Results, reaction as Kansas election returns come in

photo by: Nick Krug

Supporters gather for the watch party for democratic gubernatorial candidate Paul Davis on Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2014 at Abe & Jake's Landing in Lawrence.

11:07 p.m.

Paul Davis has conceded his race against Gov. Sam Brownback.

10:55 p.m.

Brownback widening lead over Davisby 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.

photo by: Nick Krug

Supporters gather for the watch party for democratic gubernatorial candidate Paul Davis on Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2014 at Abe & Jake's Landing in Lawrence.

10:15 p.m.

The Associated Press calls U.S. Senate, House races in Kansas:

Kansas Republican Sen. Pat Roberts is re-elected

Republican Jenkins re-elected in Kansas 2nd District

9:59 p.m.

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.

9:40 p.m.

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.

9:16 p.m.

Meaningful votes yet to be countedby 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.

9:01 p.m.

Opponents of police sales tax expect close voteby 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.”

8:55 p.m.

The Associated Press calls two Kansas races for Republican incumbents:

Kansas Attorney General Schmidt wins re-election

GOP state treasurer in Kansas wins 2nd term

8:37 p.m.

Reaction to early police headquarters vote totalsby 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.

8:32 p.m.

Some scenes from watch parties in Lawrence and Topeka, via Journal-World photographers Mike Yoder and Nick Krug:

photo by: Nick Krug

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Paul Davis speaks in a private meeting with his supporters on Nov. 4, 2014, at Abe & Jake's Landing in Lawrence.

photo by: Mike Yoder

Attendees at the Kansas Republican Party watch party await election results, Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2014, in Topeka.

photo by: Mike Yoder

Attendees at the Kansas Republican Party watch party listen to a speech by State Sen. Susan Wagle, Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2014, in Topeka.

photo by: Mike Yoder

Libertarian candidate for Kansas governor Keen Umbehr, right, waits for results at his campaign's watch party, Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2014, in Topeka.

photo by: John Young

A group takes a silly picture in a photo booth at the Greg Orman election watch party Tuesday night, Nov. 4, 2014, at the Overland Park Convention Center in Overland Park.

We’ll be posting more photos throughout the night in this photo gallery:

photo by: Nick Krug

Josh Erbmann, a video support worker comes down from a ladder while preparing for a watch party for democratic gubernatorial candidate Paul Davis on Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2014 at Abe & Jake's Landing in Lawrence.

8:24 p.m.

Police headquarters updateby 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.

8:14 p.m.

Kansas House races, Districts 10 and 46by 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.”

8:01 p.m.

Douglas County announces advance votesby 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.

7:58 p.m.

Sedgwick County reporting problemsby 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.

7:32 p.m.

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.

7:27 p.m.

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.

7:12 p.m.

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 …

Elections 2014 blog: Reporting from the polls

… and reports on the races themselves from Journal-World reporter Peter Hancock:

Elections 2014 blog: Voter privacy concerns raised again

Elections 2014 blog: V.P. Biden says Orman ‘with us’

Elections 2014 blog: If elected, Docking won’t seek cabinet post, will likely focus on education

In addition, Journal-World photographers will be updating this gallery throughout the night:

photo by: Nick Krug

Josh Erbmann, a video support worker comes down from a ladder while preparing for a watch party for democratic gubernatorial candidate Paul Davis on Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2014 at Abe & Jake's Landing in Lawrence.

Check back for reports from campaign watch parties as results begin to come in.