-CA) will make clear. It was Roberts who let it all happen.”
According to recent published reports the Intelligence Committee, which Feinstein now chairs, has produced a 6,000-page report on the CIA's use of "enhanced interrogation techniques" since the attacks of 9/11. The report has been submitted for declassifcation but not yet released to the public.
Wilson was a retired ambassador when he was sent to Niger in 2002 to investigate suspicions that Saddam Hussein was attempting to buy uranium yellowcake as part of a nuclear weapons program.
Despite the fact that he found no evidence of any such attempt, President George W. Bush later asserted that he had, and mentioned it in his 2003 State of the Union address as part of his justification for launching a war to overthrow the Iraqi dictator.
The misrepresentation of Wilson's report was made public when Wilson wrote an op-ed article in the New York Times in July that year titled “What I didn't find in Africa.” Soon after publication of that article, Bush administration officials leaked to the press that Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, worked for the CIA.
Roberts was a member of the Intelligence Committee, which has oversight of U.S. intelligence agencies, and in January 2003 he became chairman of that panel.
The Intelligence Committee conducted a lengthy investigation into the use of intelligence leading up to the war, and Roberts was frequently accused of dragging his feet on that investigation. The final report, accusing the Bush administration of deliberately misusing intelligence to justify the war, was not published until 2008, after Roberts had left the committee.
The Phase I report, released in December 2003, examined the intelligence community's pre-war assessment that Iraq was trying to develop weapons of mass destruction. It found, among other things, that before Wilson's trip, it was reasonable to believe that Iraq had been trying to buy uranium.
But Roberts wrote a separate “Additional Views” report suggesting that it was Wilson's wife who recommended he be sent to Niger, and that Wilson's public statements were not based on his own actual knowledge but, rather, media reports he had read after the fact — a charge that Wilson called “libelous.”
“Both accusations were bald lies, as I pointed out in a letter to the committee and in my book 'The Politics of Truth,'” Wilson wrote Sunday.
“Roberts, who did his best to cover up serious crimes against national security was the single worst Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence in its history — the most actively incompetent and disgraceful,” he wrote.
The Roberts campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Wilson's article.
Republican Sen. Pat Roberts is about to get some help from the National Rifle Association's Political Victory Fund, which endorsed him for re-election earlier this month, based in part on his opposition to requiring background checks for all gun sales.
The Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal both reported in recent days that the NRA's political arm is about to buy $100,000 worth of air time in Wichita and Topeka supporting Roberts, who is now in a tight race against independent challenger Greg Orman.
"Roberts has stood up to the Obama-Bloomberg gun control agenda, including their so-called 'universal' background check system that would criminalize the private transfer of a firearm between life-long friends and many family members," the NRA said in its endorsement.
When Roberts first ran for the Senate in 1996, he was a vocal supporter of instant background checks to prevent criminals from buying firearms.
"We need tougher penalties for criminals," Roberts told the Journal-World during that campaign. "Second, we have the technology for an instant background check of those buying weapons. We need to use that."
He also gave a similar answer when asked about gun control during a televised debate on public radio and TV, which was later rebroadcast on C-SPAN. (View the clip here.)
Arguably, the question about background checks has changed subtly since the early 1990s, when gun control was a major political issue in the wake of rising gang-related crime in major cities in the United States. Then, background checks were considered the more moderate alternative to other gun-related proposals.
In 1993, then-Rep. Roberts voted for a bill requiring instant background checks for gun sales. That was intended to replace the mandatory five-day waiting period, which had been the law before. A year later, Roberts voted against one of President Bill Clinton's major initiatives, to ban certain types of assault weapons. The bill passed anyway and was signed into law.
By 1996, as Clinton was facing re-election, the NRA made repeal of the assault weapon ban a top priority. Roberts voted in favor of that bill, although it was a largely symbolic vote because Clinton had vowed to veto it. But in interviews at the time, he said he supported instant background checks.
"We're very close to the technology, and (Sen.) Bob Dole has urged this, as have others, that you can walk into a gun shop, put your thumb print down and immediately there would be a check and you would deny those firearms of all types to the convicted felon or somebody who shouldn't have a gun."
