Primary Election Results…To be determined

Aug 8, 2018 by

Well, some things about yesterday’s Kansas primary election have been decided but others have not and likely will not be for some time yet.

What we know for certain is that Senator Laura Kelly is the Democratic candidate for Kansas Governor. Kelly secured a majority of votes (52%) in a crowded five-candidate contest. It didn’t take long last night to know that Kelly was in; Svaty and Brewer were out.

Over on the Republican side, however, things are a little different. As of noon today, Secretary of State Kris Kobach – Trump’s anointed candidate – was ahead of incumbent Governor Jeff Colyer by only 191 votes with several thousand provisional ballots still to be counted. This race will take some time to be determined as all counties finish reviewing their ballots. But Kelly will face off against either Kobach or Colyer in November.

In two other contested state-wide Republican primaries, Rep. Scott Schwab secured the nomination for Secretary of State with 38% of the vote in a five-candidate election while Sen. Vicki Schmidt managed to beat Clark Shultz in the Republican primary for Insurance Commissioner, 52% to 48%.

A couple of congressional primaries were wild. In the Democratic primary for CD 3 (currently held by Republican Rep. Kevin Yoder), Sharice Davids managed a win with 37% of the vote. She was followed by labor leader Brent Welder with 34%. Teacher Tom Niermann was a distant third with 14% of the vote. Davids will take on Yoder in the general election. While Yoder did win the Republican primary, a full 32% of Republican voters cast their votes for other candidates.

There was a crowded field in the Republican primary for CD 2 (being vacated by the retiring Republican Rep. Lynn Jenkins). With seven candidates in the race, Steve Watkins eked out a win with 26% of the vote. Watkins – an unknown a few months ago – managed to top state Senators Caryn Tyson, Dennis Pyle, and Steve Fitzgerald as well as state Representative Kevin Jones and former Speaker of the House in the Kansas Legislature, Doug Mays.

Watkins has been in the news for having met with the Democratic Party to consider a run for Congress as a Democrat before settling on being a conservative Republican. He has also been criticized for being a non-voter – he maintains that as a member of the armed services he needed to stay non-partisan and that included not voting! State Senator and retired Lt. Colonel Steve Fitzgerald had harsh words for Watkins on that issue!

Watkins will face former House Minority Leader Paul Davis who was unopposed in the Democratic primary.

Republican Congressman Roger Marshall secured 79% of the vote in his primary election while Republican Congressman Ron Estes topped his challenger, Ron Estes, 81% to 19%. Estes will now go into a rematch with Democrat James Thompson who won his primary with 65% of the vote.

Down ballot races were disappointing for moderate Republicans who woke up to find that they had lost Mary Martha Good (El Dorado), Anita Judd-Jenkins (Arkansas City), Patty Markley (Overland Park), Joy Koesten (Leawood), Don Schroeder (Hesston), and perhaps Steven Becker (Buhler) although Becker is behind by only one vote. Some moderates with primaries did prevail, however. Among them are Susan Concannon (Concordia), Tom Cox (Shawnee), Jim Karleskint (Tonganoxie), Jim Kelly (Independence), and Larry Hibbard (Toronto). Moderates also held two other seats. Susie Swanson’s (Clay Center) seat with go to Susie Carlson who defeated conservative Kathy Martin and Stephen Alford’s (Ulysses) seat will go to Marty Long who defeated conservative Jeff Locke.

And in great moderate Republican news, outspoken conservative incumbent John Whitmer was defeated in his primary by moderate Republican J.C. Moore.

The balance of power in the House is still to be determined pending the results of the November general election, but the moderate Republican caucus did suffer some serious losses in the primaries. What remains to be seen is how well Democrats do in both defending their incumbents and picking off some of the conservatives that came out ahead against moderate Republicans.

The challenges ahead of advocates for public education from now to November are many. We call upon all Kansans who value public schools for all of our children to get involved in the general election campaigns to protect and expand the Moderate/Democrat coalition.  We’ve made many gains since 2016, but last night proved that there is a growing push to return to and even double-down on the Brownback disaster.  For the sake of Kansas kids and for the future of our state, we must not let that happen!

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KNEA/KPAC makes late recommendation: Vicki Schmidt for Insurance Commissioner

Jul 23, 2018 by

KNEA/KPAC last night interviewed Republican candidates for Insurance Commissioner and has voted to recommend Vicki Schmidt for election in the Republican primary.

Vicki is currently a Republican state senator from Topeka and has an outstanding legislative record in support of public schools, students, and public school teachers. She serves as Chair of the Public Health and Welfare Committee and as Vice-Chair of the Robert G. Bethell  Joint Committee on Home and Community-based Services and KanCare Oversight. In the past, she has also served on the Senate Education Committee.

As a practicing pharmacist, Vicki knows the challenges faced by under-insured and uninsured Kansans. We are confident that Vicki Schmidt will fight hard to find ways to bring quality, affordable health care coverage to every Kansan.

At a time when some legislators are looking to force all school employees into one high deductible state insurance plan – a plan that will drive up out of pocket expenses for school employees and reduce coverage – it is critical to have an advocate for educators and affordable health care in the office of Insurance Commissioner.

KNEA/KPAC is proud to recommend Vicki Schmidt for Insurance Commissioner.

Hate Campaign Mail? Vote NOW!

Need we remind everyone that early voting is now open around the state?

You don’t have to wait until election day to cast your ballot. Look over your candidate lists, head to an early voting site, and cast your ballot TODAY!

As an added bonus, candidates usually track advance voting records and remove the names of those who have cast their ballots from their mailing lists. That’s right – you have the opportunity to avoid some, if not all, of the nasty campaign mail just by voting early!

Click here for a link to the KNEA/KPAC recommended candidates. We hope you’ll review it and then head out to VOTE!

And if you’ve never voted early before, read this testimonial in the Shawnee Mission Post.

“It’s hard to describe the rush I felt participating in America’s electoral representative democracy. The births of my children are the closest I can come. And I’m not even sure that fully does it justice.”

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KNEA/KPAC Makes Additional Candidate Recommendations

Jul 18, 2018 by

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KNEA & KPAC are continuing to interview candidates ahead of the upcoming primary elections in August.  As we have new recommendations we will continue to update our recommended candidates list and use our Under the Dome advocacy blog to distribute these updates.

There are new recommendations for House Districts 13, 27, & 107.

In House District 13, KNEA/KPAC recommends the re-election of Rep. Larry Hibbard (R).

In House District 27, KNEA/KPAC recommends the election of Karen Snyder in the Republican primary.

In House District 107, KNEA/KPAC recommends the re-election of Rep. Susan Concannon (R).

We expect to have another update after the weekend.

 

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KNEA / KPAC Primary Election Candidate Recommendations

Jul 10, 2018 by

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In this edition of Under the Dome, we share with you our recommendations for the August primary elections. When you see them, you’ll probably be wondering about the race for Kansas Governor or the Congressional races.

Two of the congressional races are listed, but two are not and there is no recommendation in either the Republican or Democratic Gubernatorial races. There’s actually some good news at least for some of these races. So let me take this column to explain our thinking!

Gubernatorial Races

KNEA does not have a recommendation for the Democratic Primary. The reason is simple.

The Democratic candidates have completed and returned questionnaires to KNEA and no one candidate stood higher than the others on our issues. Every Democratic candidate for Governor is a strong supporter of our public schools, our students, and all our school employees.  Additionally, the two candidates who served in the Kansas Legislature – Senator Laura Kelly and former Representative Josh Svaty – both had excellent legislative voting records on issues of importance to KNEA.

The race would appear to be a tight one between Kelly and Svaty. Former Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer also enjoys significant support. Public schools, our students, and Kansas educators would be well-served by any of these candidates and we are hard-pressed to elevate one above the other.