The assault weapon ban remained in place until 2004, when it was allowed to expire. Meanwhile, gun control advocates criticized the law requiring background checks because it only applied to sales by licensed firearms dealers. It does not apply to private sales between individuals, which critics refer to as the "gun show loophole."
Last year, President Barack Obama proposed extending the requirement for background checks to all gun purchases, including those between private individuals. But the context of that debate is now much different, especially after gun rights advocates won a U.S. Supreme Court decision that said the 2nd amendment right to bear arms is an individual right, not a collective right.
Now, background checks are no longer the moderate alternative to more aggressive gun control. They are the more aggressive form of gun control, compared to the gun rights that advocates have won in court.
But as far back as 1999, according to an article in the Hays Daily News, Roberts suggested expanding background checks to pawn shops and gun shows. That comment was in response to a question about a mass school shooting in Littleton, Colo., a few months earlier.
When asked about Roberts' earlier positions, his campaign manager Corry Bliss said there has been no change.
"Pat Roberts has been a strong advocate of the second amendment, and has continually received an A rating from the NRA," Bliss said in an email. "Senator Roberts has always supported an instantaneous background check — to keep guns from felons. His position is clear — and consistent."
For his part, Orman has said he supports gun rights and owns two handguns himself. But he supports expanding background checks to include private gun sales. A statement on his website reads:
Both times that I bought a handgun, I was required to go through a mandatory background check to ensure that I was a U.S. citizen who hadn’t been convicted of domestic violence, subject to a restraining order for harassing, stalking, or threatening behavior, incarcerated for longer than a year, dishonorably discharged from the military, or determined to be mentally defective. Over 700,000 people who met the description above have been prevented from buying firearms at licensed dealers since the background check requirements went into effect.
The idea that those 700,000 people could simply head to a gun show and buy a firearm without the same background scrutiny doesn’t make sense to me.
Attorney General Derek Schmidt sought permission Thursday to file a friend of the court brief in the ongoing litigation over naming a Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate in Kansas in a race that could determine which party controls the upper chamber of Congress next year.
In a motion filed in Shawnee County District Court, Schmidt says the court should direct the Kansas Democratic Party to name another candidate, although he concedes the law is not entirely clear on that point.
That's just the latest chapter of a bizarre political drama in which Democrats are trying desperately not to have a candidate on the ballot, even though one was nominated in a competitive primary, and Republicans are pulling out all the stops to make sure Democrats do have a candidate.
What's prompting all of that counter-intuitive behavior is the surprisingly strong candidacy of Greg Orman, a wealthy Johnson County businessman who, according to recent polls, has a slim lead over three-term incumbent Republican Pat Roberts, who is 78.
Republicans need a net gain of at least six seats to take control of the Senate, and many analysts gave the GOP favorable odds of pulling that off. But if Roberts loses in Kansas, long considered a GOP stronghold, that task would become much more difficult.
On Sept. 18, the Kansas Supreme Court ordered that Democrat Chad Taylor, who had won the Democratic primary, must be allowed to withdraw his name on the ballot, saying he fulfilled the requirements of the statute for doing so. It is widely believed, although not acknowledged, that the national Democratic Party had urged Taylor to withdraw, believing Orman has a better chance of defeating Roberts on his own.
But the court did not address the question of whether the Kansas Democratic Party must name a new candidate.
Minutes after the Supreme Court decision was announced, David Orel, a registered Democrat whose son reportedly works on Republican Gov. Sam Brownback's campaign, filed a petition seeking an order for the party to name a new candidate. But the Supreme Court declined to hear that petition, saying there were facts at issue that must be heard at the trial court level.
At issue is K.S.A. 25-3905(a) which says, "When a vacancy occurs after a primary election in a party candidacy, such vacancy shall be filled by the party committee of the congressional district, county or state, as the case may be ..." (emphasis added).