We urge our Democratic members to look closely at all these candidates and consider their positions on public education as well as their individual positions on issues of importance to each of you personally.

And as you cast your ballot, consider yourself lucky to not have a bad choice when it comes to supporting public education.

As for the Republican Primary, it would seem that only one candidate has any interest in being considered by KNEA – Jim Barnett.

Barnett is the only Republican to return a questionnaire to KNEA and his questionnaire reflects general alignment with KNEA positions regarding public education. Barnett has also continued to reach out to teachers and KNEA members throughout his campaign – including contacting and meeting with KNEA local affiliates and UniServ Councils – seeking their input and sharing his perspectives. While his KNEA voting record as a State Senator was not stellar, he appears to have studied the issues more closely and adjusted his positions in his time out of the Legislature. Unfortunately, Barnett’s candidacy is an extreme longshot while Governor Colyer and Secretary of State Kobach go head to head for the nomination.

We know where Colyer and Kobach stand on some issues thanks to reports in the press. Here, for example, both the Colyer and Kobach campaigns express support for private school vouchers and tuition tax credits.

In speaking to the Wichita Pachyderm Club, Kobach again expressed strong support for vouchers, in addition to reductions in education spending and grading schools A through F. The Wichita Eagle opined on this back in May.

Republican educators need to understand that only Jim Barnett was willing to participate in our recommendation process. Colyer and Kobach have stated positions contrary to KNEA positions on a number of issues and we have no confirmable information on the positions of other Republican candidates. Jim Barnett submitted a questionnaire and has held a number of press conferences and press releases that indicate strong support for public education, children, and educators.

Click Here to view the recommended candidates list.

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Too little, too late.

Sep 2, 2016 by

BrownbackWhat a surprise. Governor Brownback has suddenly awakened to the fact that his legislative allies are being thrown out of the legislature by angry voters. And Brownback knows what we all know – the leading issues for Kansas voters are the slow demise of Kansas’ quality public education system, the patently unfair Brownback tax system that benefits the wealthiest Kansans at the expense of middle and lower income residents, and the general collapse of the state’s budget that is damaging our highways, public safety and the social service safety net.

Now he’s in a panic that the voters are going to throw out more of his allies and that the new legislature will work to reverse the anti-education, anti-government agenda he has promoted for the past six years.

Make no mistake, this is a political move. A move intended to fool the public into thinking that he cares. No, he doesn’t care. He wants to continue the path toward the elimination of public services including public education.

The Governor says he wants to lead on school funding. Well, he had his chance.

For the past six years, when he could have been a leader, he has rejected the voices of educators. He has ignored school board members, school administrators, and teachers. He put together education study groups that he packed with anti-public education zealots. He and his legislative allies have taken all of their input from the anti-government, Koch funded folks who have bankrolled their campaigns.

The Governor and his hand-picked education “advisors” have deliberately refused to listen to teachers in particular. The Governor’s education policies have been written by “advisors” that included Dave Trabert of the Kansas Policy Institute and Mike O’Neal of the Kansas Chamber of Commerce. Leading his advisory groups have been anti-government zealot Sam Williams and the extreme right member of the State Board of Education, Ken Willard.

When teachers asked to appear before these committees they were told that there was no time for teachers. If teachers had something to say, we were told, they could write a letter or email the committee members.

So here is what we need to remember about Brownback’s sudden interest in public input. Don’t expect it to change anything. He will still take his orders from the same anti-public education think tanks and Koch-funded organizations. He will take his legislative ideas from the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). This effort is a falsehood. As, Kansans are fond of saying, “Take a look at the man behind the curtain.”

We were among those receiving a letter from Brownback’s office letting us know how to provide input in the development of a new school finance formula. We were happy the Governor finally decided that teachers might have some ideas (it’s taken him six years to figure this out). Sadly we note that he has no plans to provide for hearings and public forums. Instead we are asked to submit our ideas via email.

And we should note that while a number of Kansas school districts, KASB, USA/Kansas, the Kansas PTA, and a number for other education organizations were asked to participate, the invite was also extended to some of the most virulently anti-public education organizations in the country including the Kansas Policy Institute, the Kansas Chamber of Commerce, the Heritage Foundation, the Brookings Institute, and the Friedman Foundation. All of those organizations work primarily to strip money away from public education and send it to unaccredited and religious schools in the form of vouchers and tuition tax credits or scholarships.

The reality of the Governor’s sudden interest in showing some “leadership” on education is the fact that the public has soundly rejected all of the Governor’s ideas up to this point. On August 2, Kansas voters ousted many of the Republican legislators who have blindly followed Dave Trabert, Mike O’Neal, and Sam Brownback in enacting their policies. Most observers believe that more of his allies will lose their bids for re-election in November.

We’re ready to help make a responsible and constitutional school finance formula a reality. But we believe the leadership in creating such a formula will come not from the Governor’s office but rather from a new, more responsible legislature sent to Topeka by Kansas voters who have tired of the Governor’s reckless policy agenda.

At KNEA we will continue to seek out, elect, and work with legislators who will put Kansas and Kansans ahead of an extreme anti-government ideology; who will pull Kansas back from the edge of the fiscal cliff and once again provide for quality state services that support the high quality of life we have come to expect.

In the meantime, we do encourage you to let the Governor know your thoughts. We hope you will take advantage of this to give the Governor a piece of you mind. You don’t have to sketch out the details of a new school finance formula. We suggest that you simply suggest ways in which a new legislature might provide for an adequate and equitable school finance formula that meets the needs of our students.

Here are a few of ideas you might want him to consider:

  • Kansas can’t provide adequate funding when tax revenues continue to decline. It’s time to roll back the irresponsible tax cuts that have benefited the wealthy and been punishing to middle and low income Kansans. Put business back on the tax rolls, stop the “glide path to zero income tax,” and get our state budget back to stability.
  • Elevate the advice of education practitioners including classroom teachers and parents with children in public schools over that of anti-government organizations like KPI and the KCC.
  • Increase funding to the levels promised by the legislature in 2005-06. Reinstate the prior school finance formula and focus only on modifying it with input from educators – school board members, school administrators, and classroom teachers. The plan put forward by KASB and USA/KS is an excellent starting point.
  • Put money directly into increasing the salaries and benefits of all teachers. Not just a few – ALL. College graduates leave Kansas public universities with undergraduate debt in excess of $23,000 and start teaching with salaries as low as $27,000. All teachers need to be better paid. Current research shows that the gap between teacher earnings and the earnings of others with the same required level of education is widening. Enhancing the salaries and benefits of all teachers will go a long way to making teaching an attractive career option.
  • Any changes to the school finance formula must allow it to respond to changing needs (increases in enrollment, student needs such as at-risk and bilingual, and shifts in local property tax valuations), and must be adjusted annually for inflationary increases and increased expectations.
  • Repeal statutes that strip money away from our public schools and send it to private schools including unaccredited schools. Start by repealing the tuition tax credit program and return that $12 million to our public schools.
  • Demand that all legislators immediately stop bad mouthing teachers and their union. This rhetoric and the continual attacks on teachers only serve to discourage young people from becoming teachers and encourage those now teaching to retire as soon as possible or just quit.

These are just a few ideas. We know that teachers have plenty more. So send those ideas in to the Governor at StudentsFirst@ks.gov.

And while you’re at it, check out the KNEA list of education friendly candidates for the Kansas House and Senate. Volunteer for those candidates and vote for those candidates. Discuss the importance of a pro-public education legislature with your friends and neighbors. And on November 8, let’s finish the job we started on August 2.

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A Great Day for Kansas!