The operative word there being "shall," which sounds like something that is mandatory. But in his brief, Schmidt acknowledges that sometimes it's mandatory, and sometimes it's merely "directory." In either case, he also acknowledges that the law provides no penalty for disobeying the law.
Still, Schmidt argues that in this case it seems clear that when the law was written in 1908, the Legislature meant for it to be mandatory.
The case was referred to the Shawnee County District Court, where a three-judge panel has scheduled a hearing for 9 a.m. Monday.
Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, also a Republican, has also filed a motion to intervene in the case in support of Orel's motion.
The polling firm Rasmussen Reports on Monday released details of its latest poll that appears to show the Kansas governor's race tightening, but which raises as many questions as it answers.
Their latest poll, conducted Sept. 16-17, shows Democrat Paul Davis leading by four points, 47-43 percent over Republican Gov. Sam Brownback. That's significantly closer than Rasmussen's earlier poll in August which showed Davis up by 10 points.
It also shows a closer race than either of the other two recent public polls in the governor's race. The Democratic firm Public Policy Polling showed Davis up by 6 points in mid-September, while SurveyUSA showed Davis ahead by 7 points earlier in the month.
Buried within the top line numbers are a few details that might explain why the race is tightening – or at least why the Rasmussen polls show that it is.
Perhaps the most intriguing statistic, and the most puzzling, is the breakdown by race.
Among non-white voters, Davis held a 64-25 percent advantage over Brownback in August. That wasn't especially surprising for a Democrat, given the way blacks and Hispanics have voted in recent national elections. In 2012, for instance, exit polling showed Barack Obama won 93 percent of the African-American vote and 73 percent of the Hispanic vote.
But September, according to Rasmussen, those numbers for Brownback and Davis have virtually flipped. The new poll shows Brownback leading among non-whites, 51-36 percent. That's a 26-point swing in Brownback's favor in the course of one month.
No other public poll has showed anything similar to that.
One explanation could be a statistical error in sampling. While the overall poll of 750 likely voters had a margin of error of plus or minus four percentage points, the margin within small sub-groups is higher because of their comparatively small sample size.
Among all voters, the Rasmussen poll shows that more people now know who Paul Davis is, no doubt the result of increased media attention and increased advertising on both sides including negative ads put out by the Brownback campaign.
While Davis' favorability rating, at 45 percent, is about the same as last month, his unfavorable rating has climbed eight points, to 33 percent.
In August, nearly one-fifth of those surveyed (19 percent) said they had never heard of Paul Davis. Today, his anonymity factor is down to 12 percent.
Rasmussen also asked people which candidate they trust more to deal with different types of issues. Last month, Davis led in every category - spending; taxes; social issues; and ethics and corruption. Davis had a 10-point advantage over Brownback in trust to deal with social issues.
This month, the gap on social issues has narrowed to just four points (42-38 percent), and Brownback now scores even with Davis on trust to deal with government spending: 40 percent each.
Dole, McCain stumping for Roberts
U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts is bringing in the big bats this week to give his sluggish campaign an extra boost, including former Sen. Bob Dole and former presidential candidate Sen. John McCain.
Dole, the 91-year-old retired senator who has spent a lot of time back in Kansas in recent months, is scheduled to appear Monday night with Roberts for a town hall meeting in Dodge City. On Tuesday, he'll be at Roberts events in Kinsley and Greensburg.
Dole served in the Senate from 1969 through 1996, when he stepped down to run for president. That same year, Sen. Nancy Kassebaum also retired. Roberts was elected to Kassebaum's old seat, and Sam Brownback won a special election to fill the remainder of Dole's term.
McCain, R-Ariz., is scheduled to appear for a campaign event at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 24, at Roberts' Johnson County campaign headquarters, 12651 Metcalf Ave., in Overland Park.
Both Dole and McCain won Kansas but lost to Democrats in their respective presidential bids: Dole to Bill Clinton in 1996; McCain to Barack Obama in 2008.
Finally, on Thursday, the Roberts campaign says only that there will be a “special guest” at a campaign event in Independence. The event is an 8 a.m. pancake breakfast at the Independence Historical Museum and Arts Center.