Aug 3, 2016 by

Kansas-Governor-Sam-Brownback-800x430Yesterday in the Kansas primary elections supporters of the Brownback experiment were removed from office. Six incumbent Brownback allies in the Kansas Senate lost their bids for reelection to moderate Republican challengers. Tom Arpke, Terry Bruce, Forrest Knox, Jeff Melcher, Larry Powell, and Greg Smith were all ousted. In addition, two more Brownback allies who were vying for open Senate seats – Virgil Peck wanting to replace Jeff King and Larry Salmans hoping to replace Mitch Holmes – found themselves on the losing end of their challenge with moderate Republicans winning both primaries. Two moderate incumbents who were being challenged by Brownback conservatives – Vicki Schmidt and Carolyn McGinn – both won reelection.

Over in the House, eight Brownback allies lost their bids for reelection. Craig McPherson, Brett Hildabrand, Rob Bruchman, Jerry Lunn, Charles Macheers, Connie O’Brien, Will Carpenter, and Kasha Kelly all went down in defeat. Conservative John Faber lost his comeback attempt out west. Open seats formerly held by Brownback conservatives (Marc Kahrs and Kevin Jones) were won by moderates Roger Elliot and Brenda Dietirch. Moderate incumbents facing conservative challengers – Susie Swanson, Steven Becker, and Greg Lewis – all won their races.

All these moderate Republicans ran on a message of tax fairness and real support for public schools.

Winning from Border to Border

It was very clear that the public was behind the moderate comeback. Over in Johnson County where two incumbent senators and six incumbent house members were defeated by moderates, KNEA members worked like never before. And the teachers were bolstered by an unprecedented level of public support. Kansas Families for Education, Game On for Kansas Schools, and Stand Up Blue Valley – citizens groups formed by angry and frustrated parents – grew in strength and resolve. It was teachers, parents, and concerned citizens who chose to engage in politics and who led the battle on behalf of common sense candidates.

But the turning out of conservatives was not just a Johnson County issue. Statewide voters have had enough of the Brownback experiment.  An experiment that has bankrupted the state leaving our schools, highways, public safety efforts, and social services in jeopardy. It happened in southeast Kansas with the defeat of Virgil Peck and Forrest Knox; it happened in central Kansas with the defeat of Terry Bruce and Tom Arpke; it happened in southern Kansas with defeat of Kasha Kelley; it happened in western Kansas with the defeat of Larry Powell. This is a statewide repudiation of the path Brownback and his allies have set upon Kansas.  Let us not forget that we can send another message to his remaining allies in November. 

Cranking Up the Spin Machines

Brownback’s allies are already putting out their spin, trying to make people believe that the election results have nothing to do with his “road map” for Kansas. You will find their spin in an article in the Wall Street Journal (not known as the “liberal media”). Brownback’s Spokeswoman Eileen Hawley and KPI’s Dave Trabert tried to blame other trends or other issues:

“Kansas is not immune from the widespread anti-incumbency sentiment we have seen across the nation this election season.” Eileen Hawley, Brownback Spokeswoman

From the Wall Street Journal: “It’s not a repudiation of either side but of the legislature in general for not dealing with the core issue,” Mr. Trabert said reducing the cost of state government by 6% to 7% would enable the state to keep its lower taxes and balance the budget going forward.

None of the victorious Republican moderates ever campaigned on the desire to cut state services any more. None of them campaigned on the promise of continuing Brownback’s experiment. They campaigned on returning Kansas to a common sense center; a state with a fair tax system that provides the necessary revenue to maintain the high quality of life for which Kansas is known.

Going Forward

Today is day to savor these victories. We all woke up with a renewed sense of hope for our state. But this is not over. The Governor still holds a veto pen with which to threaten these new legislators. There is still a general election during which the forces that brought us Brownback – the Kansas Chamber, KPI, Americans for Prosperity – will unleash their fury on Democrats, hoping to stop any further losses in their anti-government conservative caucus.

We savor today and we gear up for tomorrow. We must carry our efforts forward to November to protect our Democrats. We must seek to replace more of the Brownback allies now with Democrats. We helped the moderate Republicans defeat Brownback conservatives in August. Let’s help the Democrats defeat some more of them in November.

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